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Divergence

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First Officer's Log, Stardate 2260.54.01

The Enterprise has safely arrived at Babel. All thirteen member world delegates will shortly disembark. While the Federation Special Parliament is in session, our standing orders are to maintain our presence here along with the Eighth Fleet and USS Constellation. We have enacted a standard yellow alert as instructed and will hold orbit for the day.

I have been invited to along with the captain to attend proceedings. We will depart with the other delegates…


 

First Officers's Log, Stardate 2260.54.13

By the order of Starfleet Personnel, Shore Leave has been mandated to be taken in turn by all crew members effective immediately. Despite initial reservations against this rule, I have been informed by Doctor Leonard McCoy that the order follows his recommendation; medical has noted increased levels of stress and fatigue among the crew, and it is his professional opinion that Shore Leave is overdue.

We shall continue to maintain a patrol in the Babel System and USS Yolanda will be available for transport. It will be leaving for Alpha Centauri in 80 hours time and Captain Kirk has requested that I make the necessary arrangements. By current projections, Shore Leave will commence in 72 hours; standard Shore Leave rotation schedules according to rank/shift/position are being compiled…


 

Captain's Personal Log, Stardate 2260.56.03

Still drifting around Babel; attended a session of conference – sat next to Spock who was pricklier than a cactus; I thought he was going to strangle me when I asked him about dinner in the middle of a speech being made by the Sulamid Ambassador. Seems I should have read Uhura's compendium on our dispatch orders in greater detail.

Most of the talks were review of new Federation countermeasures against planetary catastrophes on the scale of Vulcan's destruction; depressing stuff especially having to discuss the stats about New Vulcan and how they're going. Never seen such a decisive board of politicians; new protocols for a planetary evacuation and plans for colonies all being enacted. Everyone kept on topic – mostly – and avoided character assassination. Tensions are pretty high – and I don't like the way things are going: I think I speak for everyone when I say that we didn't graduate top of the Academy to do another month of Neutral Zone patrols.

In other news, it's quiet on the ship, since Spock has very kindly sent a bunch of them to Alpha Centauri for some R&R. I feel like we're the only ones on duty – Deck Five is empty since anyone who is someone has been booted off for some fun. Section chiefs and command officers even get an extra day – which would be great, if Spock would let me off the hook. Knew I shouldn't have let him decide the rosters.

And Spock, if you are reading this – and I know you read all my unlocked entries so don't even pretend – 3D chess my quarters 2000 hours. You owe me that much after turning down my request for leave.


 

USS Enterprise, Bridge Deck, year 2260

The dispatch notice came at 0300 hours shipboard time, during the one gamma shift that week when no senior officer or department chiefs were on duty. It was concise and direct from Starfleet Command: USS Enterprise was to convene with the science vessels USS Lockwood and Copernicus at the last known location of the Romulan vessel Narada – further details classified, briefing at Commanding Officer's discretion en route. There were no further details yet it was unambiguous in its urgency.


 

Orbit above Vulcan, year 2245

Spock fought them. He kicked, punched and twisted but it was useless; his captors were stronger. He caught one of the men in the abdomen but the humanoid only growled and came at him again. They spoke to him in a language that sounded like something he should understand but despite the familiarity of the noises, nothing they said seemed coherent. Instead the meanings lingered, familiar and alien, just out of his comprehension. Before he could note anything else, Spock was falling. He registered that he was plummeting backwards into nothingness a split second before the panic hit, a searing kick to his gut.

Pain splintered through his skull and along his spine at the impact. Everything blurred as his body struggle between keeping still and writhing in agony. Above him, dirty unshaven humanoid faces looked down on him from the hole he fell through. There was the sound of metal scrapping against metal, and finally, darkness. Something swelled inside of him.

Where was he? What was this place? Had mother noticed his absence? Was he going to–?

Control yourself, Spock – his father's voice rang through his mind, as clear as day – you must gain control over the manner which you respond to your senses, lest they provoke you. Your senses give you information yes, but it is your mind and logic, which gives you the capacity to respond correctly to external stimuli. Do not let instinctual emotional responses cloud your judgment…

The young Vulcan sat up slowly and took note of his immediate senses. The ground was hard, cold, some form of metal. Though they had covered his head with a dirty cloth when dragging him to this place, it was obvious he was on a space craft of unknown origin. There was the soft hum – Spock strained his ears – of a functional inertial dampener, supported by his experience of only immediate gravitational forces. The taste, the humidity and even the smell of the atmosphere seemed to support his conclusion; this was not Vulcan, he was aboard a ship.

He touched the back of his head gingerly, unable to stop a wince of pain. It came away wet but thick. His blood was already clotting over the wound to repair the damage. The knowledge comforted him.


 

USS Enterprise, Deck Five, the Captain's Quarters, year 2260

It was way, way past bedtime.

It was so late that if Bones caught him, he'd get jabbed with seven different hyposprays before he knew what hit him. Yeah, that was about right, he mused cheerfully to himself – especially if Bones found out the reason why he was up late.

Spock raised his eyes and slowly quirked that one eyebrow. Jim stared back and resisted the urge gloat. No, he would keep quiet this time but that didn't mean he wasn't laughing on the inside. This was not the first time they'd played chess, but ever since the Recreations Chief had brought 3D chess aboard, Jim had been on a losing streak longer than Halley's comet. That, however, was ending tonight – right here right now. He was going to win tonight and it felt damn good. And it only took him – his eyes flicked to the chronometer on the wall – six hours and twenty seven minutes. He was going to be sorry when he dragged his sorry ass out of bed for alpha shift but damn, it would be worth the pain if only to get Spock to stop being so damn smug about it.

"Mate in six," He said casually, unable to stop his mouth from curling up just that little bit.

"Interesting… " Spock demurred, which with a head tilt meant that he was actually pretty pleased, "yet unwise of you to share your –"

"Bridge to Captain Kirk," The intercom in his room whistled, startling them. Spock gave the intercom a curious frown. It was late, way too late for the Bridge to be calling the captain in his quarters unless there was an absolute emergency. Jim tensed slightly, "Go ahead, Hannity."

'Sir, we have a dispatch in from Starfleet that needs your command cipher for decoding. Do you want it in your quarters?'

He looked at Spock. "Yes thanks."

'Right away, sir – and, ah, sir?'

"Yes?"

'Do you know where Commander Spock is, Captain? He's not in his quarters or the main Rec hall.'

Jim wondered what he should say. He settled on a sly grin and shaking his head at the Vulcan. "I have a feeling I can find him. Send that over to my quarters too."

'Yes sir. Bridge out.'

Seconds later, his private computer terminal whistled gently, announcing the arrival of new mail. Spinning in his chair, he punched in his personal command codes and quickly skimmed through the dispatch:

To James T. Kirk, NCC 1701 Enterprise, blah, blah… Jim thought unsympathetically, fighting down the urge to roll his eyes – almost three years and he still didn't understand why dispatches were filled with such useless pandering… Ordered to abort present mission (REF: Dispatch SFCC/T 14702 Dated: 2260.02.46) and proceed with all due haste to MILANOT 33B/WOLF 359 1609A/ BALLACORE 8956.3.L for Rendezvous with USS Copernicus NCC-623 and USS Lockwood NCC-869 to assess the temporal instability of Milanot Sector…

Jim frowned at words burning on his screen.

"Is something wrong, Jim?"

"I'll say…' He mumbled, suddenly wide awake though he should have been asleep four hours ago, "you're not going believe this, Spock: we've just been ordered to take a tour of the artificial singularity."

Spock's eyes narrowed, "The Narada."


 

Planet-side: Earth, Iowa, year 2245

James T. Kirk sat on the steps of the porch and rubbed a fist against the tears that threatened to well up. Not crying, dammit. Not this time, not for this. If he didn't cry when Big Stan and his gang beat him up last year so bad he needed more than a dermal fix, then he wouldn't cry for getting clubbed on the head over a bottle of whiskey. Behind him the sounds of Frank storming around like a drunk came less frequently and finally, sweet silence.

The man was probably passed out on the sofa again, stinking like a still, his fake leg thrown onto the floor next to him. He hated this, the helplessness - shit, why did he even try to get Frank to stop drinking? That other time, Frank screamed obscenities at him because the pain was real bad and told him off for even considering bringing anyone over to the house. He was allowed to stay over at other people's places, but the house limits to everyone but family.

Be considerate, be thoughtful, he's been through so much and I know he has a terrible way with words but you know he loves you, remember that time when –

God, the sound of his mom's fucking platitudes drove him crazy. But she didn't know anything; she wasn't here, she wasn't watching the man who read Zefram Cochrane's biography to him for bedtime when he was a kid drive off into an antique motor vehicle with no safety features, so drunk he was stumbling and couldn't even say 'Jimmy' right when he started cursing at him. He'd torn after the car screaming Frank's name, running until he was so tired he was ready to pass out and the car was long gone in a trail of dust.

And wanting to sell it? That had just been low - the last straw. God, he was ever so glad he had ridden the car off a cliff. Never mind that it had belonged to his dad, and Frank shouldn't have even thought about it, but just the idea of all those credits being exchanged for more booze to kill what little of Frank was left made him sick, just sick.

James stood up and tiptoed inside, closing the door slowly even though the old-fashioned hinges needed oil and would squeak no matter how gently or slowly he swung the door. The house was lit by the single light in the kitchen, the table strew with pre-packed food containers and empty bottles. In the sitting area, Frank was passed out on the sofa with his good leg stretched out, drooling slightly. Asleep, he looked frail; the lines on his forehead deepening in the shadows, his standard grimace softening. He looked old, battered, sickly, not like an administrator for the Federation Council who on his first trip in space on a diplomatic mission, was taken captive by the Romulan Star Empire.

You don't divorce people who need you, his mother had said, just don't, Jimmy, don't, if he was your real father or even me, you wouldn't even dare. Frank needs you, honey, it'll get better, Jimmy, I promise. That was over a year ago. Frank hadn't gotten better. He was getting worse.

Deep down inside, James didn't think that his dad, George Samuel Kirk, would never end up like this – a pitiful, sniveling excuse of a human. His dad had been a hero. His dad had been amazing, and though no one said it, James knew that his dad wouldn't have returned home like this. But Frank wasn't his dad. Frank wasn't a Starfleet officer trained to handle whatever those Romulan bastards did to him. The guilt started surfacing, making him feel like he should be nicer to Frank somehow, but his anger and disgust fought against it – one day, the guilt was going to burn out, and he didn't plan on being around when that happened.

James hesitated on the threshold between the sitting area and the kitchen, wondering if he should fetch a blanket from upstairs and cover Frank. It was getting chilly, the seasons changing, and it was always a bit cold at night on the farm. An obstinate part of him didn't want to – Frank could go rot – but he felt like he ought to do something. Just as he was thinking about it, he caught a sound outside, rustling, like something was moving about in the bushes. James turned around and tried to see beyond the screen door. Something was moving out there in the dark.

'Hello...? Is someone there?' He checked the clock. It was well past midnight, and it couldn't be any of the neighbors – way too late, plus the next house over was like two miles. He hadn't heard a vehicle approaching and someone had to be crazy covering all that on foot in the total dark. The only person it might be was Sam, but he wasn't meant to be arriving till tomorrow for the weekend. 'Sam is that you?' He hissed, 'did you skip out on school early again?'

There was no answer. Jerk, James thought angrily of his older brother.

"Come on Sam, this isn't funny!" Suddenly there was a sound from the back door, a sharp squeak from the hinges followed heavy footsteps. He turned and barely opened his mouth to let out a scream before a large hot hand grabbed him by the scruff of his neck. He heard a hiss under his ear and then, darkness.


 

Location unknown, year 2245

Spock felt along the floor till he found a wall, and continued along till he found a corner. Methodically he got to his feet, his hands sliding up the cold metal wall. The cell was twelve standard units long and ten standard units wide, walls smooth hard metal except for ventilation grids. Vertically, it had to be at least three or four standard units – even on his toes, he couldn't touch were the ceiling met the wall, and the drop to the floor from the hatch had seemed quite high. Spock curled up in a corner and tried to quiet his mind, to consider why he would be here, and what he would do next. A faint sense of nausea crawled through his stomach.

The most obvious possibility was that this kidnapping was somehow connected to his father's work. This had happened before, though usually under far more formalized circumstances, where Mother and he had been held hostage on the worlds still practicing the hostage-system as a means of ensuring political stability or fair negotiations. Spock had always considered it to be an illogical practice, as Sarek was Vulcan and therefore not prone to being emotionally swayed. But this time, he noted with a sense of foreboding, was not the usual formal hostage situation.

He had been snatched from his home at the end of the night time cycle. Though he could not be sure, he did not think that his parents were in the same predicament. No, his parents had not returned home last night after their function at their predicted time – it seemed reasonable to postulate that they were occupied, perhaps staying on for whatever reason, and totally unaware of his situation. Spock also knew that his father was not engaged in any of his duties to act as the neutral third party at the request of any Federation Protectorate World. This however, he reminded himself, did not mean his father was not engaged in confidential Ambassadorial duties. While Spock was privy to many things in his father's life, there were always certain areas of Sarek's working life that were kept quiet. However, if these duties should lead to this…

Spock shivered. Cold seeped into his limbs. His breathing was excessively loud in the dark space, like a mechanical noise rather than that of a living creature. He estimated that unless he received outer garments within the hour, he was likely to begin to suffer the effects of exposure to the chill of his cell. Tucking his chin between his knees and wrapping his arms around his legs, Spock curled up tightly to preserve body heat. He estimated that it had been over three standard hours since his arrival.

Suddenly, light spilled into his room from above, which would have been blinding if he had been directly underneath after so much time in darkness. The hatch for his cell was dragged open without warning. His captors were back. Spock scrambled to his feet, feeling an acute sense of vertigo flash through him. Something hit the ground with a sodden thump followed by a humanoid figure. He took note of his new companion's features in the clinical light – light hair, skin with a faint pink hue, biopolymer clothing: Terran human, most likely – before the hatch was closed with a loud clang.

In the darkness, Spock got down onto his hands and knees, feeling his way across the cold floor till his hand curled into something soft, and most importantly warm. With a stifled whimper of relief, he pulled at the cloth, dislodging it from underneath his new companion and wrapping part of it around himself.

There was a sound of distress from the stranger, followed by heavy panicked gasps for air. Spock froze, uncertain what he should do. Mother said that humans instinctually craved touch as a biological imperative in times of distress or injury, especially young humans. The science behind it was rather odd but proven to be true: humans who had prolonged physical contact produced more serotonin and dopamine, two chemicals that created a sense of well-being in humans. Spock steeled himself, crawled closer and reached blindly in the darkness.

His fingers curled through hair, then found an ear, soft, rounded (like Mother's, he thought) – a mix of flexible cartilage and flesh.

A clammy hand grabbed him in the dark and his mental shields dropped a little in surprise, giving him a flash of fear, determination and images of a foreign night sky, an old-fashioned chronometer. Quickly Spock rectified his mental shields again but the image of the clock stayed with him; Mother had one in her study. His companion made a sound of fright, pushing him away.

"Do not be alarmed," He said, using Standard.

"Who are you? Where am I?" The voice was hurried, full of tonal inflections, reminiscent of his mother's oft informal manner of speech, "I can't see!"

He sensed impending panic and knew that he had to calm the boy as quickly as possible. Having interacted with his Human cousins and Human children residing on Vulcan, Spock knew that young Humans were even more temperamental than adults. In fact, Humans, in general, were not known for their composure but this was an inopportune time for such histrionics. Spock doubted that their captors would be pleased – no, he thought grimly, their captors may come back, wanting to know what was happening, and he wanted to find out more about the situation before they did.

"You are not blind. There are no lights on. My name is Spock; my father is Sarek, Vulcan Ambassador to Earth."

There was a slight pause before the Human responded swiftly, words clear. "James Kirk, Iowa, Earth, my mom works in Starfleet - any idea what's going on?"

Spock wondered what he should say. He was somewhat disappointed for he had been hoping the boy would know more. "I was taken from my home, a short time before the day cycle on Vulcan."

"Vulcan? I was at home, on Earth!"

Spock frowned at the new information. He had been here for three standard hours; the time needed for the ship to have evaded planetary defenses within Federation territory, locate James Kirk – whom didn't appear by his account to be someone of significance – and then apprehend him, the vessel must be equipped with the latest in warp drives or…

"Do you know where we are?" There was a plaintive note in the Human's voice.

Spock wondered what the boy's emotional response would be if he were to reply negatively. Vulcans do not lie, it is illogical, however, there is logic in presenting the facts in a way that will directly address the needs and motivations of the individual whom you are dealing with. It is a fundamental part of diplomacy, Spock, and one which I hope you shall emulate in your dealings with your agemates…

"We appear to be captives on a ship of unknown origin," He stated, carefully gauging the response of his companion with what senses he had available. The Human made no clear response to the statement and instead began to move around.

"How big is this place? Is there a light switch somewhere? Hello! Hellllooo!" James Kirk called out, pausing to listen for echoes. The boy got up with a grunt and from the sound of his breathing, had bypassed where Spock sat and was headed towards one of the cell walls.

"Be careful, the cell is ten by twelve standard units," Spock warned, not wanting the Human to injury himself in the dark. It was obviously too late for there was a thump and a grunt of pain before the boy wandered back to him, this time taking the more cautious method of crawling.

"Oh, hi," the boy said meekly when Spock reached out with a hand to stop them from colliding. "So err… you were saying?"

Though James Kirk would not be able to see him, Spock frowned at his companion's levity.

"Our captors are humanoid in stature and appearance. My speculation is that as we are both the young of our species, perhaps we are meant to be bargained as an emotional incentive for our parents."

There was a snort. "In other words, you haven't the faintest idea why we're here." Spock did not appreciate the boy's light attitude at their ignorance. There was nothing humorous about their kidnapping, and the uncertainty of the intentions of their captors meant that they were in a most precarious situation.

"This is not amusing."

"I'm not laughing."

Spock had nothing to say to that.

For a young Human, James Kirk was behaving admirably – for one, he had not started to cry and seemed to be accepting the situation with great aplomb. Be grateful for small mercies, mother always said. Though the boy was not somebody he usually interacted with, his presence did make this ordeal less taxing… and if Spock were to admit it, more bearable. It would be only logical to nurture a relationship between them, a working one if nothing else, on the basis of ensuring mutual survival.

Decision made, Spock slowly loosened his hold on the blanket, "Are you cold?"


 

USS Enterprise, Deck 7, year 2260

"How's the weather in Milanot?" Spock paused mid-stride, glancing over at him before turning back to the PADD and resuming his course through Deck 7. Jim Kirk gave way to one of the medics pushing a trolley then quickened his pace to catch up, taking care not to spill his coffee. He hadn't slept a wink since yesterday and coffee was about the only thing keeping him going now.

After their late chess match had been interrupted, he had immediately gone over the dispatch in detail with Spock before heading over to run through the systems updates with Scotty. The chief engineer had been confused about why they were making such drastic upgrades after just having completed system calibrations two months ago, but the lure of new system specs that Ambassador Spock had sent them from aboard the Copernicus had silenced any questions he had. Judging by the thoroughness of the blueprints and dossiers, the ambassador had been planning this for a while, possibly even predicted this eventuality. Either way, that was one wily old Vulcan.

"Generally unremarkable, if you take into account the size and unusual nature of the singularity." Spock replied in low distracted tones, tapping his stylus on the screen to bring up a detailed report by the Copernicus' science officer, a Lieutenant Commander Fernandez.

"The ships have begun to take turns in monitoring the fluctuations of the temporal rift, due to the strain on their engines."

Jim winced as he took a sip of his hot beverage, "That bad huh?"

"Unfortunately."

The USS Copernicus and USS Lockwood were two of Starfleet's foremost science vessels. Boasting an impressive department of scientists in all fields, the two vessels had been permanently stationed there several months before to examine the massive black hole that formed around the combustion of distilled Decalithium, otherwise infamously known as Red Matter.

While Starfleet had been relieved to not have lost Earth in the circumstances that took Vulcan, the damage to that area of space where the Narada was defeated had been extensive enough to be a concern. Currently, there were plans to build an outpost, an idea being fast-tracked after a passenger cruiser lost all engines nearby due to a raid by Klingon pirates and was pulled in. All hands had been presumed lost, till the ship showed up six months later 900 light years from where it had gone missing, all occupants swearing that only seconds had passed, their testimonies supported by shipboard data. Talk about having a potential disaster on your hands; the Department of Temporal Investigations, which didn't get a lot of action generally, had nearly quadrupled in size in the last two years, with the surviving members of the Vulcan Science Academy drafted in by the dozens, not to mention that new department which sprung up about just last month – the Temporal Mechanics Department.

Spock continued to speak, frowning down at the screen as if it was doing something very irritating and he wasn't having any of it. "It's been dubbed Oguro, by Dr. Josephine Yamada of the Copernicus. It stands for 'Big Black' in the Japanese variant of Earth's old languages."

"Nice."

Spock gave him a sideways glance that said he strongly disagreed with Jim, but wasn't going to waste his breath commenting on what his captain must know to be an illogical and contradictory statement. Jim hid his tired grin behind the rim of his coffee cup and drained half of its contents.

"When should we do the ship-wide announcements?" He asked, nodding and smiling to a group of midshipman who stood to attention as they passed, "We've got seven hours until we reach Starbase Alpha 3."

"I recommend as soon as possible, Captain, so the crew may make the necessary preparations."

The words settled cold and unnatural in his gut despite the hot coffee. Necessary preparations; it sounded awful because how could anyone prepare themselves to leave everything they knew and go into the past? There was a twinge in his heart at the thought of Bones who had a daughter and the few members of the crew that were married, were going to be leaving behind spouses if they decided to take this mission, leaving parents, siblings – dammit, this wasn't going to be easy. Jim didn't want to give Bones a choice in the matter; the man was the best surgeon they had, but if his friend turned down going on this mission, well, he'll make do somehow. Yeah, well there were some things that were more important than Starfleet… like family, life and all that… these things are the whole damn reason that Starfleet exists… to protect them… your mother understands that, your father understood that – too well… He quickly shut down that line of thought.

"Think the plan will work?" Jim asked quietly, not really expecting an answer. Spock gave him a searching look.

"I mean, there's no way we can know for sure that we can even get back to the same time period, heck, we might even end up in another quadrant…"

"There is no point in speculation."

He supposed there wasn't. "Yeah, but you got to admit, this is crazier than most of the things we've done, Spock."

"And yet you are universally acknowledged by the Federation media as "The Wild Card" – a most apt description considering the number of missions the Enterprise has completed under your command. Based on past statistics, this crew is most likely to succeed," Spock delivered flatly, and looked down at the PADD as if it were something distasteful. Jim felt a grin tug at his lips, not missing the fact he'd just been complimented in Spock's own, roundabout way.

"The probably of achieving our mission objective is 31.46 percent – this takes into account the engine updates and other technological expertise that my counterpart has willingly provided, as well as the element of surprise on our side. Of course, this is based on the assumption we will survive passage through the singularities' temporal rift and that–"

Jim clapped his first officer on the shoulder firmly to stop the coming spiel. "We'll be fine. Trust me."

Spock gave him a pointed look, one eyebrow quirking in a way that said frankly he thought that Jim was completely unaware of what he was saying but he would graciously give him the benefit of the doubt. Overly familiar with the reaction, Jim ignored it to grin brightly at an engineer who'd fixed his shower last week. Like you said Spock, crew morale isn't going to be improved if I staggered around the corridors weeping, or was that roaming the corridors weeping? Dammit, got to get Bones to tell me that story again…

"The chance of our return to our own timeline after the mission is complete is 3.3304%."

He finished his coffee as he stepped into the turbolift, controlling his reaction. Those numbers made him more than a little nervous, "That good huh?"

"Unfortunately," Spock murmured, stepping after Jim into the lift.


 

Location unknown, year 2245

After checking James Kirk for injuries, they had shared the details of their lives, their social backgrounds, the political affiliations of their parents and the details of their occupations. With no clear conclusions, Spock directed his focus to practicalities and suggested they rest, mindful that his companion had started to yawn.

They had arranged themselves in a satisfactory manner along one of the walls, huddled together underneath the thick fabric. The boy propped his head upon Spock's shoulder with a cursory request. Spock didn't protest. It reminded him of mother, who liked to place his head against her shoulder in such a pose. It was meant to be a way of providing care and comfort among Humans. Though he'd questioned the benefits she received, she insisted it was therapeutic for both parties and that he humor her. Filling the role of caregiver for the first time, Spock saw that his mother had been correct. The discomfort of James' head against his shoulder was accompanied by a soothing sense of…being grounded, especially in the absence of any light.

Spock slipped into meditation as was his habit. He focused on the peaks of Mount Seleya, burning in the distance under 40 Eridani A, and was faintly aware of the hours passing as James Kirk slept. By the end of the session, Spock estimated that his body temperature had risen to just below his usual.

Finally, James stirred and there was the sound of a yawn, "Morning, I think."

Early morning, one of the coolest parts of the desert day, had finished hours ago in ShiKahr. It was most likely the afternoon now though he couldn't be certain; time seemed to crawl inside this small dark space. His parents had been attending a function and he last saw them yesterday. His mother would have finished her visit to have a communal meal with the other humans currently stationed at the capital. His father would be resting, in meditation perhaps, secluded in his study after morning meetings, both private and official.

He wondered if they had discovered his disappearance, and what their reactions were. Mother would need to be reassured; his father most likely would contact Starfleet as the kidnapping of any immediate relations of a prolific diplomat fell under the jurisdiction of Starfleet Security.

With effort, Spock brushed aside his thoughts, "Are you rested?"

"Yeah, thanks."

Spock wondered if it would be rude to tell James to remove his head from his shoulder.

"You think they're gonna feed us?"

"Yes. If we are to be hostages, they will need to provide us with sustenance." James straightened, drawing away from him. Spock's ears picked up the sound of joints cracking followed by another yawn.

"Oh, man, I feel like I slept on a rock – no offense to you or anything."

It was a fair if slightly inaccurate assessment of their current accommodations.

"No offense taken," he replied reflexively then flushed – father was right, he had been spending too much time with mother's acquaintances. He quickly picked up from where they'd left the conversation, "What do you remember before your capture?"

The Human made a strange sound, blowing air out between his lips, "I dunno, it was late."

"Late?"

There was an annoyed sound. It was so Human and reminiscent of mother that Spock turned towards the sound instinctively.

"Late as in, it was dark, night time, biological-imperative-insists-upon-sleep-rest-whatever time."

"I see. Is there anything else that you recall?"

"Nope, they snuck up on me, jabbed me out cold before I saw anything. They're big though. The guy that grabbed me, his hands were huge."

Spock agreed. What little images he managed to retain from his short experience being brought to this cell, their captors were indeed large in size by Terran and Vulcan standards.

"I'm hungry."

As if anticipating those words, the hatch above suddenly opened once more and a large humanoid dropped heavily down into the cell with them. Spock stood slowly, wary and alert. There was a phaser-like weapon on their captor's belt, as well as what appeared to be a retractable blade. A male it seemed, bald with tattoos along the sides of his face, a square jaw, thick beard and – Spock noted with shock – elongated ears that formed a point. James Kirk's eyes went wide and he pointed frantically.

"You guys are Vulcans!" The inflection in the tone made it both a statement and a question.

The angry look the man shot them was distinctively un-Vulcan in every way.

He stepped closer to James and grabbed the boy's hand, ignoring his own discomfort at the touch to jerk the boy back and away from their visitor.

"James," he said tersely, "I do not believe he is Vulcan."