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The Cage

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Space the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise.

It’s five year mission, to explore strange new worlds.

To seek out new life and civilizations.

To boldly go where no one has gone before.

 

“Check the circuits, Mr.Chekov,” Spock called out to the ensign from his seat at the science station.

“All operational, sir,” the Russian replied.

Jim smiled as his bridge crew worked together to get the view screen up and running again. They had just found something on the edge of their sensor range when the system had stopped working, and they needed to get it working again so they would know if what had set off the sensors was anything to worry about.

“Reboot in 3…2…1,” the Vulcan replied smoothly.

After a well-executed maneuver on Chekov’s part, the screen came back to life and the sensors once again picked up on the same anomaly that had caught their attention in the first place.

“Scans show that there is definitely something out there, Captain,” Spock announced as he came to stand next to Jim. “And it appears to be heading our way.”

“What is it, Mr.Spock?” Jim asked curiously.

“Unknown.”

“It could be zese meteorites, “Chekov suggested.

“No, it’s something else,” Sulu chimed in just as the sensors started going off again.

“It is coming at the speed of light, on a collision course,” Chekov said, but there was nothing for them to see. “Deflectors are not catching anything.”

“Evasive maneuvers, sir?” Sulu asked.

“Steady as she goes.”

“It’s a radio wave, sir,” Uhura called out from the communications console. “We’re passing through an old-style distress signal.”

Jim pondered this new discover momentarily. Old style distress signals could mean that there was someone nearby that was in trouble, but it could also not really matter because no one had used radio waves for decades, “If I remember correctly old-style distress signals were keyed in to cause interference and get people’s attention.”

“Indeed you are correct, Captain,” Spock replied.

“It’s a ship in trouble, making a forced landing,” Nyota continued. “That’s it, no other message.”

Jim watched as Spock made his way back to the science station to get more information on the distress signal. He also couldn’t help but stare at his First Officer’s perfectly shaped ass. There was just something about the Vulcan that made Jim want to rip his clothes off, but he controlled himself. If only for the sake of professionalism and their growing friendship.

His thought were interrupted by Spock’s voice, “I have a fix, Captain. It comes from the Talos Star System.”

“There are no ships or colonies out that far,” Sulu interjected. 

“Their call letters check out with a survey expedition. S.S. Columbia. Disappeared in that region approximately 18 years ago,” Spock reported.

“It vould take zat long for a radio vave to travel from there to here,” the ensign added. 

“Records indicate that the Talos star group has never been explored,” Spock continued. “Solar system similar to Earth. Eleven planets. Number four seems to be Class M, oxygen atmosphere.”

“Then they could still be alive, even after 18 years, “ the helmsman speculated.

If they survived the crash,” Bones’ voice filled the Bridge.

Jim’s head whipped around to see that the doctor had joined them on the bridge with his usually pessimistic demeanor. Jim just smiled.

“Regardless, Doctor,” Spock came to stand on the opposite side of Jim that McCoy had taken up. “We need to ascertain the well-being of potential crash survivors.”

“I’m all for making sure people are safe, but my first priority is the wellbeing of the people aboard this ship. What we need to do is get to the Vega Colony and take care of the whole mess of injuries in my sick bay,” Bones grumbled, looking pointedly at Jim.

“You would have us potentially leave crash survivors on an uninhabited planet? Doctor, that goes against your oath to do no harm, “Spock said.

“Why you-”

“Bones!” Jim admonished. “You’re both right. We need to get our people to the Vega Colony, but we also have a duty to those survivors if there are any. I know it’s going to put strain on sick bay, but we need to investigate. I’m sorry Bones but I know you can handle it. Chekov, set course for Talos IV.”

“Aye, Keptain.”

Hitting the comm link on his chair Jim opened a ship-wide channel, “Attention crew of the Enterprise this is the Captain speaking. I know that we were on our way to the Vega Colony for some much-needed rest after the incident on Rigel VII, but we have received a distress signal from the Talos star group. I’m sorry, but we owe it to any possible survivors to get them home safe and sound. Kirk out.”

“Course laid in, Keptain,” Chekov announced. 

“Warp factor four, Mr.Sulu.”

“Aye, Captain.”

“Estimated time of arrival?”

“Three hours, sir.”

“Excellent, back to work.”

Three hours later Jim was dozing in his chair, padd in hand when Chekov called out to him, “Keptain, we are approaching Talos IV.” 

Now more awake Jim smiled at the ensign, “Thank you, Mr.Chekov. Mr.Sulu when we are close enough put us in standard orbit.”

“Yes, sir.”

Standing from his chair Jim went to speak with Spock at his station when he ran smack dab into his new yeoman.

“Yeoman Rand,” Jim sighed with a smile. “I thought I asked you to call out to me when you’re trying to get my attention.”

“I’m sorry, Captain,” the small blonde smiled. “I was just trying to get you the reports on time.”

Taking the proffered padd Jim smiled again, “Thank you, Yeoman. Dismissed.”

The yeoman left and Jim finished turning towards Spock only to see that the Vulcan was looking at him, and for a brief moment Jim could swear there was a flash of jealousy in the back of his head as well as in Spock’s eyes, but it was gone just as quickly as it appeared. It was a weird occurrence that had been happening ever since he had met Spock and it wasn’t just jealousy it was any really strong emotion, but Jim had no idea what it was and he didn’t want to cause anyone to worry about him so he just lived with it. Shrugging it off Jim closed the distance between them Jim stopped directly next to Spock at his station, “Report on long-range sensor scan, Mr.Spock.”

“Oxygen and nitrogen atmosphere heavy with inert elements, but well within safety limits,” Spock explained coolly.

“Captain we are entering standard orbit,” Sulu said.

“Sensors are picking up signs of a crash as well as multiple human life signs,” the Russian added. 

Jim smiled. There were survivors which meant that they didn’t delay their trip to the Vega Colony in vein. And now they were going to help other explorers get home to friends and family the haven’t seen in over 18 years. 

“Spock, Sulu, Chekov we’re going down there to check on the survivors. Bones will come too to start a work up on their health,” Jim said using his command voice. “Uhura have Dr.McCoy meet us in the Transporter Room, and tell Scotty he has the conn. Let’s not see those survivors waiting any longer.” 

The trio followed Jim into the turbo lift and waited silently until they were deposited on Deck 4. Once inside the Transporter Room, they were outfitted with phasers and communicators. They were about to step onto the pad when Bones burst into the room carrying a tri-corder and bag that was no doubt filled with any number of hypos. He didn’t even grab a phaser as he walked onto the pad. 

“Glad you could join us, Doctor,” Jim snarked as they all took their places.

“Yeah, yeah, yeah let’s just get on with it,” he grumbled.

Jim snorted before looking at the Transporter Chief, “Energize.”

Instead of beaming directly to where the life signs were they opted for a little canyon a little ways away. This way they would avoid scaring the survivors and it would give them a chance to possibly observe their new companions. 

The canyon itself was not unlike the canyons on Earth but instead of red or brown stone these were made of some type of grey stone and there was a metallic hum filling the air. Jim and Spock shared a curious glance before approaching a plant with wide blue leaves that were vibrating rapidly. Taking a leaf in each hand Jim noticed that the humming decreased. Spock did the same and looked at each other with amusement in their eyes. Well, as amused as a Vulcan could look. 

Stepping away from the plant they continued walking until Chekov’s excited voice broke the silence, “Keptain!”

Several yards in front of them was a makeshift camp pieced together from parts of crashed ship and material from the surrounding landscape. From one of the small buildings came several older men. 

“They’re men!” One of them cried gleefully. “They’re humans!”

Jim smiled at the survivors and led the landing party into the camp where he started speaking calmly, “I’m Captain James Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. These are some of my senior officers; Commander Spock, Dr.Leonard McCoy, Lieutenant Sulu, and Ensign Chekov.” 

“Dr.Theodore Haskins,” one of the men came forward, most likely the leader. “American Continent Institute.”

“Is Earth alright?” Another of the men asked.

“Same old earth,” Jim replied happily. “You’ll see her very soon.”

“And you vill not believe ze advancements zat have been made since you vent missing. Our new ships…” Pavel was speaking animatedly until they all caught sight of a beautiful woman.

She came forward and Haskins introduced her, “This is Vina. Her parents are dead. She was born almost as we crashed.”

Jim had to admit that Vina was beautiful. She had all the trademarks of classic beauty: blonde hair, blue eyes, and amazing curves. Before he had become captain he would have hit on her in a heartbeat, but there was someone else that was less attainable who had captured his affection. Still, that did not stop him from being friendly and smiling at her. Suddenly Jim felt a flash of jealousy in the back of his head that was not his own and once again he had no idea where it came from, so he ignored it.

They all went to work taking down pieces of the survivors camp after Jim called back to the ship for a few more sets of hands. They were almost finished when Jim flipped open his communicator, “Kirk to Enterprise.”

“Uhura here, Captain,” the comm officer replied.

“We’ll start transporting the survivors and their effects up shortly.”

“Understood, sir. The Quartermaster is making sure everything is ready for them.”

“Thank you, Lieutenant. I’ll comm again when we’re ready to beam up.”

“Aye, Captain.”

Flipping the device closed Jim walked back over to Vina and Haskins when Vina made a statement that slightly unnerved him, “You appear to be healthy intelligent, Captain. A prime specimen.”

“You must forgive her choice of words, Captain, “Haskins spoke up. “She’s lived her whole life with a collection of aging scientists.”

Jim supposed that explanation made sense. After all who was he to judge how someone could turn out because of how they grew up. Instead of saying anything Jim just smiled and nodded. Luckily it was that moment that Bones decided to come and talk to him, “Got a minute?”

  “Sure.”

“I just wanted to give my preliminary report,” the doctor explained.

“I think it’s time to show the captain our secret,” Vina interrupted them.

“Secret?” Jim was confused.

“Jim, their health is amazing. Almost too good if you ask me,” McCoy said.

“There’s a reason for our condition,” the scientist smiled. “But we’ve had some doubt if Earth is ready to learn the secret. Let the girl show you. We’ll accept your judgment.”

Jim shared a confused look with Bones before nodding hesitantly. Vina left Haskins’ side and started leading him away from the camp. Before they were too far away he caught Spock’s eye and shrugged slightly. 

They were about 50 yards away from the camp when Vina grabbed his handed led him up a small rock face. There was another flare of jealousy in the back of his head. He ignored it in favor of the excited energy around Vina and it gave the blond a small rush. Whatever she was going to show him was the reason for their amazing health. It could mean he helped discover an important medical breakthrough.

Reaching the top of the rock face Vina exclaimed, “Don’t you see it? Here and here.” 

He looked where she was pointing but there was nothing there, “I don’t understand.”

“You will,” she smirked him. “You’re a perfect choice.”

And then Vina disappeared. Looking back over he could see that the camp and the other survivors were gone as well. Only the landing party was there. Spock and the landing party looked over at him, but before he could do anything there were two aliens with enormous heads right next to him, there was a sickly sweet scent, then nothing.

 

Spock heard Chekov yell after Jim, but he couldn’t seem to do anything or move his body. Jim had been captured by an alien species and Spock hadn’t done anything to stop it. It was like his heart was being ripped out of his side. At least he could still feel the slight pulsing of Jim’s presence in the back of his mind where their bond was.

It was a shocking revelation when Spock had first noticed the bond after the Narada incident, but as he examined it more he discovered that not only did he have a bond with the human but it was the most ancient and revered of Vulcan bonds. They were T’hy’la. At first, he was confused as to why his perfect match was this human who had the power to draw emotions from him so easily, but then he realized that it made sense. A t’hy’la was meant to be the other half of your katra, the one who would bring balance to your world. And James Kirk did that for Spock. He was to emotion to Spock’s logic and the light to his dark. There was only one problem. Spock wanted Jim but the human did not want him. So he stayed silent hoping that one-day things might change in his favor, but he couldn’t worry about that now, he had to get Jim back.

“Leading the rest of the landing party Spock took out his Phaser and fired on the door the aliens had taken Jim through. The sound of phaser fire filled the air, but the door did not budge. With no other alternative, Spock pulled out his communicator, “Spock to Enterprise.” 

“This is Uhura,” Came the voice of the Vulcan’s most trusted friend. 

“There are no survivors, Lieutenant. This was all some sort of trap. We’ve lost the captain.”

It was Mr.Scott’s voice that came over the channel then, “Did we hear that right, Commander? You said the captain’s gone?”

“Affirmative,” Spock replied. “Taken by the planet’s native inhabitants.”

 

Jim woke up in some sort of cage. There was a rock face all around him but it was interrupted by paneled metal walls. And at the front of the enclosure was a wall made of transparasteel or something like it. Never one to let something stop him Jim threw himself at the transparency, but all it did was send him backward slightly. Since that avenue didn’t work he stopped and continued to analyze his surroundings. 

Outside of his cell was a long rocky corridor with other cells dispersed throughout. In one he saw a bipedal creature with red fur and a pig-like face. And in another cell was a large birdlike creature that was flapping its wings like crazy. Jim assumed that there were more, he was about to look around more when one of the big-headed aliens entered the corridor. 

Then just to his right, a set of doors opened to reveal more of the aliens. They crossed the small distance to his cage and stared at him. 

“Can you hear me?” Jim asked them hoping the universal translator was working. “My name is James Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise from a star group on the other end of this galaxy. Our intention for coming here was peaceful. Can you understand me?”

One of them started speaking while none of their mouths moved, “It appears, Magistrate that the intelligence of the specimen is shockingly limited.”

Another - the magistrate most likely - responded, “This is no surprise since his vessel was baited here so easily with a simulated message. As you can read in its thoughts, it is only now beginning to suspect the survivors and the encampment was a simple illusion we placed in their minds.”

Jim felt mildly affronted at being thought of as so simple but he didn’t let that show. What he found more interesting was the way they were speaking. It was probably some form of telepathy.

“Alright,” Jim smirked. “So you’re telepathic and can read my mind and I can hear what you’re saying. But unless you want my ship to consider kidnapping me an unfriendly act-”

But the magistrate voice spoke again, “You now see the primitive fear threat reaction.” Jim was starting to get mad. “The specimen is about to boast his strength, the weaponry of his vessel, and so on. Next, frustrated into a need to display physical prowess, the creature will throw himself against the transparency.”

Jim was indeed about to do that, but hearing the alien predicting his actions made him calm himself down, so he just glared at his captors, “There is a way out of any cage and I’ll find it.”

“Despite its frustration, the creature appears more adaptable than our specimens from other planets. We can soon begin the experiment.”

That made Jim’s blood run cold.

 

Back on the Enterprise Spock and the others were trying to figure out how to get Jim back with the Vulcan leading the discussion, “The inhabitants of this planet must live deep underground. Probably manufacturing food and other needs down there. Tests indicate the planet’s surface, without considerably more vegetation or animals, is simply barren to support life.”

“So we just thought we saw survivors down there?” Sulu said.

“Precisely,” Spock felt illogically angry that another telepathic species had tricked him. “An illusion placed in our minds by the planet’s true inhabitants.”

“It was damn perfect,” McCoy grumbled. “They had us seeing just what we wanted to see, humans who survived with dignity and bravery, everything perfect, right down to the camp and the clothes they were wearing. 

“Let’s be sure we understand the danger here,” Scott chimed in. “The aliens can read our minds and make us see anything they want. Illusions just as solid as anything. That’s pretty hard to ignore.”

“Do ve know what key might want ze Keptain for?” Chekov asked.

“They might just be trying to study Jim,” Uhura supplied hopefully.

“Or something much worse,” Spock replied ominously.

Everyone looked at the Vulcan with concern in their eyes. They didn’t want to admit it but he was voicing all of their concerns. In the time they had known each other they had become a family and they would say or do anything to protect one another. 

“Zen let’s get to vork. Ze entry may have stood up against hand passers, but I’m sure Mr.Scott has something stronger ve can use,” Chekov explained.

“Aye, Mr.Chekov is right we’ve that prototype phaser cannon I’ve been working on,” Scott affirmed.

“Gentleman,” Spock interrupted them. “We must keep in mind that this species has the ability to make us see whatever they wanted that could put this entire ship in danger. Whatever we do we must proceed cautiously.”

“The decision is yours, Spock,” Uhura said.

Spock thought for several moments. He wanted to storm down there and fight anything that stood between him and his t’hy’la, but logic dictated that he needed to approach this very cautiously. And the first step was to get into that compound, “We will use the phaser cannon as Mr.Scott suggested. And then we will attempt to storm the compound and retrieve the captain. Mr.Scott, transport down and set up the cannon and the rest of us will follow shortly. Dismissed.” 

Spock was going to get Jim back no matter what.

 

Jim was still in his cell trying to find a way out when the world around him blurred. His cell disappeared and he was suddenly back on Rigel VII in front of one of the palaces where the fighting had taken place. Vina was there too, dressed in a Rigellian noblewoman's gown.

She was yelling at him, “Come on! We need to hide.”

The blonde ran up to him, grabbing his hand. She started leading him towards the palace at a brisk pace. They were halfway there when she spoke again, “Hurry. It's deserted. There'll be weapons and maybe even some food.”

They continued running when Jim asked, “How are we on Rigel VII? I was just in a cage, in some kind of zoo. I must still be there this can't be real.”

“Come on!” Vina yelled and continued pulling.

“They're using my memories aren't they?” Jim realized. It must be something to do with their telepathy.

There was a loud roar from nearby and Vina blanched, “The killer.”

“It’s exactly like it was two weeks ago. Except for you,” Jim said as he followed Vina.

The palace looked exactly as trashed and destroyed as it had the first time Jim was there. But Vina looked different because of the dress and her hair was longer. But why the aliens decided to keep the image of Vina there confused him.

“Why are you here, Vina?” Jim asked. “Why not just create someone else?”

The question went unanswered as another roar pierced the air followed by the appearance of a bear-like man that Jim had seen before.

“Quick,” Vina whispered as the man broke into another room. “If you attack while it is not looking…"

“But it's only an illusion,” Jim contradicted.

“You have to kill it as you did before.”

“You can tell them that it is not going along with whatever game they're playing.”

“It doesn't matter what you think of this. You'll feel everything like it's really happening.”

The killer, as Vina called it, came back out of the room it had entered and caught sight of them. Instinctively Jim threw himself in front of Vina as she pleaded with him, “Please! Kill it. Don't you know what it will do to us?”

Looking around for some way to escape Jim couldn't seem to find anything so he pulled Vina into a corner before sending her up to a flight of stairs. Bolting forward he grabbed an old fashioned weapon with a ball and spikes at the end. The man came at him and Jim started to fight back. It was just like the last time they had fought, hard and brutal. With one hard hit he managed to send the man into a divot so he would fall over.

Looking to Vina Jim asked her a question that was confusing him, “Why is an illusion frightened?”

“Because that's how you imagined me,” she replied angrily.

“Who are you? Why are you acting like this is real for you, too?”

“Careful!” she yelled as the man got back up and was coming after them again.

Jim continued to fight as they were pushed farther up the stairs until they were fighting at the top. Thanks to one mistimed hit Jim lost his weapon and was thrown to the main level with a thud. Not even allowed a second to catch his breath Jim watched as his opponent went for Vina. Feeling a surge of protectiveness Jim scrambled for more weapons and threw one at the man's back. It was stuck and he fell backward on a stray weapon, dying instantly.

The captain sagged with relief and then they were suddenly back in Jim's cell, and Vina was dressed in a short dress the same shiny material as their captors. She smiled as she exclaimed it was over. Coming over to Jim Vina wrapped her arms around his neck and it felt more wrong than anything ever had before. There was only one person's arms he wanted around him and that was not Vina.

Looking out of the transparent part of the cell Jim saw the Talosians looking at them. Vina pulled away and all Jim could do was glare.

“Why are you here?” Jim asked as the Talosians left them alone.

“To please you,” she replied simply enough.

“Are you real?”

“As real as you want.”

This irritated Jim. He hated being tricked and having these aliens put something he used to love in front of him felt live an enormous breach of his mental privacy, “That's not a real answer. And I've never met you before, never even imagined you.”

“Perhaps they've made me out of dreams you've forgotten.”

Jim felt really snarky, “And dress you the same way they are?”

“I have to wear something. Don't I?”

Jim barked out an amused laugh at her statement. He was supposed she was right.

“Or I can wear whatever you wish. Be whatever you wish,” she continued.

“So they can see how this specimen performs? They want to see how I react,” Jim surmised.

“Don't you have a dream?” she asked closing the distance between them. She was starting to sound desperate. “Something you've always wanted very badly?”

The captain was thinking now and he was starting to piece things together, “Or do they do more than watch me? Do they feel with me too?”

“You can have whatever dream you want,” Vina said almost hysterically. “I can become anything, any woman you've ever imagined. You can have anything you want in the whole universe. Let me please you.”

“The only way for you to please me,” Jim smiled sweetly. “Is for you to tell me what you know about them. Is there a way I can keep them from probing my mind, from using my thoughts against me?”

Vina looked scared and that's how Jim knew he was on to something, “Does that scare you? Is there a way?”

“You're a fool,” Vina shook her head at him.

“You're not even real. Why am I even talking to you?” Jim grumbled.

Vina looked at him dejectedly but didn't say anything more as Jim went back to looking for an escape.

 

“All circuits engaged, Mr. Scott,” Spock told the engineer from his side of the phaser cannon.

“Everything's ready here too,” Scott said coming over to where Spock was standing.

They all took shelter behind an outcropping of rocks as Spock started counting down “5…4… 3… 2… 1 fire.”

The cannon fired and the sky lit up and they could feel the heat coming from the beam. but as they watched the rocks and everything around where the cannon was firing was fine. Even as they increased the intensity nothing changed in the slightest. They only stopped when Mr. Scott said the cannon was at risk of overloading.

When they took stock afterward Mr. Scott spoke, “I don't understand. That whole rock face should be gone.”

“Perhaps it is,” Spock retorted. “But we do not know the full extent of the alien's powers. They could be projecting that image to us.”

“Whatever they're doing won't stop us, Mr. Spock,” Scott declared. “We'll get the captain back no matter what.”

 

Jim had been sitting in the cell with Vina behind him for a little over an hour when she finally gave him something to work with, “Perhaps you could ask me some questions I could answer.”

“How far can they control my mind?” he asked.

“If I tell you, will you pick some dream you've had and let me live it with you?” She pleaded with him.

“Maybe,” he replied.

She came and sat next to him with a buzz of energy, “They can't actually make you do anything you don't want to.”

“But they'll try to trick me with their illusions.”

“And they can punish you when you're not cooperative. You'll find out about that.”

“Did they ever live on the surface?” she nodded her head. “Why did they go underground?”

“War, thousand of years ago. That's why it's so barren up there. The planet is only now becoming able to support life again.”

Jim pondered what he had learned so far. His captors couldn't make him do what they wanted, but they could punish him. Punishment could be a multitude of things but based on what he had experienced it was going to be mental torture. Then they had had a war that devastated the planet.

Not unlike humans, but they were still trying to make Jim do things he didn't want to do. And that didn't sit well with him.

“So the Talosians who came underground,” he continued to question her. “They found life, limited and concentrated on developing their mental power?”

She nodded along with what he was saying, “But they found it's a trap, like a narcotic. Because when dreams become more important than reality, you give up travel, building, creating. You even forget how to repair the machines left behind by your ancestors. you just sit, living and reliving other lives left behind in the thought recorded.”

“Or sit probing the minds of zoo animals like me,” Jim nearly growled in anger. He wasn't some animal to be watched. Still, a part of him felt bad for the Talosians, to live in such isolated lives was truly pathetic.

“You're better than theater to them,” Vina continued. “They create an illusion for you. They watch you react, feel your emotions. They have a whole collection of specimens, descendants of life brought back long ago from all over this part of the galaxy.”

The puzzle was coming together even more now, “Which means they had to have more than one of each animal.” Everything fit now. Vina wasn't an illusion. She was a real woman the Talosians had acquired, most likely from that ship that crashed, and now they were meant to become a breeding pair.

There must have been a horrified look on Jim's face because Vina knelt down in front of him and took his hands between hers, “Please, you said that if I answered your questions you would choose a memory or a fantasy for us to live out.”

“That was before I knew what they had planned for me. Not to mention I only said I might have,” he was disgusted. Not at Vina, she was a captive as much as he was, but at the Talosians. Why were they so eager to make him be with someone like this? It was just wrong.

“Please, Jim. We're like Adam and Eve. We can be happy,” Suddenly Vina was screaming in agony. Jim wanted to help, but he couldn't see anything wrong. So he just sat there in horror watching until she vanished before his eyes.

Out of the corner of his eyes, he saw the Talosian smirk before turning away and walking into an elevator. Jim cursed and turned back to examine his cell. he needed to find a way to escape.

As hard as Jim tried to find an escape there didn't seem to be one in his cell. Or so he thought. After some time he as looking the other way when a panel of the wall had opened up and a hand deposited a glass full of some type of liquid before him. As the panel started to close Jim fought to keep it open, but ultimately failed.

Picking up the liquid he turned to see the head Talosian in front of his cell, “The vial contains a nourishing protein complex.”

“Is the keeper actually communicating with one of his animals?” Jim snarked.

Instead of acknowledging the comment the alien continued, “If the form and the color is not appealing, it can appear as any food you wish to visualize.”

“And if I prefer—”

“To starve? You overlook the unpleasant alternative of punishment.”

The cell was gone again and Jim was in some sort of fiery inferno and it was as if his skin was melting off, and his bones were fusing together. He needed it to end, he would do anything for the pain to stop. And then it was over.

“From a fable you once heard in childhood. You will now consume the nourishment,” the Magistrate spoke.

“Why not just put irresistible hunger in my mind? Oh, wait you can't. You have limitations, just like the rest of us.”

“If you continue to disobey, from deeper in your mind, there are things even more unpleasant.”

Grudgingly, Jim drank the liquid and a sour taste filled his mouth. Anger flooded through him and on impulse, he threw himself against the window causing his captor to step back in fear.

“Now that's interesting,” the human smiled.

“Now to the female,” it interrupted him.

“You were startled. Weren't you reading my mind? See what I was going to do?”

“As you've conjectured, an Earth vessel did crash on our planet, but with only a single survivor.”

“No,” Jim yelled. “Let's stay on the first subject. All I wanted was to get my hands around your neck.”

“We repaired the survivor's injuries and found the species interesting.”

“You can't read through my anger, can you?”

“It became necessary to attract a mate.”

“Alright, fine. Let's talk about the girl,” Jim conceded. “You're trying to make her attractive so she'll appeal to me. You want to make me feel protective.”

“This is necessary,” the keeper moved closer to the cell. “You must perpetuate the species.”

“You really want me to fall in love with her.”

“We wish our specimens to be happy in their new life.”

“A new life where we’re slaves to do your bidding. News flash I won’t be forced to do something I don’t want to do. You’ll find that’s a trait that all humans share.”

The keeper seemed angry with Jim now, “With the female now properly conditioned you shall learn to be together.”

“You mean she's been properly punished,” Jim growled. Why hurt her when he's not cooperating. “I'm the one not doing what you want. Why not punish me?”

“First, an emotion of protectiveness, now one of sympathy. Excellent,” the Magistrate smiled and walked away.

Anger coursed through Jim once again. He was a human being, not some science project for an alien species to observe. He was captain of the Starfleet’s flagship for christ sakes. This was one of the most demeaning situations he had ever been in, and with the way he grew up, that was saying something. Still ruminating on his anger wouldn't solve anything so he pushed it to the back of his mind for now.

He was about to scan the cell again to look for a way out when the world around him blurred momentarily before he recognized the Kirk family farmhouse right in front of him, It was exactly as he remembered it; two-story white washed wood building, wrap-around porch, and wide-open windows letting sunlight stream in from every angle. Jim had always loved this house even if all his memories weren't so pleasant.

Walking up to the front door he pushed it open to reveal the spacious living room when he heard a voice coming from the kitchen on the far side of the room, “You want some coffee, honey?”

In the doorway connecting the two rooms was Vina holding two mugs of coffee, dressed in only an oversized t-shirt from what Jim could tell. Looking down he was surprised to see that he was no longer in his command gold and was instead in an old Academy t-shirt and flannel pajama pants.

“Sure,” Jim replied skeptically as he walked over to the blonde and taking the proffered mug.

Vina smiled and led him to the couch in the living room. They sat down so that they were angled to face each other with a leg tucked up under them. Jim took a sip of his coffee and it was exactly how he liked it; three sugars and a splash of vanilla creamer, “They think of everything, don't they?”

She ignored his comment and asked her own question instead, “Isn't it good to be home after all that time in space?”

“They’re really good at reading out minds,” he commented. “Home, anything I want if I cooperate that is?”

Vina flinched in pain and put a hand to her head, “Jim, my headaches remember. I get them when you say stuff like this.”

Jim felt a little tinge of guilt over being the reason for her pain, “I'm sorry they punish you, but we can't let them get what they want.”

“It's supposed to be a really nice day today maybe we can take the bike out for a nice long ride,” she interrupted him. “I'll even make us a picnic lunch to take with us. I'll use your mom's egg salad recipe.”

Deciding to play along for a minute Jim lowered his defenses, “This is the house I grew up in. It was mom, Sam, and I for a long time, but then she married Frank. If I thought she was gone a lot before then I was crazy. After that, she was always off-planet for Starfleet and then Frank drove Sam away. Life wasn't so great after that.”

“I know, Jim,” Vina replied placing a hand on his. “I promised to change all that when we got married.”

Jim looked at her too stunned to say anything. There was only one person he had ever pictured himself having a life with and Vina wasn’t even the same gender as the person he wanted to be with. This was nice and all but what he wanted most was to be back on the Enterprise with his friends and crew.

“You're home now Jim. You can stay here with me. Wouldn't it be nice to show your children where you grew up.”

That angered him once again. He didn't agree with people bossing him around like that, but instead of lashing out a Vina he tried to reason with her.

“The kids will have these headaches just like you,” Jim said. “You really want that?”

“Am I? Look, first, they made me protect you and then feel sympathy for you. And now we have these familiar surroundings and we're happily married. They don't need this for passion. What they want is for us to be dependent on each other, respect each other. But we're not actually here. We're in a menagerie, a cage.”

“No!” she shouted.

“I can't help either one of us out if you won't give me a chance. You told me illusions were like a drug to them. They couldn't even fix the machines from their past. They want us as slaves don't they?”

“Stop it! Don't you care what they'll do to us?”

Vina looked sad as he continued speaking, “Back in my cage it seemed like our keeper couldn't read my mind. Do emotions like hate keep them out of your mind?”

“Yes,” she finally conceded and Jim felt he had won a small victory.“They can't read through primitive emotions. But you can't keep it up forever. I've tried. They keep at you year after year, tricking and punishing. And they won. They own me. I know you must hate me for that.”

It wasn't hate Jim was feeling. It was sympathy. He knew what torture was like, fighting every day to keep going.

“No, Vina I don't hate you. I know what it's like to be tortured day in and day out, and I'm sorry you had to go through that.”

“But that's not enough,” she replied. “Don't you see. They read my thoughts and feelings, my dreams of what a perfect man would be. That's why they picked you. I can't help but love you, and they want you to feel the same.”

“If they can read my thoughts then they know I find you attractive. I recognize that the first moment I saw you,” Jim said. Hesitating slightly before revealing the next bit of information. “But I'm in love with someone. Before I met him I would have gone after you in a heartbeat. And I know that he'll never love me back, but I just can't find it in me to give my love to someone else. I'm sorry Vina.”

“I see,” the dejected look on her face saddened Jim but he couldn't bear to lead her on with false hope. “This is why one of the illusion have really worked for you. You've been home, fighting on Rigel. None of this is what you really desire. You must wonder what it would be like to be with the one you love.”

And then the world around him blurred again and he was back in his apartment in San Francisco, laying in his bed. There was an unfamiliar weight on his back, so he turned over only to come face to face with a sleeping Spock. A naked, sleeping Spock who's left arm was currently draped over Jim's back in a very possessive manner.

For a moment Jim reveled at the sight of Spock in bed next to him, but then he remembered where he actually was. This was all just another illusion set up by the Talosians to make him comply with their wishes. And when the ‘Spock’ next to him opened his eyes he was reminded again that this wasn't real because instead of Spock's warm brown eyes he was greeted by Vina's ice blue ones. That was the final straw.

“Enough!” Jim yelled and the world faded away.

 

They have formed another landing party to retrieve Jim from inside the Talosians’ base and though he wouldn't show it Spock was anxious to get Jim back. This time himself, Sulu, Chekov, Uhura, Yeoman Rand, and the three security officers were going to attempt to beam into the base and fight their way out.

Though it was an odd assortment for a landing party everyone here had volunteered to go and save their captain. Even when he had relayed that their readings of the area could be illusions too and they could potentially beam into solid rock no one had backed down. For the dedication of their crew, Spock would forever be grateful.

With a nod, they all climbed onto the transporter pod and took their places.

“Energize,” Spock used a firm voice and waited to be beamed down.

The transporter fired up but nothing happened at first. Spock looked over at the controls to see Mr. Scott just as confused as he was, and suddenly the places where Nyota and Rand were standing was empty.

 

Jim was tuning back into reality when the whirring of the Enterprise’s transporter filled his ears and Nyota and Rand appeared in the cell with him and Vina. 

“Jim!” The communications officer exclaimed.

“Uhura! Rand! What are you doing here?” Jim asked in confusion.

“Rescuing you of course, but there should be more of us. It was us, Spock, Sulu, Chekov, and some security,” Uhura explained.

While they were talking Vina had moved to the corner of the cell and finally spoke up, “It’s not fair. You don’t need them.”

Nyota and Rand said nothing but looked between them with confused looks on their faces. Jim took a moment to observe his crew members and was elated to see the phasers that they had on them. He grabbed Rand’s only to see that it wasn’t working so he turned to Nyota, “Is your phaser working?” 

She pulled it out to check and shook her head, “No. That doesn’t make sense, they were fully charged before we left.” Then she pulled out her communicator. “This is dead too. What’s going on?”

“Don’t say anything,” Jim replied as he took both phasers over towards the panel that opened. “I’m imagining beating their huge heads to a pulp. Thoughts primitive enough to block everything else. All I can think of is hate and anger.”

“How long can you block your thoughts? A few minutes, an hour? How will that help?” Vina asked trying to move closer to him only to be blocked by Rand.

“Leave him alone,” the yeoman said.

“He doesn’t need you he’s already picked me,” Vina declared.

“Picked her? For what? I don’t understand,” Rand looked to Jim for clarification.

“Now there’s a fine choice for intelligent offspring.”

“You mean kids?”

Nyota’s eyes went wide as she finally realized what was going on, “Offspring as in he’s Adam and we’re supposed to be Eve.”

“Like you’re a better choice,” Vina snarked at her. “They’d have more luck crossing him with a computer.”

There was murder in his comm officer’s eyes. Before Jim could do or say anything Nyota beat him to the punch, “This computer speaks dozens of languages and is Chief Communications Officer for the Starfleet flagship. I also don’t happen to be a liar. There was a Vina listed on that expedition as an adult crew member, not an unborn baby. Now if we add 18 years to your age then-”

As much as Jim wanted to hear what was coming next he stopped them, “I haven’t chosen anybody and I’m not going to.”

The women looked at him and he saw defeat in Vina’s eyes, pride in Nyota’s, and possibly sadness in Rand’s. He was about to say more but he was caught off guard by the Magistrate approaching the cage. They all rushed to the window with Vina speaking first, “It’s not fair! I did what you asked.” 

The alien made no contact with her and instead turned to Jim, “Since you resist the present specimen, you now have a selection.”

“I’ll get out of here somehow,” Jim shot back.

“Each of the two new specimens has qualities in her favor. The female called Uhura has the superior mind and would produce highly intelligent children.” Jim wanted to strangle him for talking about his friend that way. “The other new arrival has considered you unreachable but is now realized this has changed. The factors in her favor are youth and strength plus unusually strong female drives.” 

“You’ll find my thoughts more interesting,” Jim said thoughts so primitive and emotions so ugly you’ll-”

Searing pain enveloped Jim’s mind, radiating through his entire body. It was one of the most excruciating things he had ever felt. It was like knives tearing him apart one simultaneously until there was nothing left of him but tiny pieces on the floor.

“Wrong thinking is punishable,” the Talosian said as the pain went away. “Right thinking will be as quickly rewarded. You will find it an effective combination.” And then he walked away leaving Jim and the others to their own devices.

“Jim,” Uhura said worriedly as he was slightly crumpled to the ground in her arms.

“No,” he replied straightening himself up. “Don’t help me. I need to concentrate. They can’t read me through hate.”

 

It had been almost a full day since Jim had been abducted and they were still no closer to finding him and the others. And twice he had felt a searing pain in the human’s mind that radiated over to his own. His anger and fear grew tenfold at the thought of someone harming his t’hy’la. Whatever the Talosians were doing to him was not good. And through it all Spock was at a loss. 

He wasn’t sure what to do but he couldn’t and didn’t want to give up on saving Jim. He wanted to stay and use every resource he had to their advantage, but McCoy had just informed him that things were getting dire down in med bay, and they needed to get to the Vega Colony.

Seeing no other alternative. He had a duty as acting captain to put the well being of the crew over three captives. Spock felt his heart clench in his side as he ordered Chekov to plot a course away from Talos IV at maximum warp. They were about to leave when the whole ship went dark and everything stopped working except for life support systems. Whatever was about to happen was not good.

 

Jim and the others had been in the cage for hours and they were all exhausted. As much as he wanted to stay awake he also needed to keep up his energy, so they all took up positions around the cell and started to doze off. He wasn’t sure how much time had passed but out of the corner of his eye, Jim saw the Magistrate enter the corridor and walk quickly to the side of the cage.

The blond waited, keeping up the illusion of sleep and watched the part of the wall where the aliens had opened it up before, where he had purposely dropped the phasers. It took several moments but he waited and the panel eventually opened. Not wasting any time Jim lunged for the opening, startling everyone else fully awake. The captain had managed to grab the magistrate and drag him into the car with them, pinning him to the ground with his hands around the alien’s neck.

“Now stay still or I’ll break your-” Jim started to say before Vina interrupted him.

“Don’t hurt him! They don’t mean to be evil.”

“I have some experience with how good they are,” he spat angrily.

Suddenly the Magistrate morphed into the pig-faced monster he had seen in one of the other cages. It was an intimidating creature, but Jim knew that it was just an illusion and he refused to be frightened by it, “Stop it now or I’ll break your neck.”

The illusion stopped but the Talosian continued to struggle, “Your ship. Release me, or we will destroy it.”

 

Spock and the others worked frantically to get the downed systems back online, but nothing they did seemed to work. Mr.Scott was just as confused as the rest of them. They could find no reason for the ship to lose power like it had. The only explanation that the Vulcan could come up with was that the Talosians were more powerful than they had anticipated.

He was just about to ask Mr.Scott about the life support systems when the computers switched on and began flipping through what appeared to be every piece of data in the archives.

“I can’t stop it,” Chekov announced. “It is running through everything. I do not understand.”

“It appears that someone wants to learn everything about us,” Spock announced. “We must be ready for whatever may happen.”

 

“He’s not lying, Captain,” Vina tried to reason with Jim. “With their powers, they can make your crew work the wrong controls or push any button it takes to destroy your ship.”

Jim could see where she was coming from, he wanted his crew to be safe, but they still needed to get out of there, “I’m gonna bet you’re too smart to kill for no reason. Uhura, hold him.” He handed the alien to make sure he didn’t move. “I’m going to try something.” Jim picked up the phasers and pointed them at the transparency.

He fired each in turn, but they both seemed to have no effect so he turned back to the Magistrate, “I would also bet that you made it seem like our phasers aren’t working. I think there’s really a hole in that window and you just don’t want us to see it. Drop the act or I’ll try it on your head.”

The threat worked because there was suddenly a giant hole in the window. With a smirk Jim grabbed the alien and pushed him towards the opening, keeping the phaser pointed at his head. They all followed the Magistrate into the elevator Jim had always seen him exit. They all piled in and rode in silence until they were deposited on the surface and to Jim’s surprise the way he was brought in had practically been split in two.

“Uhura try to make contact with the ship,” Jim said as they all made their way down the rock face.

“Yes, Captain,” she pulled out her communicator and did as he said only to see that it still wasn’t working. “Still nothing.”

“As you see,” the Magistrate smirked at them. “Your attempt to escape accomplished nothing.”

“I want to contact my ship,” Jim bit out.

“You are now on the surface where we wished you to be. With the female of your choice, you will now begin carefully guided lives. To help reclaim the planet’s surface, out zoological gardens will furnish a variety of plant life.”

Jim was fed up but he needed to get the others away from this place, “I’ll make a deal with you. I won’t kill you and you send Uhura and Rand back up to the ship.”

“Since our lifespan is many times yours we have time to evolve you into a society trained to serve as artisans, technicians-”

“Do you understand what I’m saying? You give me proof that my ship is fine, send these two back I’ll,” Jim hated what he was going to say next, but his duty as a captain came before his heart. “I’ll stay with Vina.”

Uhura must have been fed up too because he heard a low whirring sound and when he turned to look at her he saw that she had set her phaser to overload, “It’s wrong to create a whole race of humans to live as slaves.”

“Is this a deception? Do you mean to destroy yourselves?” The alien asked in shock. 

“What does he mean?” Vina asked.

“The phaser is set to explode. You still have time to get underground,” Jim pushed Vina toward the elevator. “Now go!”

Vina looked at him stunned before determination filled her gaze, “If you feel so strongly about it then I can’t go either. I guess if they have one human they might try again.”

The phaser was ready to explode when two more Talosians came up the elevator and started speaking after Jim had Uhura stop the explosion, “Their method of storing records and consumed much time, are you prepared to assimilate?”

The Magistrate nodded and the veins in his head pulsed for several moments before he turned back to Jim and the others in disgust, “We had not believed this possible. The customs and history of your race shoe a unique hatred of captivity. Even when it is pleasant and benevolent, you prefer death. This makes you too violent and dangerous a species for our needs.”

“He means that they can’t use you,” Vina said. “You can go back to your ship.

“And that’s it,” Jim sneered. This had to be one of the most annoying experiences of his entire life. “You captured me and threatened my crew. How dare you. And you think we’re primitive.”

“Your unsuitability has condemned us to eventual death,” one of the other Talosians spoke up. “Is that not enough?”

“No other specimen has shown you adaptability. You were our last hope,” the Magistrate said.

“That’s what Starfleet and the United Federation of Planets is for. To help people and aliens, bring them together. We can help you,” Jim replied even though he didn’t really want to help them after what they had put him through. 

“Your race and others would learn the power of illusion and destroy itself too.”

Just then Uhura’s communicator went off, “Enterprise to Lieutenant Uhura.”

It was Spock and Jim felt a flood of relief. He looked around one more time before saying they should get back. He looked to Vina questioningly. 

“I can’t go with you,” She said. Her image morphed to reveal Vina but now misshapen and scared, not the beautiful girl anymore and Jim felt his heart break.

“You see why I can’t go with you. They found me in the wreckage dying, a lump of flesh. They rebuilt me. Everything works, but they had never seen a human before. They had no guide for putting me back together.” Vina turned and started back up the rock face.

Jim looked to the Magistrate for clarification, “It was necessary for you to believe her desire to stay was an honest one.”

“You’ll give her back her illusion of beauty?” He asked hopefully.

“And more.” Jim turned back to see that she was indeed beautiful again and that there was another version of himself with her. He smiled and turned back. “She had an illusion and you have reality. May you find your way as pleasant.”

 

Spock felt his heart flutter in his side as Jim and the others appeared on the transporter pad in before his eyes. He felt all of the tension slip away at the sight of the blond man. His t’hy’la was back safe when he belonged. The Vulcan promised himself that he wasn’t going to let anything hurt Jim or take him away ever again no matter what. 

“Captain,” Spock addressed Jim, not letting any of his thought or emotions show.

“Mr.Spock,” Jim smiled at him as he stepped off the pad. “How’s the ship?”

“All systems optimal, Captain.”

“Excellent.”

The group made their way back up to the Bridge where they were greeted by the rest of the senior staff, smiles all around. Spock watched as Jim took his place in the captain’s chair and couldn’t help but think of how right it was for him to be there with Spock at his side.

“Take us out, Mr.Sulu,” Jim called out.

“Aye, Captain.”