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'Better to reign in Hell than serve in Heaven'

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There was a quiet beep. A few seconds later it repeated, and if anyone was around they might have been able to discover that it was more than a single beep. It was a multitude of machines, all beeping at exactly the same time. Their timing was so precise, it did almost sound as if it was one noise, one beep. The machines were all lined along the various corridors of a space vessel, a vessel which had been abandoned by conscious creatures for centuries. Inside the machines were bodies, set in stasis to preserve them for a long space journey, although they did not anticipate the journey taking as long as it had.

Minds which had been vibrant and busy when they were conscious, now were serene, calm and not a thought passed through. It wouldn’t be long though, before those minds would be awake and the bodies stretching their muscles; a battle coming for them.

The past was about to meet the future.

oOo

Jim leaned forward a little in his chair. Spock had tensed ever so slightly as he was looking through his scanner. Five years ago, Jim wouldn’t have even noticed the movement, but now? He did. He knew the Vulcan better and it made them a formidable team.

There had been rumors of a Romulan incursion in the Gamma 400 system, so Starfleet had sent them off to show a little bit of muscle and see if there was any truth to the rumors. As much as Jim hated these types of missions, after the past few, it was a welcome bit of respite for the crew.

“Mr. Spock? See anything interesting?” Jim asked, sick of waiting for Spock to speak up.

“Captain, there is a vessel in Sector 07 039 02. It is an uninhabited area and there have been no recorded flights in that area in the past--” Spock paused as he glanced from his scanner to another screen on his console, his fingers working dexterously to bring up the information he required. “Fifty years, sir.”

“Fifty years you say?” Jim asked, a little smile hovering on his lips. He still wasn’t above teasing his First Officer on occasion. Jim also noted his navigator and helmsman were watching their by-play with interest, although they were trying to hide it, and it made Jim’s smile widen as he sat back into his chair.

“I did say, Captain,” was all Spock offered in reply. It seemed Spock was not in a teasing mood today; if Jim wanted to get a rise out of him, he would just have to wait until Bones came up to visit the Bridge.

“Any indications as to what type of vessel?” Jim asked, teasing over and back to work. He let out a little breathy sigh.

“No, Captain. Might I suggest it would be beneficial for our mission if we could ascertain exactly the type of vessel?”

“You might. Mr. Chekov, set a course for Sector 07 039 02. Mr. Sulu, impulse engines, we don’t want to sneak up too quickly on them.”

“Aye aye, Captain,” Sulu and Chekov chorused at him, working together like a hive mind.

“Mr. Spock, please inform Engineering and Medical to prepare for scanning of unknown vessel. And Sciences, of course.”

Spock nodded at him and Jim sat back to watch his crew work like a well oiled-machine.

oOo

Bones glanced up from the PADD, which contained suggestions from Dr. Naxi, when the main door to Sickbay swooshed open. He sighed at the sight of Jim.

“That will be all, Dr. Naxi, excellent suggestions,” Bones said, dismissing his co-worker. Bones nodded toward his office and at the slight nod in return from Jim, he walked into the office.

Bones took his customary place, leaning up against his desk, and waited to see where Jim would place himself, so Bones would know what sort of conversation they were likely to have. Jim walked over to stand next to him and mirrored his stance in leaning against the desk. It was time for a ‘shoot the shit’ conversation, and it appeared obvious to Bones that Jim had needed to get out of the chair on the Bridge before he vibrated out of it in anticipation. Or, before Spock could call Bones and tell him to come and remove the Captain. Jim was slowly learning what did and didn’t work while they had these waiting periods.

“Jim,” Bones said.

“Bones,” Jim parroted, the smirk evident in his tone.

“Did Spock kick you off the Bridge?” Bones said as he tilted his head toward Jim and his eyebrow raised up.

“No!” Jim protested and then he laughed. “But it was a near thing. I hate this part.”

“I know, Jim.”

“No sympathy, Bones? I’m wounded!” Jim protested, his hands going over his heart while he batted his eyelashes at Bones.

“Don’t even try that on me and you are not. You knew you weren’t gonna get any sympathy coming down here. Now, you can stay for a bit and mess up my office, but I do have some things to organize.” Bones looked sideways at Jim, with a fond look of exasperation.

“Boss cracking the whip, eh?” Jim asked, waggling his eyebrows.

“Yeah, regular task master that he is,” Bones agreed with a smile, as he pushed away from the desk so he could walk out of his office.

Before he could reach the door, his comm unit beeped and the melodious voice of Lt. Nyota Uhura spoke.

“Dr. McCoy, please send the Captain back to the Bridge.”

“It’s scary how she knows exactly where I am all the time,” Jim pointed out as he straightened up and got ready to leave.

“Jim, all she has to do is check the computer. It’s not like we can’t check where everyone is on this ship at all times.” Bones decided to state the obvious at him.

Jim just waved his hand in the air. “Anyway, why didn’t she ask for me direct then? Why ask for you to ‘return me’?”

Bones pushed the comm button to connect him to the Bridge. “He is on his way, Lieutenant.” He turned back to Jim after shutting off the comm. “Because she likes me better, now scram.”

“Fine, fine,” Jim agreed but not before he poked his tongue out at Bones.

Bones just laughed at the space where Jim had been, the man having made made his escape after the childish display as soon as he could.

oOo

“Coming up on the vessel, sir,” Chekov announced.

Jim glanced back over toward Spock and away from the view screen. “Nice and gently, Mr. Sulu, we don’t want to spook them too much. Readings, Mr. Spock?”

“It is definitely a space vessel of some type,” Spock replied, his focus entirely on the scanner though his voice betrayed, with a slight hint, his annoyance at not having more information.

“Origin? Romulan?” Jim asked.

“Unknown origin, Captain. Unlikely to be a Terran vessel, due to the information from the recorded flights.”

“Captain,” Uhura interrupted, causing Jim to swivel his chair so he could better see her.

She had one finger delicately poised on her ear piece, while her other hand was manipulating her controls. Jim had marvelled at how composed she managed to appear in the midst of some of the most chaotic battles they had partook, and right now her natural innate grace was on display.

I am picking up a signal, sir.” Uhura sent the signal to the speakers on the Bridge so Jim and the Bridge crew could hear what she was hearing.

“CQ CQ. It’s a 20th Century Earth International Morse code call signal, Captain,” Uhura said in a shocked tone. She had glanced a look toward Spock as she spoke.

“Thank you, Lieutenant. ‘Calling Any Station’, hm. I thought you said it couldn’t be an Earth vessel?” Jim grinned as he let his chair rotate so he faced forward again.

I fail to understand why it always gives you pleasure to see me proven wrong,” Spock stated.

An emotional Earth weakness of mine, Mr. Spock,” Jim said in an offhand manner, as their first view of the vessel was brought up on the viewscreen. The shape was nagging at him. He racked his brain to come up with the type, as he was sure he knew what it was. “Ah! Looks to be similar to a DY-500 class, and they were decommissioned back in the 22nd Century.”

“Incorrect, Captain. It is a DY-100 class. The last such vessel was built in the 1990s,” Spock corrected him. Jim detected a little hint of smugness at Spock being able to prove Jim wrong.

As much as Spock hated to admit it, he did show human traits, which amused Jim when he could catch him doing so. Jim pondered the view in front of him, their long range scanner feeding back only basic information about the vessel.

It’s a derelict, its signal left on automatic?” he asked, almost rhetorically. One thing he valued about his crew was he could trust them to weigh in with their own opinions, even if they were contradictory to his.

Or an old Earth ship being used by another species,” Spock offered.

Jim nodded as he considered the possibility. It could be a trap, to lure other vessels close enough and with a false sense of security. “Weapons status?” he asked.

Sulu replied promptly, “Deflector shields on maximum. Phasers manned, sir.”

Jim nodded, knowing Sulu could see his reflection in the viewscreen.

Bioscanners report,” Jim said next, his mind already parsing a number of possible scenarios.

Life science bioscanners are picking up heart beats from over there. Can't be human, though. They're too faint, and average only four beats per minute,” Bones’ voice came through the communication system as Uhura had patched in the relevant areas from the start of their discussion it seemed.

Jim started to think about which species were known to have such a low heart rate, and a single heart.

Sensor reading, Captain. Some sort of equipment functioning on that vessel,” Spock said, interrupting Jim’s thoughts.

All decks go to full alert,” Jim ordered, knowing it was always better to be safe than sorry. “Lt. Uhura, commence hailing. Continue scanning, I want as much information on this vessel as possible.”

oOo

“Anything interesting to report, Scotty?” Jim asked as he walked into Engineering. He knew no one could really sneak up on the area without Scotty knowing about it. Jim thought of the whole ship as his baby, but he knew Scotty and Bones considered their domains to be just that--theirs, not his.

“Until I get over there, I can only give you an educated guess. I’ve never seen anything that old and still working. The DY-100s had a very limited life span. They were not the most reliable of ships,” Scotty said as he turned away from the control panel.

“I think the fact there is one out there with life signs on board says otherwise,” Jim pointed out.

“True, and I do like a good mystery. All I can tell you, Captain, is that the ship is functioning on a low level of power, possibly nuclear, and that life systems appear currently to be stable.”

“Fair enough, I’ll go and bother Bones now and leave you to it.” Jim smiled at Scotty.

“You do that, laddie,” Scotty said. He turned back to his panel and started pushing buttons in a sequence which possibly only he, and maybe Chekov and Spock on a good day, could understand.

As Jim waited patiently in the turbolift, he thought he might drop in on Environmental Systems on the way to Sickbay. With obvious signs of life on the ship but no contact being made, they may have to beam over and check it out. This hour had been a long and tedious one, and although he was often accused of leaping first, he always did so with knowledge in his mind of what was coming. Plus Bones would have been expecting him, and it was fun to keep the man on his toes.

oOo

The turbolift door opened onto the Bridge and Jim stepped out of the lift with Bones right behind him. He walked over to his chair, knowing that Bones would take up his usual position just behind him to his left. As he sat, the other Bridge crew members turned to face him. Conversations, which had been quietly going on, ceased as he sat down.

Jim looked over his shoulder at Bones, knowing the man would understand without words that Jim wanted him to report. He didn’t get a chance to hear it when he arrived in Sickbay as he was immediately called back up to the Bridge.

We're continuing to pick up some form of heart action over there. Very faint, very slow. Seems to be coming from about sixty or seventy bodies, as near as I can tell,” Bones said.

Alien bodies, Bones?” Jim asked.

Bones shrugged, “Could be. There's no sign of breathing or other form of respiration.”

Jim faced forward again, a considering look on his face. He pushed the communication button on his arm rest, “Weapons department, maintain battle stations. All other decks standby alert.”

From behind him he heard Uhura almost immediately respond, “All decks acknowledging, sir.”

He knew that she would have her finger pressed to her ear piece as she listened to the concurrent messages coming in. He keyed in the sequence for the standby alert and noted the yellow light flashing on the helm console and the initial pre-warning sound start up. He acknowledged it and the sound switched off.

Jim was still focused on the view of the ship on the viewscreen; the ship had most definitely seen better days. Spock obviously noted his interest as he spoke up next.

“The hull surface is pitted with meteor scars. However, scanners make out a name. SS Botany Bay.”

Then you can check the registry,” Jim noted.

No such vessel listed.”

Jim smirked slightly at Spock’s quick response. Like many times, his First Officer already had the answer for Jim even before he could ask the question. He had heard grumblings before that Spock might be the first Vulcan boy scout, such was his desire to ‘always be prepared.’

Records of that period are fragmentary, however,” Spock continued. “The mid-1990s was the era of your last so-called World War.”

The Eugenics Wars,” Bones murmured.

Spock turned to address Bones and Jim glanced over to watch, wary as always when Bones and Spock faced off against each other.

Of course. Your attempt to improve the race through selective breeding,” Spock said, and Jim was sure Bones would rise to the bait.

Bones didn’t disappoint him.

Now, wait a minute. Not our attempt, Mr. Spock. A group of ambitious scientists. I'm sure you know the type. Devoted to logic, completely unemotional--” Bones stepped closer to Jim as he ranted at Spock, his voice getting growlier and the southern accent getting stronger as he spoke.

Jim interrupted before it could turn into World War Four. “All right, all right, gentlemen. As you were.” Jim glanced up at Bones who, with pursed lips, nodded slightly and stepped back.

“Lieutenant, any response from the vessel?” Jim asked Uhura.

“Negative, Captain, and I have responded with Morse code as well as the standard Hailing messages. There has been no response,” Uhura reported.

Rig for tractor beam, Helm. Lock onto that vessel.” They had gathered as much information about the vessel as they could, sitting here on the ship; it was time to find out more and Jim wanted to see for himself.

Rigging for tractor beam, sir,” Sulu said as he followed Jim’s orders.

Jim stood up and started to walk off the Bridge. He paused by the top step and glanced back at Bones.

The Bridge is yours, Mr. Spock. Care to join the landing party, Doctor?” Jim knew using the title would ensure that Bones knew he had stepped partially out of line, even if Spock had goaded him. He might love the man, but Bones sure did have a temper which could be easily pushed, so Jim made sure that his formality of speech was tempered with a little smile.

Well, if you're actually giving me a choice--,” Bones started to say.

I'm not,” Jim replied quickly before Bones could decline. He turned back in the direction of the Science station. “Oh, I'll need somebody familiar with the late 20th Century Earth. Here's a chance for the new historian to help out. That period was her speciality, if I recall correctly.”

“Indeed. I shall inform Lieutenant McGivers,” Spock informed him.

oOo