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The rise of the genetically engineered supermen who became known as Augments shone a new light on Sentinels and their role in society. The fact that Sentinels were also physically and mentally stronger than ordinary humans led the Augments to claim a kinship with them but the outlooks of the two groups were wholly different. Whereas the Augments wanted to use their superior abilities to dominate and rule the ineffectual humans, the Sentinels had always made it their mission to protect those humans around them. The Augments blamed the Guides for, what they saw as, a waste of the Sentinels’ powers; they argued that the Sentinel/Guide bond was a fallacy and that what people had always believed to be a bonding of their souls was actually Guides using their empathic abilities to influence and control the Sentinels.

When the Sentinels refused to ‘listen to reason’ and continued to fight against the Augments during the Eugenics Wars rather than at their side, the Augments took matters into their own hands. The swift and brutal cull of Guides turned the tide of the war; the pain from the loss of their Guide and such a cruel severing of the bond caused the majority of the world’s Sentinels to turn feral. The resulting quest for vengeance against the people responsible was vicious and bloodthirsty, lasting until every Augment was dead or in hiding.

The war may have been won but the Sentinels, and indeed the Earth, were left devastated. Only a handful of Guides remained alive and their loss is still felt centuries later.

Bisley, T. (2245). Sentinels and Guides: A History. London: Earth Premier Publishing.

“Doctor...I think you’d better come and see this.”

McCoy sighed as the voice of his head nurse floated through the open door of his office. He had a mountain of paperwork to fill out; trying to make the results of ‘The Latest Adventure of Captain Trouble-Magnet and his Band of Merry Mischief Makers’ actually sound like reasonable injuries to pick up during a routine supply run or peaceful meet and greet took up at least 20% of his time since becoming CMO. He’d been hoping to take advantage of a quiet day to get a large chunk of it done but the undercurrent of disbelief and amusement he could hear in Nurse Chapel’s voice didn’t bode well.

He took one step out of the office and stared incredulously at the sight of six crewmembers fidgeting sheepishly in the middle of his sickbay; their skin a shade of garish pink which would be quite at home in his daughter’s bedroom although he doubted Joanna would match it with large green splotches.

“Ensign Hathaway, I’m reasonably sure that you were a normal skin tone when I saw you in the Mess this morning.” McCoy crossed his arms and looked at Hathaway who gulped at being singled out.

“Yes, sir, but you see we were running tests on some of the samples that the away team brought back from Signus III and then Butler tripped and knocked the table...”

“Hey!” Butler frowned at Hathaway.

Hathaway shrugged. “You did. You’re such a klutz, I swear you ruin every experiment you get near.”

“Like you’re so perfect,” Lieutenant J’Lani interjected; the odd member of the little group as his normal blue Andorian skin was now a bright purple with brown splotches. “If you hadn’t had an open beverage right there on the table, ignoring all the safety guidelines by the way, then nothing would have happened when Butler banged into it.”

McCoy pinched the top of his nose as the group continued to argue amongst themselves. He turned to Chapel and raised an eyebrow in question.

“All the scans show that there’s nothing physically wrong with them,” she said as she came to stand beside him. “Whatever it was that they did, it just changed the colour pigmentation of their skin. No other effects at all.”

McCoy nodded and then hit his comm. “McCoy to Kirk.”

The scientists immediately stopped bickering and turned to stare at McCoy with wide eyes.

“Bones!” Jim’s voice came back. “How are things down there? As peaceful as they are up here?”

Bones resisted the urge to snort at the relief in Jim’s voice; Jim had never been any good at hiding the fact he was bored out of his mind when things were quiet. He was obviously sitting on the bridge, swinging about in that damn chair, dying for something to do.

“Oh, things are just peachy, Captain,” McCoy answered in a conversational tone even as he glared at the scientists. “But remember when you said that I wasn’t allowed to keelhaul crewmembers for being idiots? I have found some people so monumentally moronic that I think you would actually help me tie the rope around them.”

Chapel covered her mouth to hide a smile at the indignant gasps that resulted.

“I don’t know, Bones.” Jim’s voice sounded thoughtful. “I was pretty set on the ‘no keelhauling’ rule. Maybe I should come down there and see what my crew have done before I make any rash decisions.”

“Actually I just wanted to borrow Sulu,” Bones told him, “I believe it was one of his plants that they were messing with and I need more information on it. Of course if you feel the need to accompany him that's your prerogative, Captain.”

By the time that Jim and Sulu arrived with Spock in tow, Bones had taken blood and skin samples from all of the scientists and had the computer running analysis on them. Chapel was looking through the medical database for anything similar happening in Starfleet and the scientists themselves were still arguing over whose fault the entire thing was.

Jim let out a low whistle as soon as he caught sight of his new pink and green crewmembers.

“Wow, is that contagious? It looks contagious.” Sulu tilted his head and looked like he really wanted to touch one of them.

McCoy blamed it on him spending too much time with Jim; he always got the feeling that Sulu used to have at least some sense of self preservation before he joined the Enterprise crew and was made to jump out of a shuttlecraft to try and save Vulcan.

McCoy raised an eyebrow at Spock. “Things must’ve been really quiet on the bridge.”

“On the contrary, doctor, there was a slight fluctuation in the energy readings from a nearby star which I was monitoring,” Spock informed him. “However, the captain felt it necessary to remove me from recording my observations as he believes ‘watching paint dry would be more fun’ and that I ‘should play hooky’ with himself and Lieutenant Sulu as a bonding exercise.”

McCoy could practically hear the quotation marks and was sure that, if Spock allowed himself such emotion, his teeth would be grinding in irritation. He shared a knowing look with the Vulcan; McCoy had been on the receiving end of a bored James T Kirk more times than he could count and he knew that pain well. For McCoy it was the kind of metaphorical pain that usually ended in physical pain after Jim dragged him to the gym, or to Scotty's super-secret-but-not-really-secret-at-all still, or he started a juvenile prank war which caused McCoy to throw his back out trying to escape the green gunk flowing out of his shower.

The problem was that Jim wasn’t just a Sentinel, he was one of the most powerful Sentinels of their generation and without anything to distract him, he turned into a ball of excess energy constantly fiddling with things, tapping his foot or plotting something ‘fun’ to do.

"So...do you mind telling me why you decided it would be a good idea to study alien flora without a containment field in place?" Jim asked the scientists, the tone of his voice indicating that he was in full Captain mode.

"There was a containment field in place, sir," Hathaway protested, "but Butler knocked the table..."

McCoy rolled his eyes as the next chorus of 'the blame game' started up and ignored them to begin questioning Sulu on the plants he'd collected from the planet. By the time that he'd persuaded Sulu to get the uncontaminated samples which he just knew that Sulu had snuck into his personal botanical collection for observation, Jim had finished listening to the scientists' petty bickering.

"I see." He nodded thoughtfully at them. "What you're saying is that I should order the entire science division of the ship to attend a seminar detailing the importance of adhering to all safety protocols while in the labs."

J'Lani frowned. "Umm...I'm not sure if that..."

"If I may, Captain." Spock stepped forward and interrupted. "As Chief Science Officer, I propose that I lead the seminar myself. Also, I would suggest that we use this group as a live example of the importance of following the correct procedures; it should prove a useful deterrent against a repeat incident."

McCoy looked in amusement at the expressions of horror which appeared on the scientists' faces. No doubt, they'd expected to be confined to sickbay until McCoy found a way to reverse the effects, not paraded in front of their peers in all their polka-dotted glory during one of Spock's technically perfect yet dry as all hell lectures.

"Good thinking, Commander," Jim said, sending the group a truly malicious smile. "I'm sure that will be a great deterrent."

Jim and Spock made a good team and, not for the first time, McCoy found himself wondering if perhaps Jim had found himself a pseudo Guide in the Vulcan. Jim had told McCoy all about the mind meld that future Spock had performed on him and he wondered if that had created some kind of bond between the two of them and, therefore, between Jim and the Spock from their timeline. It wouldn't have been anywhere near as strong as the Sentinel/Guide bond but it could be enough to take the edge off for Jim. Enough that he could fight the need for his Guide every minute of every day.

In the years that he'd known Jim Kirk, it had become clear that Jim didn't actually want a Guide even in the unlikely event that one could be found for him. He had no intention of giving that much of himself to another person. At the Academy, he'd dealt with his basic Sentinel needs by pushing himself in his studies; taking so many classes ensured that his mind was always working on three or more things at once thus reducing any zone-outs from concentrating too much on any one thing. He also negated his body's constant cry for the touch of his Guide by sleeping with anything that moved. These days the task of running the ship took care of the former, even on these so called 'boring' days Jim's mind was constantly working to make sure the Enterprise and all the crew who sailed in her were taken care of. As for the latter, he didn't seem to need it anymore which gave weight to McCoy's hypothesis about him having a bond with Spock.

He didn't particularly like it. He didn’t like Future Spock and the way he'd pushed a mind meld on his friend and, McCoy was also man enough to admit, part of the dislike also stemmed from having to suddenly share Jim's friendship which for so many years had been solely his. But the obvious benefit to Jim ensured that McCoy kept his opinion of the situation to himself and over the past couple of years he’d discovered that the Spock from this timeline wasn't quite as bad as McCoy first believed. He’d never admit that out loud though and he still maintained that he wasn't sure what the hell Nyota was thinking pursuing a relationship with the Vulcan; the sex must just be that good, it was the only explanation he could come up with.

Sulu returned with the plant sealed in a vacuum tube and McCoy prepared to start the laborious task of figuring out just what the scientists had done and why the plant reacted the way it had before he could work out some sort of cure. Jim stopped by McCoy's desk as he, Spock and Sulu were leaving to return to the bridge.

"That help with your jitters?" McCoy asked.

Jim chuckled at the name McCoy had bestowed on his excess energy bursts back in their first year at the Academy. "A little. We still on for poker tonight? That'll help with the rest."

McCoy nodded. For the first couple of months into their five year mission McCoy had watched Jim’s jitters get gradually worse as he tried to get to grips with being cooped up on a ship. Finally, while laid up in Sickbay thanks to the aforementioned Prank War, McCoy had hit upon the idea of getting a regular poker game started; something that wasn’t work related but would challenge Jim’s mind and satisfy that apparently instinctual need for a bit mischief.

As anyone did when looking to do something against Starfleet rules, McCoy went to Scotty with the idea. As well as being the resident rule breaker, Scotty was also a Sentinel and he understood the need for a 'Sentinel release valve' as he called it; hell, it was probably the reason he was the resident rule breaker. Scotty threw himself into the idea with gusto and before McCoy knew it there was a weekly secret-but-not-really-secret-at-all poker game set up in a large storage room in Engineering.

It had originally started out as a game for the heads of departments but slowly some people drifted away while others had been added until they ended up with an interesting mix who had all agreed to abide by two important rules: what's discussed during the game table stays at the game table - no exceptions - and they all had to try Scotty’s latest concoction. They'd been playing together for a while now and McCoy always looked forward to the chance to unwind and just be Leonard rather than the CMO.

By the time Alpha shift ended, McCoy hadn’t made much headway in figuring out how the plant had affected the scientists. He was feeling frustrated and in need of a good drink and a spot of fun to clear his head a bit as he met Jim outside Engineering as usual.

“Ready to get your ass kicked, old man?” Jim grinned at him as they wound their way through the pipes and consoles to get to the storage room near Scotty's office.

McCoy snorted. “Bring it on, kid. Maybe I can deflate that enormous ego of yours some.”

“Better men than you have tried and failed, Bones,” Jim said with a wink.

Most of the other players were already there when they arrived so the two men each grabbed a glass of the bright green alcohol Scotty's still had produced and took their seats.

"It's the latest batch and this one's not that bad," Sulu said, nodding his head at his own bright green drink. "I think Scotty's getting better at making it."

"Watch it, lad, or I won't let you try any of the next batches," Scotty growled and Sulu flipped him off with a grin.

McCoy eyed his glass suspiciously. Jim had no such concerns though and took a large gulp from his. Immediately he began spluttering and his eyes teared up.

"You're right," Jim finally gasped. "It is better; it doesn't taste like coolant anymore."

"Aye, I've added a new flavouring," Scotty said with a smug smile. "And I'm not going to tell you what it is. I don't care how much you try to twist me arm. It’s top secret is that."

"It's pineapple, Scotty," Jim replied and Scotty's face fell. "Seriously, it couldn't taste more of pineapple if you actually served it in a pineapple with a pineapple garnish."

McCoy took a sip, winced at the burn and then nodded his agreement.

Scotty slumped down in his seat with a pout. "Alright, it might be pineapple."

Hannity patted his arm sympathetically while simultaneously looking a bit smug over the fact she’d been excused from actually trying this particular drink due to an early morning shift.

McCoy held his glass in the air to study the colour. "What's this one called anyway?’Goddess Gaila'?"

"It's 'Orion's Angel'," Sulu told him knowledgably.

Jim laughed. "You're lucky Gaila doesn't mind this crush of yours."

"Why would I mind? It's adorable, just look at him." Gaila paused in dealing the cards to lean over and squish Scotty's face with her hand, making kissy noises.

Scotty perked up at that. "She thinks I'm adorable."

Gaila nodded. "I may have sex with him soon. He's informed me about this thing he can do with his tongue and I'm intrigued. It sounds even better than that thing you can do with your tongue, Jim."

"Oh god, too much information," Sulu groaned.

McCoy covered his face with his hand but not before he saw Scotty waggle his tongue at Jim while Jim glared back at him, clearly insulted at the idea that someone might be better in bed than him.

"What...oh, that thing you do with your tongue. Yeah, I heard all about that," Hannity said with a leer at Jim who leered right back.

"Okay." Gaila finished dealing, placed an unlit cigar between her teeth and adjusted the green visor on her head. "Enough sex talk. It's time for me to start winning all your credits."

"In your dreams, goddess," Sulu said and everyone picked up their cards.

McCoy looked at his hand, not much there but he could get lucky on the flop. He chucked a replicated poker chip into the centre of the table.

“So just how much did you annoy the Bridge staff today?” McCoy asked Jim.

"So, so much," Sulu muttered but Jim ignored him and gave McCoy a mock pout.

“You wound me, Bones. I’m a bright ray of sunshine in their day.”

Five people snorting at the same time made a weird sound, McCoy decided.

“Uhura may have threatened to stick her stylus somewhere very uncomfortable," Jim relented. "But, in my defence, that expression she gets on her face when I check her work over her shoulder is never anything less than funny.”

Hannity chuckled. “You know she’s going to kill you one of these days, right?"

McCoy nodded. “And her green blooded boyfriend will help her hide the body if you keep trying to annoy him.”

Jim waved a hand dismissively. “Nah, they won’t. Everyone knows that if anything happens to me they’ll have you and your hypos of doom to deal with.”

“Oh, yeah? And what makes you think I won’t be helping them?” McCoy pointed out. “Lord knows it’ll make my life easier if I didn’t have to deal with your hyperactive, trouble-making ass on a daily basis.”

“Boooones...” Jim whined. “You can’t get rid of me. I’m like the Butch to your Sundance.”

"The who to his who?" Scotty asked and everyone else looked at Jim in confusion too.

Jim sighed and muttered something about them having ‘no appreciation of ancient culture’. “The Parker to his Gabriel.”

That reference everyone understood and nodded. The popular detective books actually sat on the bookcase in McCoy's quarters, a Christmas present from Jim years earlier. He had to admit that the comparison was apt; Gabriel being the long suffering sidekick of the detective but who, nevertheless, was fiercely loyal to him.

“Besides, I’ve got such a pretty hyperactive, trouble-making ass. You’d miss it if it was gone,” Jim said and McCoy leaned over to whack him upside the head.

"Damned egotistical man-child," he grumbled while Jim rubbed the back of his head and complained loudly.

Jim did have a pretty ass along with a pretty everything else but that ship had long since sailed, probably the moment they became actual friends rather than ‘drunk man who threw up on a shuttle and the person he threw up on’. From that point on Jim obviously put McCoy in the ‘off limits’ category in his head, which was good because it meant that he got to keep Jim in his life rather than becoming one of the many one night stands tossed to one side. Their friendship was important to him and, despite his earlier denials, if anything did happen to Jim the hypos of doom wouldn’t even enter into it; McCoy would rip the person responsible apart with his bare hands.

The game continued as their games always did, with insults, competitiveness and lots of laughter. By the time that McCoy, Jim, Gaila and Sulu wound their way tipsily to the crew quarters, McCoy was relaxed and had significantly more credits than he’d started out with. Although not as many as Sulu who’d been the night’s big winner, as shown by the way he was tagging the word ‘loser’ onto everyone’s name.

They chatted companionably as they walked and, at some point, the conversation led to the latest gossip on Yeoman Rand and her new man...or newest man, anyway. Another one who bore a more than passing resemblance to Jim and who probably wouldn’t last any longer than the five she’d dated before him. McCoy hoped that one of these days Rand would wake up to the fact that it wasn't actually Jim she wanted, just the idea of him, and that Chapel would be more than happy to show Rand the error of her ways.

"...Bones!"

McCoy blinked and looked at Jim and the other two who were all looking back with an amused expression.

"You were thinking about Chapel and Rand again, weren't you?" Jim waggled his eyebrows suggestively and Sulu snickered.

"Not in the way you're thinking, you hormonal teenager," McCoy tried his best to glare at his friend but he could feel a blush rising, giving away the fact that his thoughts had been heading in that direction.

"Oh, come on, Doctor Loser. You can admit it,” Sulu said with a grin.

“He’s right.” Jim pointed at Sulu as if to emphasise his point. “Hell, I think about it all the time. In fact, the only thing hotter would be if they invited Uhura to join them... Gaila too, of course."

Jim's eyes glazed over for a moment as he obviously pictured that scenario. Sulu looked at Gaila questioningly and she tilted her head to one side thoughtfully before she nodded with a shrug.

"Unbelievable, all of you," McCoy said, shaking his head.

Jim shook himself out of his fantasy and got back to his original point. "Anyway, it's only natural that a man who hasn't gotten laid in...Jesus, Bones, when was the last time you got laid? I can't even remember that far back."

McCoy rolled his eyes. "Just because I'm too much of a gentleman to report every single detail of my sex life, unlike some people, doesn't mean that I'm a monk. My personal life is just that, personal."

"Bullshit!" Jim snorted. "Even if you didn't say anything I'd be able to tell from the way you'd be marginally less grumpy."

Jim sounded so sure of himself that McCoy had to resist the urge to smack him. Instead he said, "I'm sure you would, Jim."

"Damn, right I would," Jim agreed with a grin before that grin suddenly turned into a frown and he gave McCoy a speculative look.

McCoy exchanged an amused look with Gaila and Sulu. Agreeing with Jim in a slightly sarcastic tone; it worked every time. McCoy turned in the direction of the Medical crew quarters. He threw out a " See you tomorrow, Jim" as he left, confident in the knowledge that Jim was going to spend the rest of the night going crazy, trying to figure out who McCoy had slept with recently.

 

Earth scientists of the mid-20th century blamed the fallout from nuclear weapons, both the initial testing and the implementation during WWII, for the thousands of children across the globe who suddenly began to exhibit new abilities. The, now rather laughable, theory being that an unknown particle had blanketed the Earth and caused a mutation in the young, who were apparently more susceptible to the mutation than adults. These children were studied extensively, sometimes being taken from their homes to live in specially built schools, and it was discovered that they fell into two distinct groups.

The first group displayed heightened senses; eyesight, hearing, olfaction, taste and tactility were all far stronger in the children than they would be in a normal person. How much stronger varied from child to child but generally they could hear a whispered conversation in the next room, be able to tell what type of perfume their instructor had worn the previous day and so on. There was, however, a drawback to these powerful senses in that if a child concentrated too much on one particular sound or scent etc. they would fall into a fugue state or what became known as a 'zone out' which could last for several hours.

Other traits of the first group were an above average athletic ability which appeared to be connected to the fact that the children were unusually energetic. They were also highly protective of the children who fell into the second group.

The second group of children showed that they were extremely perceptive to the moods of the people around them, being able to sense if, for example, an instructor was actually happy while they displayed all the signs of being depressed. This group were also driven to try and help anyone whose mood fell on the negative end of the scal;, this was doubly true if the person in question was in the first group. If any of the first group had a 'zone-out' they would usually be surrounded by members of the second group within minutes all of who would try to pull that person out of their fugue state - and usually succeeded in doing so far sooner than the person would have recovered if they were left alone.

The fierce reactions of each group to the other became a source of fond amusement to the instructors and researchers and it was Dr. Herbert Blight who nicknamed the protective first group 'Sentinels' and the caring second group who brought the Sentinels back to the waking world, 'Guides'.

Noh, D. (2252). Sentinels In Depth and Under the Microscope. Los Angeles: Gutenberg Press.

It was far too early the next morning when McCoy's comm. pinged. With a groan, he blearily fumbled amongst the items on his bedside table before finding the badge and picking it up.

"This had better be an emergency," he grumbled to himself despite knowing that if there actually had been an emergency the wall mounted console which connected him directly to sickbay would have beeped at him instead.

"McCoy here," he barked into the comm. badge, wincing at the sound of his sleep roughened voice.

"Good morning, Doctor McCoy," came the overly chirpy voice of Hannity. She had to know that he'd be feeling the effects of Scotty's moonshine; evil, evil woman. "We've received a priority one call from Starfleet command. They have requested that yourself, the Captain and Commander Spock be present in the Captain's Ready Room one hour from now for an important conference call. Captain Kirk asked that I contact you and tell you to, and I quote, 'get your lazy bones out of bed, Bones'."

"Thinks he's a comedian," McCoy muttered as he squinted at his bedside table towards his watch; it was just past 3am. "Tell me, Hannity, do they have chronometers at Command?"

Her laugh tinkled through the connection. "I'm sure they do, Doctor, but they like to keep us on our toes or, you know, wrong foot us whenever they can just because they can."

McCoy smiled at that. "That sounds about right. Okay, when the captain gets there, tell him I'm on my way."
"Will do, sir," Hannity replied cheerily and ended the call.

It took a mug of strong coffee and another 50 minutes before McCoy managed to drag himself up to the bridge. Spock and Jim were already there; Spock waiting outside the door to the Ready Room while Jim chatted to the bridge crew. Hannity looked up at McCoy's arrival, sent him a cheeky grin and pointedly checked her watch before mouthing 'lazy bones' at him. McCoy chuckled, he'd always liked Hannity; she had spunk. Then he noticed that Jim was looking between McCoy and Hannity thoughtfully and smiled even more as he remembered the thought he'd planted in Jim's head the evening before.

Jim walked over to join McCoy as he made his way to the Ready Room. "Hannity?" he asked quietly.

"Nope." McCoy shook his head.

Jim frowned as he entered his passcode in the door controls and entered, McCoy and Spock following. "It's someone from that Earth conference you went to, right?"

Spock looked confused as he took his seat. "Has someone from Dr McCoy's conference requested this meeting?"

"No, it's nothing to do with that," Jim told him before pointing an accusing finger at McCoy. "Bones has had sex!"

"Considering the fact that Dr McCoy has a child, I would've thought that was rather obvious," Spock said. "Even without Joanna McCoy's existence, the doctor's age and..."

"I know he's had sex," Jim interrupted. "I mean he's had some recently."

Spock looked at McCoy for a moment and then turned back to Jim. "The doctor is an attractive man and I'm sure that a number of single women would like to get to know him in an intimate capacity. I fail to see the reason for your surprise, Captain."
"Exactly, I don't see what's so damn surprising about..." McCoy stopped suddenly and blinked at Spock. "You think I'm attractive?"
"It is a point of fact," Spock replied. "Also, I have personally heard 42 members of the Enterprise crew make mention of it. Lieutenant Uhura informs me that your personal role as an obviously proud father, added to your profession and your appearance, makes you additionally attractive. Possibly even more than the captain. I have learned that she is correct about these matters far more often than she is incorrect."

McCoy and Jim both stared at Spock at a loss for words, luckily they were saved from having to find any when Hannity patched through the video transmission.

"Admiral," Jim said in a pleased voice. "I wasn't expecting it to be you."

"Jim, I hope you're keeping our girl in good condition out there; she's the best damn ship in the fleet." Admiral Pike smiled warmly at them from the large screen." Leonard, it's good to see you again. I haven't seen you since you were Earthside for that conference."

Jim choked on thin air and then shot McCoy a questioning look. McCoy smirked and shook his head ‘no’ almost imperceptivity while Pike greeted Spock. Jim slumped into his chair looking relieved and McCoy had to struggle not to laugh out loud.

“Alright, gentlemen, let’s get started shall we?” Pike said and everyone sat up to attention. “Starfleet has been contacted by the High Counsellor of Prillovia, it’s a very small planet on the outskirts of the Alpha Quadrant.”

Spock nodded, obviously having heard of this particular planet before, the guy probably studied starcharts for fun, but Jim and Bones just shrugged at each other.

“The Prillovians claim to have invented a new serum which could be of great value to Starfleet and particularly to Earth so your orders are to change course and head straight there. We need you to speak to the Prillovians and run tests on this serum to see if it actually does what they are claiming,” Pike continued. “Leonard, you will be in charge of the testing, both of the serum and any test subjects they may have used. Jim, I need you and Spock to find out what it is that the Prillovians want in return and begin negotiations on our behalf if necessary.”

“Okay,” McCoy said. “But I’m going to need to know what it is that they think this serum does if I’m going to be testing anything; especially if live subjects are involved.”

Pike hesitated, his eyes flickering to Jim for a moment. “They say that the serum can replicate the Guide gene in non gene carriers.”

McCoy inhaled loudly and Jim suddenly looked as though he’d been smacked in the face.

“I don’t need to explain to you how important this could potentially be to the Sentinels of Earth or why this has to be kept as quiet as possible until we know more. If it gets out to the general public...” Pike trailed off. “There’s already been some rigorous debate at Starfleet Command since the Prillovians contacted us and by rigorous I mean that there’s been a couple of knock down, drag out fights here in the last few days.”

McCoy fixed Pike with a look. “Well, that explains the bruise on your knuckles which you’ve been trying to hide from the camera.”

They may be a couple of lightyears apart the majority of the time but, ever since Narada, McCoy thought of Pike as his patient. He made sure that he gave Pike a full check-up anytime he was Earthside and disapproved of anything Pike did to put his recovery back.

Pike gave him a wry smile and stopped trying to hide his hands. “I’ve no idea what you’re talking about, Dr McCoy...but you should see the other guy.”

If the news of this serum had caused the Admiralty to start fighting then McCoy could only imagine what would happen when it inevitably got leaked. If the Sentinels found out that there was even a chance that more Guides could be created they would start storming Federation buildings demanding that they get hold of this serum at any cost. Then there would obviously be the people arguing against the use of such a serum; those morally opposed on the basis that it was artificially created or those who’d never liked Sentinels in the first place, despite the fact that it had been a Sentinel who’d saved the entire planet.

“Admiral, you mentioned that we were to discover what the Prillovians wanted in return for such a serum,” Spock commented. “Did the High Counsellor fail to discuss this when he contacted Starfleet?”

“He was very evasive on the subject,” Pike replied with a slight frown. “He said that they expected recompense but whenever we tried to find out what that might be he started extolling the virtues of the serum again.”

“If they’re at the edge of the Alpha Quadrant then that means they’re pretty damn close to Klingon territory.” Jim spoke for the first time since they’d discovered what the serum did. “It could be some sort of trap.”

“I concur that it is a possibility. The fact that the High Counsellor refused to discuss the specifics of the expected compensation is quite troubling,” Spock agreed.

Pike nodded. “Which is why we’re sending you instead of one of the science ships; you’re far better equipped if it is a Klingon attack. We have been monitoring their frequencies and nothing particularly troubling has popped up but it’s better to be safe than sorry.”

“Besides, none of fleet’s other ships are captained by a Sentinel,” Jim quipped though his eyes stayed serious.

"There is that," Pike acknowledged. "You'll be able to tell instantly if they have managed to create Guides out there."

"Scotty will too," McCoy pointed out. "We're going to have to tell him before we get there."

"And the rest of the senior crew," Jim added. "I won't keep them in the dark."

Pike studied him for a moment before relenting. "Alright, the senior crew; god knows it's a resourceful bunch you've got there, but no one else."

"Fair enough." Jim nodded.

"I'm sending you an infoburst with a recording of the High Counsellor's contact with us and also the very latest research our own scientists have been doing into the Guide gene." They could see Pike typing into his console as he spoke. "Let us know if there's anything more you think you'll need to help with your testing, Leonard."

McCoy nodded, he'd know more when he'd read through the reports Pike was sending.

Pike signed off soon after and Kirk got Hannity to call the senior staff into a meeting.

"No use waiting," he muttered, running a hand through his hair as he came back and sat behind his desk.

McCoy watched him with concern. "Jim..."

"Later, Bones. Okay?" Jim cut him off and McCoy nodded.

"Am I to understand that you do not view this as good news, Captain?" Spock inquired.

"I'll believe it when I see it, Spock," Jim replied, neatly sidestepping the question.

Spock raised an eyebrow but he let it slide and instead the three of them sat in silence as they perused the infoburst that had been relayed to their PADDs.

The rest of the senior crew showed up an hour later and Jim wasted no time in telling them everything they'd learned about the new mission. When he'd finished they sat in stunned silence.

"This is wonderful news, is it not, Captain?" Chekov finally said.

"If it works," Uhura pointed out.

"Well, yes, but if it does work it will be a source of much celebration," Chekov insisted with a wide smile.

"A Guide..." Scotty murmured, uncharacteristically quiet for a moment before he bounced back to his normal self. "Well, I can tell you that if I do get myself a Guide, there'll be plenty of celebrating if you know what I'm saying."

Sulu rolled his eyes. "We always know what you're saying, Scotty."

Scotty grinned at Sulu as if the man had just given him a compliment and McCoy shook his head in amusement.

"Look, there's a lot of 'ifs' here," Jim said. "Let's try not to get any hopes up until we get to Prillovia and investigate this wonder drug of theirs."

"You don't think it's real, do you?" Uhura tilted her head to one side as she stared at Jim.

"I have my doubts," Jim allowed and when she continued to give him that patented laser stare he sighed. "Some miraculous Guide making serum suddenly comes out of nowhere, from a planet that none of us, apart from Spock, has ever heard of? Yeah, I'm suspicious. Especially when that planet is close to Klingon Territory."

"It's not that close," Sulu said.

"It's close enough," Jim muttered. "I'm just saying, let's not go pulling out the streamers and party hats just yet."

The crew seemed a bit perplexed by this strangely pessimistic version of their captain but they all murmured their agreement before the meeting broke up and they all headed on a quick break before taking their posts on the Bridge.

McCoy was the last one to leave and he paused at the door to point at Jim. "We're talking about this later, kid."

Jim nodded absentmindedly, his eyes already back on Pike's reports.

 

As the number of feral Sentinel incidents and Sentinel suicides increases due to the continuing lack of Guides - there is currently estimated to be 1 Guide born to every 100 Sentinels - more and more money is being spent on researching Guide alternatives. This has led to a steadily growing anti-Sentinel trend among some members of Earth society who feel that the money would be better spent on normal or 'mundane'' humans. These people seem to forget the role that Sentinels have traditionally played, the clue is in their name. Before the Eugenics Wars they were our sentinels, our protectors; drawn to careers in the military or law enforcement, anywhere they could use their abilities to keep people safe. As we move ever outwards into the stars, encountering unknown life forms and situations we need those protectors more than ever.

If you need proof of this then consider Sentinel George Kirk. Kirk was fortunate enough to have bonded with a Guide and, as such, was allowed to serve within Starfleet. This man famously sacrificed his life to save some 800 crewmembers of the USS Kelvin, over 70% of whom were from Earth.

In response to this sacrifice, so typical of the Sentinels of old, Starfleet relaxed its previous ruling, allowing unbonded Sentinels to enter the Academy provided they passed stringent tests proving control over their senses. Although a step in the right direction, very few unbonded Sentinels are actually able to pass these tests. Imagine if we were able to provide a way that Sentinels could maintain control of their senses, even without a Guide. How many more George Kirks would there be patrolling the stars and how many more lives would be saved as a result?

al-Fadhil, A (2251). Protect Our Protectors. Bolivia: Independent Publishing Group.

Unsurprisingly, McCoy didn't see Jim for the rest of the day. The kid had probably locked himself away whenever he could so that he could worry at this Guide problem like he would a loose tooth. When a few hours had passed after Alpha shift had ended and McCoy was still sitting in his living room with no contact from Jim, he threw the PADD he was reading on the table and stood up. Enough was enough.

Ten minutes later he was pressing continually on the door chime to Jim's quarters - the computer had told him the little bastard was definitely in there - dressed in sweatpants and the old Academy t-shirt he wore when he exercised.

When Jim finally answered the door wearing a pissy expression, McCoy waltzed passed him into the room and headed straight to the bedroom and Jim's closet.

"Come on in, why don't you?" Jim said sarcastically but McCoy ignored him, instead throwing some work-out gear on the bed.

"Get changed, we're going for a run."

Jim glared at him and then picked up the clothes with a huff. McCoy went back out into the main room and got started on some warm-up stretches while he waited.

They set a steady pace through the corridors of the recreation deck, nodding occasionally to any crewmembers they passed. They ran in silence but slowly and surely Jim's silence became less surly and tension filled as McCoy had known it would. Jim hated jogging, he far preferred to use the machines in the gym or engage in combat exercises in order to work out. McCoy, however, liked the simplicity of a good run; the way you could empty your mind of everything except your feet slapping against the ground and he knew that Jim really needed to stop thinking and overanalysing for a while.

McCoy had chosen this particular route because about three quarters of the way through there came a break point. A small alcove where McCoy could stop and catch his breath a bit while allowing Jim, or any other Sentinel, to push on and sprint a while before circling back around to pick up McCoy for the return journey. As they reached that point, McCoy veered off to grab a water from the replicator and Jim continued straight on without a word, he did look back and grace McCoy with a small smile though.

McCoy gave a chuckle as he took a mouthful of water and muttered to himself about dealing with overgrown children.

It was less than five minutes until Jim came back, the red face and perspiration telling McCoy just how hard Jim had pushed it during that last section, and McCoy fell into step beside him as they headed back towards Jim's quarters.

"You're right," Jim finally gasped as he collapsed onto his sofa. "I admit it, okay? I needed that."

"Yeah, I guessed that a few drinks probably wouldn't do it tonight," McCoy told him, dropping down beside him.

"No, it wouldn't." Jim agreed. "How the hell do you always know how to get me out of my own head?"

"I've got a book," McCoy smirked. "It's called 'The Caring and Feeding of James T Kirk; Captain, Sentinel and Pain in the Ass'. I'm thinking of issuing it to the rest of the crew as required reading."

"And let everyone learn your secrets? Never!" Jim gave him an amused look before sobering and running his hands through his sweat soaked hair. "What if it fucking works, Bones?"

McCoy sighed. "If the serum works, it works. You'll deal with it, Jim. You can't do much else."

"The brass will want me to bond, you know that. There's already too much whispering about an unbonded Sentinel captaining the flagship of the fleet," Jim said.

"They can't order you to do it," McCoy pointed out. "You've already proved that you can cope perfectly well as you are. And, if all else fails, you've still got future Spock with his tales of the magnificent, heroic and unbonded Kirk from his timeline. That'll help."

Jim shook his head. "They can't order me but they can make things very difficult for me. They can take away the Enterprise, they can send me somewhere away from...from everything I've built here. Hell, they already parade any unbonded Guides they can dig up past me every chance they get in the hopes that I'll accidentally bond with them."

McCoy frowned, he hadn't known that.

It obviously showed on his face because Jim chuckled humourlessly. "Remember that gala we all had to attend for Archer's treaty with the H'de'wi? I had to sit at that table of competition winners from Earth as part of Starfleet's PR campaign? They weren't competition winners."

"What? Why didn't you say anything? They can't pull that shit with Sentinels or Guides, forcing a bond goes against every law the Blight Centre fought for!" McCoy burst out angrily.

Jim shook his head. "They weren't forcing anything. There's no law against introducing Sentinels to Guides in the hopes that they find their bondmate. I'm the weird one for not actually wanting to bond."

That wasn't the point. McCoy knew for a fact that Jim had informed the Admiralty that he was never going to bond and that he'd opted out of all of the Centre's Starfleet sponsored Sentinel/Guide matching programmes. They should keep their noses out of something that was an extremely personal decision and stop bowing to the pressure of those pain in the ass groups who protested any unbonded Sentinel being in a position of power.

He looked at Jim, sprawled next to him in an exhausted heap that hadn't quite erased the lines of tension on his face and swallowed the rant that was building. Jim didn't need that right now but McCoy was definitely going to bust it out the next time they got drunk together.

Instead he knocked his shoulder into Jim's and gave him a wry smile. "Let's look on the bright side; it might all be a Klingon trap."

Jim smiled, then started to chuckle and before long both he and McCoy were in full blown laughter. By the time McCoy left to go back to his quarters, aching from a good workout and more than in need of a shower, Jim was almost back to his old self.

He didn't expect it to last and, of course, it didn't. With each day that brought them closer to Prillovia the tension inched back up again until Jim was wound so tightly that McCoy thought a light breeze might make him snap. Nothing McCoy came up with seemed to help and, in fact, Jim appeared to be actively avoiding him as they neared the end of their journey.

Finally the Enterprise was orbiting the planet in question. A thorough scan of the section of space Prillovia resided in showed no other ships or anything out of the ordinary so Jim contacted Prillovia and let them know of the Enterprise's arrival. Himself, McCoy, Spock, Sulu and Uhura made up the landing party and Jim was being more boisterous than usual as they all took their places on the transporter pads, although McCoy was able to see that it was a deliberate act to cover up the nervousness hovering just below the surface.

"Looking good, Cupcake." Jim winked at his Chief Security Officer while Hendorff rolled his eyes at the nickname Jim still insisted on calling him. "Maybe we'll find you an alien princess to seduce while we're down there, what do you say?"

"I'd say my girlfriend might have a problem with that, sir," Hendorff replied shortly.

The Chief Security Officer was very annoyed that they were going down to a planet without a security escort and had made a point of being in the transporter room; probably hoping that he could glower Jim into submission.

"Girlfriend? Way to go, Cupcake!" Jim looked genuinely proud of Hendorff. "When did that happen? Who is she?"

"Captain, I feel it would be best if any discussions of Lieutenant Hendorff's new relationship be put aside until after the mission has been completed. The High Counsellor is expecting our arrival," Spock interjected.

Jim paused, looked around at the away party, as well as Scotty and his technicians who were all patiently waiting for Jim to give his order. "Right you are Mr. Spock. Energize, Scotty."

Scotty nodded and activated the controls with a "Don't do anything I wouldn't do".

The group materialised in the middle of a beautifully manicured park surrounded on each side by stark white buildings. There were a group of people moving towards them from the other side of the park so Jim took a step forward but then stumbled. McCoy caught him by the arm with one hand, his other immediately going to his medikit and the many hypos he had stashed for when something kicked off one of Jim's allergies. His heightened sensitivity as a Sentinel left him open to all kinds of reactions, especially in alien environments.

"Captain?" Sulu questioned instantly on alert, one hand on his phaser and his eyes scanning the immediate area for some kind of technology that could be affecting Jim.

"I'm fine." Jim straightened up and waved a hand for Sulu to stand down.

When their eyes met, McCoy knew exactly what had happened."Guides?" he questioned in a low voice.

Jim nodded. "Lots of them; I've never sensed so many in one place before."

"I guess that answers one question," McCoy said.

"Indeed," Spock had joined them. "The question remains whether they are a product of this serum or somehow naturally occurring."

It had been Uhura who, during one of their Prillovian related meetings, put forward the possibility that Guides had spontaneously appeared on Prillovia much as the Sentinels and Guides had on Earth. That maybe the planets government was using the phenomenon in order to get whatever it was that they wanted from the Federation. The look of admiration that Spock had sent her way after she'd come up with that had been what McCoy thought probably passed as complete and utter adoration to a Vulcan. It had been almost sweet in a weird, clinical sort of way...and if McCoy was the type of man to label things as being 'sweet'.

"Captain..." Uhura grabbed their attention and then nodded her head towards the approaching group who had by now almost reached them.

"Let’s get this party started," Jim said, straightening his uniform and fixing a smile on his face.

"Captain Kirk?" A man who must have been the High Counsellor asked as the group came to a stop just in front of them.

The man was at least a foot taller than McCoy and twice as wide. The entire group were wearing plain trousers and tunics which must be some kind of uniform here but while everyone else in the group were in silver, the man's uniform was deep blue with a silver sash. He also had a number of, what looked like, medals pinned to the sash and his fingers glittered with jewelled rings. He had a warm smile and a friendly looking face that sort of reminded McCoy of his grandfather.

"I'm Captain Kirk." Jim stepped forward. "High Counsellor Bafjor, I presume?"

The man nodded delightedly. "Let us start off as we mean to go on, Captain Kirk; as friends. My friends call me Jafjor."

"His name's Jafjor Bafjor?" Sulu whispered to Uhura who swiftly kicked him in the ankle to shut him up.

"A great honour, Jafjor, thank you," Jim inclined his head respectfully. "Please feel free to call me James."

Introductions were quickly made between the two groups before they began to walk towards one of the white buildings. McCoy found himself walking beside a woman named Gytair, Prillovia's lead scientist.

"You must be excited, Dr McCoy," Gytair commented in a quiet voice, she seemed a bit in awe of the landing party. "It is a great day for the Sentinels of your planet."

McCoy studied the woman. As with every other Prillovian he had met so far, she was extremely tall, had lilac skin, startlingly purple eyes and a line of blue spots across her cheeks and over the bridge of her nose. Her shimmering purple hair was cut into a feathery style that cascaded down her back. The overall effect was really rather attractive.

"We have a saying on Earth, Gytair," McCoy told her. "Don't count your eggs before they're hatched."

She blinked at him in confusion then covered it with a shy smile. "I have not heard that particular saying before."

"Just listen to him for an hour, you'll hear more hokey sayings than you'll know what to do with," Sulu said from behind them.

McCoy turned to glare at him. "Thank you, Lieutenant."

Sulu smirked, "No problem, doc."

Gytair looked between the two men and giggled, covering her mouth with her hand. "I do believe your visit will be most enjoyable."

Sulu gave her a bright smile and a wink. McCoy shook his head; yep, Sulu was definitely spending too much time with Jim.

As they got closer to the building McCoy noticed that Jim's smile was growing more strained and the skin around his eyes was tightening as if he had a headache. He guessed that they must be heading towards the Guides that Jim had sensed. He smoothly and swiftly manoeuvred himself so that he was behind Jim, slightly to one side so that Jim could see McCoy's silent support out of the corner of his eye. He watched with approval as Spock did the same thing on Jim's other side, hoping that whatever bond existed between Jim and Spock was helping.

He'd been expecting the building that the Prillovians were leading them into to be science labs but instead the stark exterior hid a banquet hall decked out in deep blues and silver. The hall was filled with people all facing the entrance way, eagerly awaiting their arrival.

The landing party stood awkwardly just inside of the door while Jafjor swept into the room with his arms outstretched.

"Our new friends have arrived," he boomed and the hall burst into excited applause.

"What the hell?" McCoy muttered.

"This is rather unusual," Spock commented.

Sulu looked just as surprised. "Have they confused us with movie stars or something? I mean, the captain does look a little like Max Skaro."

Jim usually protested any similarity between him and the latest Earth heartthrob, claiming he was far better looking, but his eyes were fixed on a group of twenty or so people at the back of the room. Every single member of the group was looking back at Jim with an expression of surprise on their faces.

"I'm guessing those are the Guides?" McCoy frowned when Jim didn't answer. He put his hand on Jim's shoulder. "Captain? Jim?"

Jim shook himself and turned to look at McCoy. "Yes, they're the Guides; pretty powerful ones too."

"Are you in danger of being overwhelmed, Captain?" Spock asked. "If you need to return to the ship, myself and Dr McCoy are more than qualified to..."

"That's not happening, Spock," Jim cut him off sharply. "I'll be fine."

"Cut the bullshit, Captain." McCoy glared at him. "You're obviously not fine. You're suffering from, what looks to be, one hell of a headache and I'm actually surprised you haven't zoned out yet."

"McCoy..." Jim tried to glare at him but McCoy countered it with a glare of his own. By this time Uhura and Sulu had joined the huddle as well, both looking at Jim with concern.

Jim sighed. "I'm the Captain of the ship that Starfleet chose to send here. I need to be part of these negotiations...or whatever the hell is going on."He waved his hand at the decorations. "If nothing else, it would be an insult to the Prillovians if I left."

"Perhaps if we explained to the High Counsellor that the Captain is a Sentinel..?" Uhura suggested even though it was something they'd agreed to keep to themselves for now.

McCoy caught movement out of the corner of his eye and looked up to see one of the group of Guides talking excitedly with Gytair who then turned to stare at the landing party in shock.

"I don't think we need to explain anything," he commented and nodded towards Gytair who was now hurrying over to them.

"Shmati informed me...she believes..." Gytair stumbled over her words. "Is Captain Kirk...Captain, are you a Sentinel?"

The landing party exchanged looks before Jim nodded. "I am."

Her eyes lit up and she clasped her hands together. "Oh, but this is wonderful. I would very much like to study your interactions with our Guides, I am sure there is so much we could..."

"What's this news?" Jafjor's voiced boomed behind them and cut off Gytair's excited babbling. "A real life Sentinel? This is a joyous occasion."

Jafjor strode over to them, Shmati hurrying behind him and looking at Jim...well, as an Earth teenager would look at Max Skaro.

"Your Federation sent a Sentinel to check that our serum works, eh?" Jafjor nudged Jim with his elbow. "Very sneaky, as you would say."

Jafjor didn't appear too upset at Starfleet's 'sneakiness', in fact he seemed to think it was all great fun.

McCoy glanced around the room and took note of the fact that everyone was now whispering and looking at Jim in awe.

"Come," Jafjor said to Jim. "We must introduce you to the rest of our little group of Guides here."

McCoy stepped forward. "Actually, High Counsellor, I can't allow that to happen."

Jafjor, Gytair and Shmati all frowned at him and Uhura quickly moved to stand beside McCoy.

"What the Doctor is trying to say is that, due to the unfortunate deficit of Guides on Earth, it is rare for a Sentinel to be in the presence of so many Guides at one time," she explained smoothly. "It can be a little overwhelming for their senses."

Jim frowned at having a weakness admitted to this group of strangers but didn't protest, which told McCoy that he was struggling with the proximity of the Guides even more than he’d suspected.

Jafjor looked surprised and then turned to Gytair. "You were not aware of this? We have obviously made James uncomfortable. This is not an auspicious start to our new friendship."

Gytair began to apologise but Jafjor waggled his fingers at her. "We must rectify this oversight. Gytair, take the Guides back to the Sanctuary immediately. You have my apologies, James."

Gytair bowed and apologised to Jim once more before ushering a crestfallen Shmati and the rest of the Guides out of the hall. McCoy felt a rush of sympathy for her, the poor woman obviously had no idea that the Guides presence would cause discomfort for anyone and she looked mortified as she rushed them all out of the door.

Some of the tension noticeably melted from Jim's shoulders as the Guides moved further away from him. The fact that he obviously hadn't felt a strong pull to any one of the Guides probably helped his peace of mind too.

"Thank you, Jafjor," Jim told him. "I hope I didn't cause too much trouble."

"No trouble, James. It is what friends do for each other, after all. And you," Jafjor pointed at McCoy who was busy trying to suppress an eye roll. "No more of this 'High Counsellor', it's Jafjor."

He slapped McCoy jovially on the shoulder and Spock had to grab McCoy to stop him falling over from the force of it.

"Now, friends. Let us feast!" Jafjor bellowed and the room cheered while the away team blinked at each other in bemusement.

 

Much has been culturally misunderstood about the Guide's part in the Sentinel/Guide symbiotic relationship. The whole relationship has been romanticised thanks to the extremely popular romantic literature and holomovies; unsurprising given the 'love at first sight' aspect to the strongest of Sentinel/Guide bonds. It was these numerous works of fiction that populated the idea of Guides being the so-called 'damsel in distress' to the Sentinel's 'knight in shining armour'. They cemented the general notion of Guides being weak and delicate, something to be cherished and protected at all costs; a notion no doubt born from the Guide cull and resulting Sentinel actions.

However, consider what a Guide actually is; an empath. Every minute of their lives are filled with the emotions of others battering against their minds, trying to overpower the Guides' own emotions. Then they meet their Sentinel and it becomes their mission to take care of that Sentinel; acting as a grounding force to stop zone outs, making sure that allergic reactions are kept to a minimum, providing support to someone whose very nature puts them in dangerous situations. It takes an enormous amount of strength to cope with these things, even with the mental shielding that Guides and Sentinels create naturally.

Many historical records of the Eugenics Wars have been lost but those we do have show that the Guides did not stand back while their Sentinels fought and they did not hide when the Augments came for them. In fact these records tell us that Guides were on the frontlines fighting alongside the Sentinels, and just as fiercely, until they were finally overpowered.

Guides may lack the physical strength of Sentinels but they are by no means weak and they are just as much heroes as their counterparts.

Colson, W. (2248). Myth or Fact?: The Truth about Sentinels and Guides. Pittsburg: Earth Premier Publishing.

"Well that was different," McCoy commented quietly to Jim as the group were taken on a tour of Prillovia's capital city.

Jim chuckled. "It makes a nice change from being chased by natives or regarded with suspicion constantly."

They had discovered during the course of the enormous feast in their honour that the High Counsellor was a movie buff, Earth movies in particular. He regularly had hundreds of holomovies shipped to the planet and every 10th day of the Prillovian calendar had become a sort of movie day known as 'Star Day'. There were huge screens built, pride of place, in the cities and towns and every Star Day the Prillovians would gather to watch a holomovie screened simultaneously across the planet.

It certainly explained the Earth terms that the Prillovians scattered liberally throughout their speech and the fact that they were so excited to meet actual people from Earth. Especially a Sentinel; McCoy hadn't missed the, honest to god, swooning in Jim's general direction.

"It is certainly a curious civilisation," Spock said.

"You're just jealous that they don't like Vulcans as much as us," Jim told him with a grin.

"Which is precisely what makes them a curious civilisation," Spock replied dryly.

"Has Jafjor mentioned what he wants in exchange for the serum yet?" Uhura asked curiously.

Sulu laughed. "I'm putting my credits on it being unlimited free holomovies for the next 50 years."

Jim exchanged an amused look with Sulu. "He wants to discuss it in his office after we've finished the tour. Of course, we still need to know if the serum is actually viable."

McCoy nodded. "I'm meeting Gytair once we're done here. She's going to show me around this ‘sanctuary’ and their labs."

Gytair had returned to the banquet hall after taking the Guides away. She had been quiet at first, obviously embarrassed and even more shy than she'd been when they arrived, but McCoy's deliberate discussions of latest scientific advancements and Sulu's flirting had brought her out of her shell a bit.

"Good, take Sulu with you; she'll probably be more open with the both of you than with anyone else. Get a sample of this serum for testing," Jim said. "Me, Spock and Uhura will see if we can get Jafjor to actually lay his cards on the table."

Gytair was waiting for McCoy outside of the building called The Sanctuary, obviously a hospital or medical labs. She looked a little surprised to see Sulu accompanying him but seemed pleased at the fact.

"As neither of you are affected by the presence of Guides..." She looked at them both for confirmation and relaxed at their nods. "As you won't be affected, I thought it might be best to begin by introducing you properly to the successful recipients of the serum."

"Sounds good," Sulu told her and then put a hand on her arm. "The Captain didn't take it personally; you couldn't have known."

She flushed prettily and shook her head. "I just feel so stupid. It's obvious in hindsight."

"And that's the beauty of hindsight," McCoy told her with a wry smile, "to make us all feel like idiots."

She smiled back and led them into a large sunny room. The Guides from the banquet hall were all seated together, looking a little dejected but they brightened up when they spotted McCoy and Sulu. Gytair introduced them all, a list of names that McCoy instantly forgot as he took one of the empty chairs.

"You can ask us anything you'd like, Doctor," Gytair said as she and Sulu also sat down. "You too, Lieutenant."

"Okay," McCoy began. "Why don't you start by telling me why you chose this particular serum to work on? It has no use to Prillovians and is actually only beneficial to one planet on the other side of the quadrant."

"It was originally Jafjor's idea," Gytair said and McCoy was emphatically unsurprised at that.

"But we all wanted to do it," interjected one of the Guides while the others nodded.

"Who wouldn't want to be a Guide?" asked another earnestly. "To help people who so desperately need it."

"And it's not only beneficial to Earth," Shmati pointed out. "If Starfleet could get more Sentinels working for them then it benefits everyone, right?"

The first one piped up again. "Also we get to have Sentinels of our own to protect us. It’s so romantic.”

McCoy had been moving towards impressed with their willingness to be self sacrificing in order to help people so far away. However at that last comment and the way most of Guides sighed in agreement he closed his eyes in disbelief.

“You’re telling me that you genetically altered your bodies and took on empathic abilities which could potentially drive you insane, because you think it’s romantic?” he asked.

Sulu immediately kicked him and Gytair looked a little amused but McCoy’s incredulousness went completely over the heads of the Guides who immediately began talking about their favourite Sentinels and Guides from Earth fiction while McCoy stared at them in shock.

“Why don’t we move on?” Gytair rose gracefully to her feet and thanked the Guides. She waited for McCoy and Sulu to join her and then led them through the building. “I know what you’re thinking, Doctor, and I have been where you are.”

“Well I think that it’s completely irresponsible to let people with the emotional maturity of children undergo such a dangerous transformation,” McCoy snapped, ignoring Sulu’s attempts to get him to shut up.

“I agree but you have to understand that most of the people of Prillovia share their opinion on Sentinels and Guides,” Gytair told him. “Once we reached the point where we could test the serum on people, an overwhelming number of them volunteered. We interviewed as many as we could and selected the ones who, romantic aspirations aside, had the most in common with your born Guides; the ones who genuinely like to help people and have an inner strength. I know it doesn’t seem that way at the moment; they’re just very excited about you being here.”

McCoy opened his mouth to reply but Sulu quickly jumped in. “Gytair, how much of the project were you actively involved with?”

“Oh, I’ve been involved since the very beginning,” she said. “I know that it seems silly to you, concentrating so much effort on creating a serum because of holomovies we watched, but when Jafjor first mentioned the idea...working on that kind of challenge, imagining the possibilities...I just couldn’t turn it down.”

As she continued to talk, her obvious love of science and passion for helping people shone through, mollifying McCoy somewhat. At least there was someone on the crazy planet who was invested in making the serum for the right reasons.

Gytair took them around the labs, showing them exactly how they had made the serum and allowing McCoy to take as many of their reports and additional samples as he needed. Finally, with a vial of the actual serum, McCoy and Sulu bid Gytair goodbye and transported back to the ship.

McCoy immediately holed up in his office, studying the reports while the ship’s computer ran an analysis on the samples and the serum. Something was bugging him about the whole thing, something besides the fact that the Prillovians were obviously nuttier than a bunch of squirrels preparing for winter; he just couldn’t put his finger on what.

Once the computer finished its analysis, McCoy realised that it had been hours since he got back from Prillovia. He sat back in his chair tiredly and let the influx of information he’d been reading roll around in his head.

“Got anything yet?”

He looked up and saw Jim leaning in the doorway looking as exhausted as McCoy felt. Obviously the past couple of weeks were catching up to him.

“As far as I can tell, it works,” McCoy said and Jim winced. “But there’s something...”

“What kind of something?” Jim walked fully into the room and dropped into an empty chair.

“I don’t know,” McCoy admitted, scrubbing his hands over his face. “The reports are all good, the theory is sound and the computer confirms that the serum should work the way they say it does but...”

“There’s something not quite right?” Jim asked. “Do you think they’re hiding something?”

McCoy sighed. “I think Gytair is trustworthy and the only sane Prillovian I’ve met. That doesn’t mean that someone else couldn’t have tampered with something.”

“Like Jafjor,” Jim looked thoughtful. “I like the guy but I trust him about as much as I do Harry Mudd. Crack out that bourbon I know you’re hiding in your desk and we’ll work through what you’ve got so far.”

It took another couple of hours but by summing up all the reports aloud to Jim, McCoy finally realised what it was that was bugging him.

“They’re too perfect,” he said and Jim frowned at him. “In drug testing there are always points where the testing goes wrong; the drug doesn’t act as expected or whatever subject you’re testing on has a strange reaction and then you adjust based on those results. There’s nothing like that here, at least not once they’d moved onto live subjects and that’s just not possible.”

“So someone has tampered with the reports.” Jim drummed his fingers on the desk. “We need to find out why. I’m going back down to talk with Jafjor some more tomorrow. Think you can take another look around The Sanctuary?”

“I can maybe even do a little snooping,” McCoy said with a smirk. “I didn’t see much in the way of security there.”

Jim laughed and they decided to call it night so that they could get some rest before going back to Prillovia.

“What does Jafjor want from the Federation anyway?” McCoy asked the next morning as the landing party once more gathered in the transporter room. “You never said.”

Jim grinned. “He wants to establish a new New Hollywood, right here on Prillovia. Get a couple of studios set up, film the movies here, the whole kit and caboodle.”

McCoy rolled his eyes. “Of course that’s what he wanted.”

“I can’t wait to see you pass that along to the Admirals.” Sulu laughed. “Can you imagine their faces?”

“I highly doubt that the fleet Admirals will find it as amusing you do, Lieutenant,” Spock told him, obviously pretty unamused himself.

“Alright, kids,” Jim said, getting down to business. “Same as yesterday; Spock and Uhura with me. Sulu, you go with McCoy. If either of you run into any trouble, get Scotty to beam you back immediately and we’ll meet you back here.”

Everyone nodded and Jim gave Scotty the nod to energize.

“So what exactly are we looking for, Doc?” Sulu asked once they’d separated from the others and were headed to the Sanctuary.

“I need to find the reports on the live subject testing. The real reports, not what they gave us,” McCoy told him.

McCoy’s discovery had already been explained in the senior crew briefing that morning so Sulu just nodded. “Any ideas where we start looking? I mean they’re going to be hidden away somewhere we wouldn’t normally go, right?”

McCoy thought. “Was there anywhere that we were obviously steered away from yesterday?”

Sulu smiled. “What? Apart from the time I accidentally tried to use the ladies bathroom?”

“I’m still not convinced that was an accident, kid,” McCoy said dryly and Sulu laughed.

“They use blue signs for girls here. How was I to know?”

McCoy was actually quite glad that Sulu had needed the bathroom before him because he was sure he’d have made the same mistake.

“Doctor McCoy, Lieutenant Sulu! I did not expect to see you again so soon!” Gytair was waiting for them in the entrance hall of the Sanctuary. She was a little out of breath as if she’d run there to greet them.

“I apologise, Gytair. We probably should have informed you ahead of time,” McCoy said. “But the Captain was visiting with Jafjor again and we tagged along. I hope you don’t mind.”

“Not at all.” Gytair smiled at them. “I was just finishing my morning meal when I was told that you were here so that was good timing. Was there something in particular that you wish to see?”

Sulu returned the smile. "Actually we were hoping that we could just wander around a bit, get a better feel for your processes here."

"The more we learn, the better the case we submit to Starfleet will be," McCoy explained. "Don't worry, we'll be as unobtrusive as possible so if you have other work you should be doing then I'm sure we can find our own way around the building."

Relief flashed across Gytair's face. "Actually I did have something scheduled, if you really do not mind my absence. Here..." She pulled a small box from her pocket. "If you press this button you will be connected to me. Press it if you need any help or have any further questions and I will come and find you."

McCoy accepted the box from her and he and Sulu watched as she rushed away.

"I like her," Sulu commented.

"I'd never have guessed from all that flirting you've been doing," McCoy told him and Sulu grinned.

"I just meant that, I hope she has nothing to do with whatever’s being covered up," he said.

McCoy chuckled. "I'm sure that's what you meant, Lieutenant."

As McCoy had anticipated, they were able to move freely through the Sanctuary with no sign of any form of security to breathe down their necks. They quietly observed the scientists at work, asking questions whenever they could and always receiving variations of the same answers:

"No, no complications arose during live testing."

"Yes, we were surprised ourselves but the testing proceeded perfectly."

"Jafjor occasionally checked up on how we were proceeding but he rarely comes into the laboratories themselves."

At one point McCoy asked if they could peruse the project's records and an eager scientist gave them her full sign on and access to the Sanctuary's entire database. Thinking that this was exactly the break they needed, McCoy and Sulu excitedly sat down in the borrowed office and proceeded to scan through everything they could.

"There's nothing here," McCoy finally declared, slumping in his seat in frustration.

Sulu hummed in agreement from his own console. "Maybe they just did sail through the testing without any problems."

"It would be the first project in history if it did." McCoy sighed and ran his fingers through his hair before realising that tended to make it stand up on end and tried to flatten the hair again.

Sulu stood up and stretched before wandering to the window to take in the view. "I've downloaded the database so we can look at it more carefully when we're back on the ship. Maybe we'll find something..."

He trailed off as he frowned and moved closer to the window. McCoy pushed himself to his feet and joined him but couldn't see anything unusual, it was the standard view from the back of an office building that could be found all across the quadrant; the sight of more buildings.

Before he could ask, Sulu pointed at the ground several stories below. "There are air vents down there."

McCoy looked where he was pointing and could see small grates placed in the ground at uniform intervals.

"Did you see any indication that there's a basement level to the Sanctuary?" Sulu asked and McCoy shook his head slowly as he thought back.

"All the stairs from the ground floor go up, so do the lifts."

"It’s probably just maintenance but it could be worth a look," Sulu said.

McCoy agreed so they made their way back to the ground floor as casually as possible, stopping to thank the scientist for the use of her office and promising to introduce her to Jim next time they were there. Again there was no security in sight and the workers in the building had obviously been told that McCoy and Sulu had permission to wander around so no one tried to stop them as they moved through the corridors.

After getting lost in the identical hallways and having to backtrack a couple of times, they finally found a door marked 'Superintendence'. Sulu opened the door and revealed a stairway leading down.

"Jackpot!" he whispered and he and McCoy slipped inside, closing the door behind them.

The basement was just what it should have been; the maintenance hub of the building with energy cells and cleaning equipment. McCoy sighed in defeat but continued to search the massive area with his tricorder for anything unusual. As he passed a bank of energy cells the readings suddenly changed.

"Sulu," he called and the other man walked across the room to join him.

He studied McCoy's tricorder and his eyebrows raised. "There's no solid structure behind those cells."

McCoy nodded. "Help me see if we can move it, there may be something else behind them."

McCoy ran his hands down one side of the cell casings while Sulu did the same on the other, looking for a gap he could use to grip. Instead his hand drifted over a sensor which emitted a beep before the entire bank swung away from the wall.

McCoy and Sulu stared at the darkened corridor that had been revealed.

"All of this to hide some records?" Sulu asked incredulously.

"Maybe they're hiding something else," McCoy suggested.

They exchanged a look and then pulled out their phasers before making their way down the corridor.

The corridor was dank, dark and so long that McCoy was pretty sure they were beneath another building by the time they got to another door. McCoy pulled the door open while Sulu pointed his phaser inside then they both froze from the cacophony of noise from within.

McCoy stepped inside and felt his stomach lurch as he took in the barred cells all filled with Prillovians, who were screaming and yelling and banging. They were all wild eyed, the purple hair which was so immaculately styled on other Prillovians was tangled and knotted and their faces, hands and feet were all dirty. It told McCoy that they had been there for a while.

"What the hell?" Sulu muttered.

McCoy switched out his phaser for his medical tricorder and approached one of the cells. The Prillovian inside skittered away from him to huddle in the corner.

"It's okay, sweetheart," he said soothingly to the young woman. "I'm not going to hurt you."

The woman blinked at him with wide eyes as he pushed the tricorder through the bars.

"Careful, Doc," Sulu warned, keeping his eyes on the woman.

McCoy scanned the woman and as the tricorder made its usual beeps the woman slowly moved closer, her eyes fixed on the instrument. She reached out one hand as if to touch it but pulled back at the last minute, fear on her face.

"It won't hurt you," McCoy repeated and gave her a gentle smile as he would a scared child, gratified when she returned it. "I want to try and help you. Can you tell me why you're in here?"

She frowned in confusion at his question so he tried again. "What's your name?"

"Wilvu," she whispered then began to cough from the effort.

"Sulu, you got any water on you?" McCoy asked and took Sulu's proffered flask. He held it though the bars. "Drink some of this, sweetheart. It's just water."

The woman all but snatched the flask out of McCoy's hand and gulped the water. McCoy could feel his anger building but pushed it away in order to concentrate on Wilvu. These poor people had been locked down here like animals, obviously they were dehydrated and probably half starved too.

"Easy...I'm not going to take it away just slow down a little, okay?"

Wilvu did as McCoy asked, slowing her intake of the water but she still held onto the flask protectively.

"My name is Leonard," he told her. "Can you remember being outside, Wilvu?"

She nodded and pointed her finger to the ceiling.

"That's right, up there. Why did you come down here?"

She scrunched her face as she thought and then said, "Guide."

McCoy fought down a wave of nausea as she began to chant the word over and over and the other caged Prillovians joined in.

"Guide...Guide...Guide..."

"Jesus Christ," McCoy muttered than jumped back from the cell as Wilvu suddenly threw the flask at the bars before laughing hysterically.

Sulu helped him back to his feet. "It wasn't the records they were hiding."

"No, it was the live subjects themselves," McCoy said darkly. "These people have obviously been damaged by the process and the Prilovians' have locked them away instead of giving them the care they need. I've never seen anything so disgusting in all my..."

The Prillovians in the room had stopped chanting and began to wail in anguish as McCoy lost control of his temper, most of them clutching their heads as they picked up on the waves of anger he was feeling. He took a deep breath and tried to reign it back in. He didn't want to cause these people anymore discomfort than they had already suffered. He could vent his anger at Jafjor when they found him.

"I tried to contact the Captain while you were talking to Wilvu," Sulu told him, "but I think we're too far underground to connect to him or the ship."

"Probably," McCoy agreed. "You head back up. Contact the Captain and then get the ship to send down a medical team. Tell them to bring water and food with them."

Sulu frowned. "I'm not leaving you here by yourself."

"I need to check over everyone in here," McCoy said. "Don't worry, I won't unlock any of the cells until you come back and I've got my phaser on me if anything happens."

Sulu looked unhappy at that plan and was obviously about to protest when his eyes were drawn to something over McCoy's shoulder. "Doctor!" he yelled, lifting his phaser.

McCoy's hand shot to his own weapon and he tried to spin around to face the threat but, before he could, he felt a pinch in his neck and everything went black.

 

There are many levels to Sentinel/Guide bonding but one basic fact remains constant; when a compatible Sentinel and Guide meet they will feel a pull towards each other. This 'pull' is stronger than normal human attraction in that once it's felt the Sentinel and Guide will be driven to follow it to its conclusion, i.e. bonding, regardless of the situation and once a Sentinel/Guide pair has bonded they stay so for life.

There are different ways that this bonding may take; the first and most well known is by the pair having sex. This is particularly prevalent among stronger pairs but is also a popular means of bonding with less powerful pairs as well. The reason for this is simple, the initial pull felt between the pair can often take the form of sexual attraction as well as the more general drive to bond.

This isn't always the case, of course. Sometimes the sexual attraction just isn't there or one of the pair is already in a romantic relationship. Occasionally, the pair is under the age of consent. For these pairs bonding can be achieved completely platonically, although far more gradually.

The many stories of Sentinel and Guides catching sight of each other and having sex right there in public are a fallacy. Sex is not the driving force for a Sentinel/Guide pair, love is. Whether romantic or platonic, it is love that binds them together.

Bisley, T. (2245). Sentinels and Guides: A History. London: Earth Premier Publishing.

The first thing McCoy became aware of was the lingering chemical taste and headache that were typical of being administered a strong sedative. The next was that he was lying on a stone floor and, judging from the cold seeping into his body, probably had been for a couple of hours. He opened his eyes and then groaned at the brightness, squinting as he looked to one side. Bars and a couple of scared looking Prillovians staring back at him. He was still in the basement room.

“Nice of you to finally wake up, Doctor McCoy.”

He knew that voice but because of the fuzziness in his head couldn’t place it until he pushed himself up and looked out of the cell he was apparently locked in. His eyes widened as he looked at Sulu, strapped to a chair and gagged with a belt while Gytair stood behind him, watching McCoy in amusement.

“You had to go digging, Doctor.” She shook her head in mock ruefulness. “Or can I call you Leonard? I think I will; we are past formalities by now.”

“I don’t know, can I call you Psycho Bitch?” McCoy snapped before thinking and Sulu frantically shook his head at him in an effort to shut him up.

Gytair laughed, however. “I like you, Leonard, so forthright and fierce. I knew you’d be the one to watch out for, that’s why I gave you the tracking beacon.”

McCoy reached into his pocket and pulled out the box Gytair had given them that morning while she smirked at him. He threw it out of the cell in disgust.

“That was a pretty good act you had going, Gytair. You really had me fooled,” he told her. “I’d never have guessed you were in on this with Jafjor.”

Jafjor?” She snorted. “That pompous idiot? You have seen what he’s done to Prillovia. We used to be a proud race who understood the value of scientific advancement but over the past fifty years he has reduced us to simpering fools.”

As she ranted, McCoy subtly checked out their situation. His cell was empty apart from an old thin blanket and the bars were too thick for him to try and manipulate. His phaser and equipment had been removed and he could just about see them on a table next to Gytair. Sulu was obviously securely strapped to the chair and wouldn’t be able to work his way free any time soon although McCoy could see him trying. They were helpless and at the mercy of a mad woman. The only thing he could do was keep her talking and hope that enough time had passed that Jim and the others would be looking for them.

“So this is all your doing then?” he waved his hand to indicate the Prillovians in the other cells. “This is your great scientific advancement?”

“I admit that the serum has some unfortunate side effects,” she admitted and McCoy’s blood ran cold. He’d assumed that the people in the cells had been driven mad as a result of previous versions of the serum, not the actual one that she wanted to give to Starfleet.

“But with access to your Federation’s technology, I will be able to eradicate those before they realise there are any flaws,” Gytair continued.

“This is crazy, Gytair. Surely you can see that,” McCoy said. “If you’d just told Starfleet how close you were, they’d have given you all the support and technology you needed. There was no need to rush the live testing or do all of this.”

“And have someone else take it from me? Take credit for everything I’ve done?” She glared at him. “My family has had enough taken from them. My father was the lead scientist, did you know that? He dreamed of making Prillovia a base of great scientific achievements. Then Jafjor came to power and his primary job became making bigger and better holoscreens and more efficient ways to project them. Jafjor made this planet a farce but I will realise my father’s dream.”

McCoy really wanted to roll his eyes but managed to restrain himself. “Well you’re not going to get much out of the Federation in the way of accolades if two of their crewmembers go missing.”

“You are not going to go missing, Leonard.” Gytair tutted at him. “You and Hikaru were investigating in the laboratory and touched something you shouldn’t have...” She opened a box on the table and pulled out an old fashioned hypodermic needle. “...a ‘previously discarded’ version of the serum.”

McCoy froze. “You can’t do this, Gytair,” he said, his voice breaking slightly as he realised they were out of time.

“Of course I can.” Gytair laughed. She stroked Sulu’s face. “It’s such a shame, I think we could have been good together, Hikaru. Of course, I don’t really think you were planning anything long term for us anyway and I am...how do you put it? Not that type of girl.”

Sulu glared at her, grunting something from behind his gag and tried to strain away from her as much as he could. McCoy threw himself against the bars, yelling to get her attention back on him but she quickly and efficiently administered the injection into Sulu’s neck.

“Sulu!” McCoy shouted and the other man’s fear filled eyes met his for a moment before his body began to convulse and those eyes rolled to the back of his head.

“I’ll kill you for this,” McCoy promised Gytair through gritted teeth, meaning those words with every fibre of his being.

“You’re not in a position to do anything, Leonard,” Gytair pointed out as she put down the needle and picked up one of the phasers she’d confiscated. She banged on the closed door and two Prillovian men entered the room. “I do not believe that you have met my brothers yet.”

“Let me guess, your daddy warped their minds too,” McCoy snapped but they all ignored him.

The brothers quickly unstrapped the unconscious Sulu from the chair and lifted him none too gently.

Gytair pointed the phaser in her hand at McCoy. “Move back from the door. I have this on the highest setting and I will shoot you if you do not obey.”

McCoy eyed the phaser for a moment, about to tell her where she could stick the weapon, but she suddenly shifted her grip on the phaser to point it at Sulu instead. With a growl of frustration McCoy stepped further back into the cell. One of the brothers unlocked the door then the other carried Sulu in, dropping him onto the thin blanket.

“Your turn, Doctor,” the man sneered, gesturing for McCoy to walk out of the cell ahead of him.

“No,” McCoy said then crouched down to check Sulu’s vitals the old fashioned way. Heartbeat elevated, perspiring heavily, in obvious discomfort even while unconscious.

“Do not be silly, Leonard,” Gytair told him with a pointed look at the weapon she was holding.

McCoy snorted. “So shoot me. It’s better than being turned into a gibbering wreck.”

“You are looking at this all wrong,” she told him. “You may be in the lucky 40 percent that the serum works on.”

“And then what? You’re just going to let us go on our merry Guide way?” McCoy pushed Sulu’s hair off his forehead wishing that he had his medkit to hand.

Gytair let out a huff of impatience. “Bytair!”

The brother in the cell moved towards McCoy but McCoy was ready for him. He pushed up off the balls of his feet and shoved his whole weight into Bytair’s stomach then, as the Prillovian doubled over, McCoy threw his head up, connecting solidly with Bytair’s jaw. Bytair fell back, cracking his head against the bars of the cell and then slumped to the floor. McCoy barely noted this as he charged the other brother who had run into the cell by this point.

“Enough!” Gytair shrieked and shot McCoy just before he actually reached her second brother.

The phaser had been on the first setting after all. Lying bitch, McCoy thought as he fell to the ground, dazed and unable to fight when he was grabbed roughly and dragged to the chair. His head lolled back and he could do nothing but watch as Gytair pulled out another needle then jabbed it into his neck angrily.

It only took a few seconds before there was a burning sensation as if his blood was on fire. He tried to hold in a groan of pain but, judging from the malicious smirk on Gytair’s face, he wasn’t entirely successful. The Prillovians locked in the other cells had been quiet until now, obviously terrified of Gytair, but McCoy could hear a yell of “Leonard!” and saw Wilvu on her feet banging Sulu’s flask against her bars.

“Leonard! Hurt!”

Gytair spun to face the woman, yelling at her to be quiet but Wilvu didn’t stop. The banging of the flask grew louder and louder until McCoy realised that it wasn’t Wilvu anymore. The thudding was actually inside his head; rhythmic thuds that sent stabs of pain throughout his body quickly gaining in strength until everything but that faded away.

He could occasionally sense things outside of the pain; a sensation of being moved, the cold of the floor against his face, someone crying out in agony. At one point he managed to climb out of the dark torment enough to realise that someone was gripping his arm. Turning his head to one side, he could see Sulu curled in on himself, extreme pain written across his face with one hand holding onto McCoy as if he thought McCoy was the only thing that could keep him alive.

With effort, McCoy moved his hand so that he could grip Sulu’s and the moment their skin touched it felt like his head had cracked open, his own pain doubled as he could literally feel Sulu’s as well. Sulu yelled as he experienced the same feeling and McCoy adjusted his grip until he was holding Sulu’s wrist, the material of his shirt between them. The pain instantly dropped back to the levels it had been at before.

McCoy panted and tried to remember what he knew about Guides coming into their abilities but even though the pain had subsided from the excruciating feeling he got when he touched Sulu, it was still too much for him to be able to concentrate.

“Shield,” he finally managed to croak as his mind grasped onto something. “Concentrate on mental shield.”

He saw Sulu move his head in something that could have been a nod before the exhaustion McCoy felt from all that effort dragged him back under again.

It could have been minutes or days later but McCoy could feel hands on him again. He automatically flinched away, expecting the same explosion of pain he felt with Sulu, but this was nothing like that. This was blessedly cool hands on his overheated skin and something washed over him like a soothing balm, numbing the pain to at least manageable levels.

“...ones! Come on, man, you need to fight your way back. I need you to wake up!”

“Jim?” McCoy winced; his throat hurt as if he’d been screaming. He couldn’t remember screaming.

“Oh, thank god!” Jim said and McCoy felt a wave of relief that wasn’t his. “Bones, stay with me. We’re going to get you back to the ship.”

McCoy managed to get his eyes open and he stared at the fuzzy shape above him which slowly resolved itself into a less fuzzy James Kirk. “Sulu?” he asked then had a coughing fit.

Jim got a flask from somewhere and held it to McCoy’s mouth, supporting his head as he drank the wonderfully cold water. “Sulu’s awake. Spock’s got him.”

There was so much that Jim was obviously not saying with that sentence. McCoy struggled to move so that he could see Sulu for himself but Jim held him down with a palm pressed firmly against his chest. “No, Bones. Stay focused on me, okay? I can’t let you get trapped in your head again. Spock can help Sulu block out as much emotion as he can until we’re back on the Enterprise, that will help him.”

McCoy stopped struggling and collapsed back against the floor, exhausted. He studied Jim, taking in the lines of tension on his face. “How long?”

“A day and a half,” Jim replied. “We’ve had search parties looking for you, both crewmembers and Prillovians. Eventually one of Scotty and Chekov’s surface scans picked up faint signals from a phaser which led us to Gytair’s brother and then to Gytair. That woman is seriously crazy; tried to tell us that you gave her the phasers as gifts and that she hadn’t seen either of you since that morning when you told her that you wanted to explore the countryside...basically the lies got more and more ridiculous until Spock did a mind meld on her to find out the truth.”

McCoy was still feeling disoriented and was only following half of Jim’s rambling explanation but that was okay, Jim’s voice was familiar and made him feel safe for the first time since he’d originally woken up in that cell. He also knew that Jim could talk the ear off a donkey if he’d been worrying about something and it was always best to let him get it out of his system.

Jim’s head turned away for a moment then McCoy could hear the sounds of people arriving. He gripped Jim’s hand tighter and Jim gave him a small smile. “It’s just the medical team. I won’t let go, I promise.”

Jim began to give orders to the team on how to handle Guides in distress and McCoy’s stomach lurched as the realisation hit him that Jim was talking about him and Sulu.

Guides, Christ.

He could make out a Scottish accent in among the other voices and wondered why Scotty was there for a moment before figuring out that Jim had brought him down to help Sulu the way Jim was helping him. He wasn’t sure exactly what it was but obviously the Sentinels could do something to block out most of the emotions from other people. That hadn’t been in the books McCoy had read furiously at the Academy once he realised that he actually considered Jim to be a friend. Or maybe it had and he just couldn’t remember right now.

He was pulled out of his thoughts when Chapel gently took hold of him, with her thankfully gloved hands, and helped Jim lift him onto a floating stretcher.

“It makes a change, putting you onto one of these things and not the Captain,” she commented in her normal dry tone but McCoy could see the worry shining in her eyes.

“Leonard, no!” he heard Wilvu cry out and inwardly cursed at forgetting about her and the others.

“Wilvu...” McCoy tried once again to sit up but Jim pushed him back.

“Bones, we have to get you back to the ship. There’s another team on the way to help the others,” he told McCoy gently.

“They need...food...water...starved...” McCoy tried to talk but his throat still hurt too much to get proper sentences out.

“It’s all on its way. Jafjor’s doctors are going to take care of them,” Jim promised and McCoy nodded weakly but even Jim’s hand gripping his own couldn’t block out the fear and disappointment McCoy felt from Wilvu as he was pushed out of the room.

The next several hours passed in a blur of activity around him but at least McCoy wasn’t in pain any longer. He must have drifted off to sleep at some point and woke in one of the small Sentinel friendly rooms off Sickbay.
“Welcome back,” Jim said from the chair next to his bed.

McCoy groaned as he pushed himself up to lean against the headboard. He looked Jim over as best as he could from where he was. He looked tired and still had that drawn look he’d had down on the planet.

“Have you had any sleep, kid?” McCoy asked.

Jim snorted in amusement. “I’m pretty sure that you’re not allowed to doctor while you’re a patient, Bones. And I did grab a bit of sleep; it’s always easier to do that in here, even in this chair.

The room was equipped with white noise generators which blocked out all sound and scents from outside in order to help Sentinels recuperate easier. McCoy knew that the generators also stopped emotions from filtering into the room but hadn’t had proof of that until now. His head was thud free and all he could pick up was faint relief and even fainter anger from Jim, who had obviously locked his emotions down as much as he could; he was sure that if he hadn’t then McCoy would be feeling the full fury of a Captain whose crew had been hurt.

“How’s Sulu?” McCoy asked as Gytair’s voice floated in his head taunting him with ‘40 percent’.

“He’s fine,” Jim smiled. “It was touch and go there for a while but when Scotty stepped in...well, you know that Scottish bastard believes that there’s nothing that can’t be fixed when he’s around. They’re in the next room and I’m sure M’Benga will let you see Sulu later.”

He said the last bit with a smirk because the door had opened while he was talking and M’Benga had entered the room.

“Only if he behaves,” M’Benga commented before checking McCoy’s vitals.

“You do remember that I’m your boss, right?” McCoy grumbled at him as he tried to sort through the complicated mix of emotions M’Benga brought with him. If it was like this with everyone, then McCoy had a lot of headaches to look forward to.

“How’s your head feeling?” M’Benga asked, ignoring McCoy’s crabbiness as he normally did.

“Better,” McCoy said with a small smile.

M’Benga hummed knowingly. “Until I came in here?”

McCoy eyed him and then nodded, M’Benga knew him too well to try and bluff his way out of it so that he could get back to his own quarters sooner.

“Thought so,” M’Benga said. “Whatever else that serum did, it made both you and Sulu into very powerful Guides, so you’re both going to pick up on more and find it more difficult to block the emotions out. If we were back on Earth, you’d be sequestered in a Sentinel/Guide centre until you got full training on building your mental shields but out here...we’re going to have to come up with something else.”

McCoy nodded his understanding. “Got any ideas?”

“Meditation and lots of it.” He laughed at the face McCoy made. “I know but it’s the only thing we can do besides keeping you in this room until we get back to Earth. I’ve spoken to Commander Spock and we’re going to work out some techniques for you.”

McCoy muttered under his breath but he knew that M’Benga was right. He’d probably have to do meditation in the Sentinel/Guide centre even if he waited until they were at Earth. “At least, Sulu has to do it too. I’ll have some company in the hippy tank.”

“True, although he won’t have to practise as much since...” M’Benga trailed off when Jim cleared his throat meaningfully. “Anyway, you’re doing a lot better than I’d have expected, Len. I’ll be back to check on you again a little later.”

“What the hell was that?” McCoy asked Jim once M’Benga had left. “You said Sulu was fine.”

“He is,” Jim protested. “But, like I said, it was bad there for a while and...”

“And?” McCoy prompted when Jim broke off and began rubbing the back of his neck in that way he did when he was uncomfortable about something.

Jim exhaled loudly. “He was in so much pain, Bones, and not even the generators were helping him to find balance. He was losing his mind and Scotty was compatible and willing to do whatever it took to help him...”

“They bonded?” McCoy stared at Jim in shock.

“It’s a very basic platonic bond, that’s all they could do while Sulu was still in danger but...” Jim glanced at the door which separated McCoy’s room from Sulu’s. “Well, this is Scotty we’re talking about. I don’t know what he’s talked me about more since I met him; whether bond sex is everything it’s made out to be or that mythical perfect sandwich he’ll find one day. I’m not sure it’ll stay platonic for long if he has anything to say about it.”

Sulu and Scotty. That would take some getting used to but, whatever else he was, Scotty was a good man and if anyone could help Sulu get past what happened on Prillovia then it was him. He could still picture the terrified look on Sulu’s face when he was gripping McCoy’s arm; that was probably going to haunt him for a long while. And for all his brash and lewd behaviour at times, Scotty could be surprisingly insightful and gentle with the young crew. More than once McCoy had seen him gruffly talk someone through a mistake they’d made until they understood and felt more confident about their future abilities.

“It’s going to make poker night a lot more interesting,” McCoy said and Jim chuckled. “So, I guess I’ll have to get my head around this meditation by myself.”

McCoy grimaced at the very word. He was not the type of man who sat on the floor surrounded by some kind of flowery incense. If he wanted to relax, he used a shot of bourbon and a good book.

It took him a moment to notice that he could sense Jim’s emotions a little more than he could before. Namely the fact that he could feel anxiety leeching from his friend and, when he turned his head, he found that Jim was staring at him warily.

McCoy frowned. “What?”

“You don’t have to do the whole meditation thing,” Jim said. “There is another way you can build your shields.”

“What other way? I never read...” Realisation dawned and McCoy’s eyes flickered to the closed adjoining door before moving back to Jim. “No. No, Jim, I won’t do that to you.”

“Bones...”Jim tried but McCoy talked over him.

“You don’t want a Guide and I’m not going to saddle you with one, especially one like me, because you feel some kind of misplaced guilt over me getting hurt,” McCoy told him.

“But, you don’t...”

“I can figure out this shield thing by myself,” McCoy kept going. “Even if it does mean learning meditation from the hobgoblin; I’d rather do that than push you into a bond. You may think that you’re doing the right thing in offering but, believe me when I...”

“You’re my Guide, Bones!” Jim burst out.

McCoy blinked at him. “What the hell are you talking about?”

Jim shifted in his seat uncomfortably. “When I got back on the Enterprise after Delta Vega, I wasn’t in a good state. After the allergic reactions, the mind meld with Old Spock, the whole transporting while in warp...everything that had happened up until that point; my senses were going crazy. By the time I was dragged onto the Bridge I was ready to collapse into a ball and hide away for a while but I couldn’t, I had to confront Spock. I was trying to fight my way through all the sensations; the bright lights, people yelling at me and then I saw that you were there and I just...imprinted.”

“Imprinted,” McCoy repeated, confused because he'd never heard of that happening outside of a Sentinel/Guide bond before. “On me?”

Jim sighed. “I didn’t mean to do it, I swear and it’s only a partial one. But...well, it’s hardly surprising. There’s no one I trust more than you and you already do all the things that a Guide would do for me. You look out for me, make sure I don’t get a reaction from anything if I can help it, you ground me.... You’ve done all sorts of little things that have made it possible for me to even be on this ship, let alone captain it. That’s all down to you, Bones.”

“It’s been two years, Jim. You couldn’t have told me any of this?” McCoy watched as Jim fiddled with the covering on the arm of the chair and refused to meet McCoy’s eyes. He could feel remorse and a touch of fear pass through Jim’s shields.

“I didn’t think I’d have to,” Jim admitted. “It wasn’t as if it was going to affect you at all. I never expected this to happen and now...”

McCoy stared at Jim as he trailed off. Now McCoy was a Guide and Jim’s body recognised him as his Guide, he filled in mentally.

“I knew there was something different after Delta Vega but I thought that the mind meld had...I don’t know, created some kind of fake bond between you and the two Spocks,” McCoy told him after they’d sat in silence for a while.

“Spock?” Jim made a face and then started to laugh helplessly.

McCoy glared at him and crossed his arms over his chest. “Oh, I’m sorry. Should I have guessed that you’d done something I didn’t know was even possible? The mind meld thing was all I had to go on.”

“I know, it’s just...being bonded to Spock; either of them?” Jim shook his head. “I want to be bonded to you, ever since that day. I just never expected that I’d be able to.”

He lifted his head and gave McCoy a look filled with longing and hunger. Heat rushed through McCoy at the sight of it, and his fingers itched to reach out and touch Jim. His eyes widened as he realised what it was; the pull. He wasn’t sure if it was a result of Jim’s imprint or if he would’ve been drawn to Jim anyway, the same way that Jim had snuck past his defences and dragged him into a lasting friendship he hadn’t even been looking for.

“Jim...” he whispered.

Jim’s eyes flicked over McCoy, taking in his reaction. He stood up and approached the bed. Then he reached out with one hand and cupped the back of McCoy’s neck, bringing their foreheads together.

“You need to tell me if you don’t want this, Guide,” he said seriously and something deep inside McCoy sparked to life at the use of his new title. “The imprinting was my fault and my responsibility. You’re under no obligation so if you don’t want this then I’ll back off. I won’t be happy about it but nothing’s more important to me than your wellbeing, Bones.”

McCoy stroked one hand down the side of Jim’s face. “You know, you don’t always have to be such a self sacrificing bastard. Occasionally you can have what you want.”

Jim’s eyes fluttered closed. “Tell me.”

Forcing himself to take his eyes off Jim, McCoy reached over to the panel on the wall and keyed in his CMO code to lock the door. Then he turned back to Jim and said deliberately, “I want this, Sentinel.”

McCoy had barely finished the words when Jim surged forward and kissed him for all he was worth. McCoy groaned deep in his throat when Jim dropped his shields enough to let McCoy feel all the passion and need that he was feeling. Jim licked and nipped at McCoy’s lips and he obligingly opened up to him. At the same time, McCoy moved his free hand to wrap around Jim’s waist and urged him up to the bed.

By the time the need to breathe broke them apart, McCoy’s head was spinning and he had a feeling that he was already addicted to Jim’s mouth. Jim nuzzled and kissed his way along McCoy’s jaw and McCoy tilted his head to allow him access.

“I need to feel you, Bones. Need to taste.” Jim’s voice had taken on a husky tone that shot straight to his groin.

“Yes, Jim,” he agreed and pushed at the gold tunic, trying to get it off.

Jim covered McCoy’s hand with his own, stopping him, and then pulled the tunic off himself; flinging it across the room where it was quickly joined by the black undershirt. McCoy reached down to pull off the sickbay issued white t-shirt he was wearing but hissed in pain as the movement aggravated one of the many aches and bruises he’d collected on the planet.

“Let me do it,” Jim told him as he gently tugged at the t-shirt. “Lean back and let me take care of you.”

“I’m not just going to lie here and do nothing, Jim.” McCoy frowned and Jim chuckled.

“Oh, you’ll be doing plenty,” he waggled his eyebrows. “Just nothing that will keep you in Sickbay longer than necessary. I want you in my bed.”

Once he’d removed McCoy’s t-shirt, Jim climbed off the bed and shucked the rest of his uniform before removing McCoy’s white pyjama pants.

“Jesus Christ,” McCoy gasped when Jim straddled his thighs and Jim moaned in agreement

With all that skin touching, the influx of emotions he got from Jim was dizzying; he could feel every spark of pleasure that Jim was getting as the Sentinel allowed his sense of touch to dial up. Every brush of his hands over McCoy’s body, every slight shift of McCoy’s legs against his own caused Jim to shudder and that echoed back to McCoy. It was the most intense thing he’d ever felt in his life.

He could tell when Jim started to zone, losing himself to the minute textures and imperfections of McCoy’s skin against his own, so McCoy pulled him down into a rough kiss. Biting at his lips then soothing the sting with his tongue, the sensations bringing Jim back to himself until he started to return the kiss hungrily.

“Back with me, darlin’?” McCoy asked as he kissed his way down Jim’s neck and Jim gave a rueful chuckle.

“Shit, Bones. I haven’t zoned out during sex since I was fifteen,” he said. “I knew you’d feel good but...god!”

“Right back atcha, kid,” McCoy rumbled.

He ran his hands in long strokes over Jim’s back, feeling the play of muscles when Jim arched against him like a cat. He made sure to suck little stinging bites to Jim’s neck to split his focus between the two different sensations.

Jim’s head fell forward to rest on McCoy’s shoulder and he panted for several moments trying to collect himself. Then he turned his head and nudged his nose behind McCoy’s ear taking a big inhale then licked a trail down McCoy’s neck and across his collarbone. When he latched onto a nipple, alternately biting softly then sucking hard McCoy thought he was going to lose it right there. He groaned loudly and bucked up. Jim looked between McCoy’s face and nipples thoughtfully before a mischievous smile appeared.

“Jim...” McCoy warned.

“I don’t think either of us can hold out for that right now,” Jim said a little wistfully and McCoy breathed a sigh of relief until Jim added, “But one day I will tie you down to my bed and make you come from this alone.” He licked across the abused nipple again. “Think you’ll actually be able to do that?”

“I think you’ll actually be the death of me,” McCoy panted and his hips jerked again.

“But what a way to go.” Jim smirked and then continued on his journey, trying to taste as much of McCoy as he could.

He dipped his tongue into McCoy’s navel, nosed the trail of hair beneath it and then licked along the juncture of his hip. By the time that he took McCoy into his mouth, McCoy was shaking. Between the pleasure Jim was giving him and the echo he was getting of Jim's own pleasure he was quickly beginning to lose the tenuous grip he had on his control.

He glanced down at Jim whose eyes were closed and had an expression of ecstasy on his face as he savoured the way McCoy tasted. He still had just enough presence of mind to reach out a hand intending to run his fingers down Jim's face and give him another sense to focus on, however, Jim chose that moment to do something wicked with his tongue and he ended up grabbing a fistful of Jim's hair instead. He felt Jim chuckling and let out a moan.

"Jim..." he gasped."I can't...Jim..."

Jim pulled off him with an obscene pop and gave McCoy a smile which made him melt a little despite the fact that he couldn't make himself stop shaking.

Crawling back up McCoy's body, Jim gave him a gentle kiss. "It's the bonding heat," he told him, grabbing McCoy's hand with one that was shaking just as much. "You need to let go. Give over that famous control to me, I've got you."

McCoy frowned, thinking about how Jim had almost zoned out once already.

Jim smoothed the line between McCoy's eyebrows with a fingertip. "Trust me, Bones."

Those were the words that McCoy was helpless against. Of course, he trusted Jim; he always had. He cupped Jim's face with his hand and kissed him back, showing his acquiescence.

Jim gave him that smile again, the one which warmed McCoy from the inside, then leaned over McCoy to the stocked cabinet and removed a tube of medical grade lubricant. McCoy squirmed, trying to get Jim to move off his lap so that he could open his legs but Jim just shook his head at him with a mischievous smile. He covered his fingers with the lube and then reached behind him to start preparing himself.

McCoy dropped his head back against the wall with a thud. "Christ, kid."

"I told you that I'm taking care of you, Bones," Jim told him then gasped as his fingers brushed against something inside him.

McCoy groaned and wrapped his arms around Jim, one hand stroking over the sweat shiny back and the other reaching down to feel where Jim was twisting his fingers into himself. When Jim deemed himself ready, he lifted himself up a little and shimmied forward before slowly lowering himself onto McCoy.

McCoy had to clench his eyes shut at the tight blistering heat he was suddenly surrounded with and by the time Jim bottomed out, McCoy was panting against Jim's shoulder and trying to picture his Great Aunt Louisa naked to try and get some control.

Jim gave him a few moments to collect himself, gently stroking his fingers through McCoy's damp hair, and then he began to squirm restlessly.

"Bones, I need to move...can I..?"

McCoy nodded and wrapped his arms tighter around Jim as he began to ride him; slowly at first but soon picking up speed as they both entirely gave themselves over to the bonding heat. McCoy could feel each of Jim's mental barriers melt away, letting him in, and he was surrounded by warmth and comfort, safety and something he could only describe as home.

The tension coiled along McCoy's back and he knew he was close, knew that Jim was too by his suddenly erratic rhythm.

"Come on, baby," Jim whispered against McCoy's skin. "Give it up, let me see it."

Then he sank his teeth into McCoy's neck and McCoy cried out Jim's name as the bond almost audibly snapped into place, burning bright and hot between them. Jim quickly followed him with a loud cry of his own.

McCoy slumped against the wall with Jim collapsed bonelessly on his chest as they each tried to catch their breath.

"Wow," Jim panted. McCoy hummed in agreement and Jim poked him in the side. "That's it? We have mind blowing bonding sex and all you can do is hum?"

"Yep," McCoy said, closing his eyes and floating on the endorphins of the really and truly mind blowing sex.

Jim chuckled. "I think I melted your brain."

"Christ, kid. You always this talkative afterwards?" McCoy griped but it was spoiled by what he was sure was a goofy smile on his face.

"I figured that I should make up for the fact that you apparently lose the ability to speak at all," Jim shot back.

"Oh yeah?" McCoy opened his eyes and looked Jim's equally goofy smile before he leaned down to growl directly into Jim's ear. "Next time we do this, I'm going to open you up myself. I'm going to go so slow that you'll be begging me to fuck you and then I'll give it to you so hard and take you apart so thoroughly that you'll be screaming my name. That talkative enough for you, darlin'?"

Jim shuddered at McCoy's words and blinked at him dazedly. "Uh...yeah. That...that's good."

"Good. Now get some goddamn sleep so that I can make good on that promise," McCoy said.

 

The pack hierarchy for Sentinels and Guides more or less disappeared after The Guide Cull to be replaced by Sentinel/Guide centres. Before the Cull, Sentinels and Guides formed small groups or 'packs' in their local residential area, these groups were each responsible for monitoring the area for outside threats or newly online Sentinels and Guides to bring into the pack. The reason these packs formed were because of the differing levels to their abilities. Very strong Sentinels and Guides were designated as Alphas, these would be the leaders of each pack; driven to protect the people of their area whether they were Sentinels, Guides or ordinary humans.

It was very rare to have more than one Alpha pair in each pack, however there were often other Sentinels or Guides with equally powerful abilities and drive to protect the area as the Alphas. The difference was that these Sentinels or Guides had no desire to lead. In these cases, the other Sentinel or Guide would openly pledge allegiance to the Alpha pair in front of the rest of the pack. This meant that they were ceding ultimate control over the pride to the Alphas and instead taking the role of Betas.

Betas provided support to the Alphas and tended to be the people that the rest of the pack would go to with problems before it was taken to the Alphas.

The rest of the pack were Deltas; the idea of Omegas within the pack has long been proven false. However, children were known to be referred to as 'pups'; this was more likely to be a fond nickname bestowed on them by the adults as a knowing reference to their wolf-like pack structure.

Since the Cull, the differing levels of abilities between Sentinels no longer matters to them. The majority will never bond and therefore, to the Sentinels themselves, they are on an even playing field. Instead, centres have been set up in all the major cities of Earth. These centres provide training for newly online Sentinels, support to Sentinels in distress or offer a sanctuary for them when they need solitude. They are also a place where the rare unbonded Guide can go in order to be introduced to compatible Sentinels.

The packs of old died alongside the Guides.

Cooper, W. (2249). Earth Hierarchies and Political Structures. Washington: Summit Printing.

The following day was a study in contrasts for McCoy. He was woken up on the receiving end of a toe-curlingly good blowjob from his Sentinel but then he had to put up with the knowing smirks and winks from his staff when he and Jim eventually emerged from the Sickbay room. There was the relief he felt when the new mental shield held up and stopped him from being bombarded with everyone's emotions but then there was the discovery that he and Jim were one of the bonded pairs who were able to communicate telepathically. The latter would normally be seen as a great gift for a pair bond but, rather inevitably, it just led Jim to send him increasingly lewd thoughts from the Bridge while McCoy tried to hold normal conversations without blushing.

He was just in the middle of sending Jim detailed descriptions of just how he planned to kill him once he'd been released from Sickbay when Scotty and Sulu finally left the confines of Sulu's room.

McCoy had accepted the fact that he wasn't up to going back on duty and the fact that M'Benga wanted him to stay in Sickbay for observation, at least until the end of Jim's shift. However, as revenge for all the winks he'd had to endure earlier in the day and the wolf whistle he was 99 percent sure had come from Chapel, he'd decided to occupy one of the normal Sickbay beds so that he could glower at anyone who looked like they were even thinking of slacking off. It was a surprisingly entertaining way to pass the time and it also meant that he was in a good position to witness the worried hovering Scotty was doing as Sulu stepped away from the white noise generators for the first time since they'd got back to the ship.

Sulu's shoulders slumped in obvious relief when his shield held up too and McCoy released a breath he hadn't been aware of holding.

"What did I tell you, lad? Nothing to worry about," Scotty said and Sulu laughed.

"I was ready to test it ages ago. You were the one acting like a mother hen." He gave Scotty a fond look.

"I'm not letting you get hurt again if I can help it. You're mine to protect, Guide." Scotty cupped Sulu's face and gave him a quick peck on the lips. Of course he then completely ruined the moment by giving Sulu a leer and adding, "And I had other reasons for wanting to keep you in that room as long as possible, if you know what I mean."

Sulu sighed and shook his head but there was a smile playing around his lips as he replied, "We always know what you mean."

"Lieutenant, explain to me how we ended up permanently bonded to the two horniest people on the ship?" McCoy had to stifle a laugh as Scotty and Sulu suddenly registered that they were in a room full of people who were all watching them.

"Good luck," Scotty said in reply to McCoy's question at the exact same time that Sulu said,

"Bad karma?"

Sulu laughed while Scotty mock frowned at him then McCoy's words really registered.

"You bonded to the Captain?" Sulu asked.

"Glad to hear it," Scotty said with an emphatic nod. "If anyone needs a Guide it's the Captain but don't be telling him I said that."

"I like the way that they both knew exactly who the other horniest person on the Enterprise was without asking," Chapel commented as she walked past McCoy's bed to check on Sulu.

"I like the way that I can make you do double shifts if you keep sassing me," McCoy told her but she just poked her tongue out at him before she turned back to Scotty, silently asking his permission to touch Sulu.

"Aye, love, go ahead," Scotty told her. "Don't run the regen over his neck though. That mark stays."

"I know; it's a bonding thing. We've already been over it with McCoy and the Captain this morning." She gave him a reassuring smile.

"Did patient confidentiality go flying out of the window while I wasn't here?" McCoy asked.

Chapel sighed. "Oh, suck it up, McCoy. You can see that bite mark from a mile away. It's like the mother of all hickeys."

Sulu quickly turned his laugh into a cough when McCoy glared at him.

Chapel and Sulu managed to successfully shoo Scotty out of Sickbay so that she could take care of Sulu, mainly by Sulu pointing out all the things that could have happened in Engineering without Scotty there to yell at everyone, and soon Sulu was sitting up on the bed next to McCoy.

"You doing okay, kid?" McCoy asked once Chapel had finished her checks and wandered off.

"I really am," Sulu replied with a smile. "I thought I was gone, doc. That my mind was going to snap and everything that makes me me would disappear. Instead I got Monty, which sounds weird as hell but kept me sane, you know? He's a good man and he didn't expect anything from me in return, he just wanted to help. Actually I was the one who had to persuade him that I wanted more than a platonic bond."

"Really?" McCoy asked in surprise.

"I know!" Sulu laughed. "He thought I was only saying it because I felt like I owed him. It took me half the night to convince him that I really meant it."

McCoy chuckled. "No one's ever going to believe that, especially when he starts naming his new drinks after you. I can see it now...'Sexy Sulu'...'Pilot's Pleasure'..."

"Oh God, he will won't he?" Sulu groaned.

They both laughed and spent the rest of the afternoon playing a game of 'who's Sentinel's the worst?'. Which McCoy won spectacularly when Jim sent such a lurid description of what he was going to do to McCoy that night through the mental bond that McCoy had to bury his face in his pillow to try and calm down. Of course that particular description also had McCoy counting down the minutes until M'Benga announced him fit for release from Sickbay.

"You had better be naked already, Jim Kirk!" He yelled as he burst into Jim's quarters then stopped dead at the sight of Jim, who was, in fact, naked and was lying on the bed waiting for him. "Christ!"

"Stop staring and get your fine ass over here," Jim said. "Or I'll start without you."

McCoy growled and stalked to the bed, knocking Jim's hand away from where he'd begun to lazily stroke himself. "After all the teasing you've done today, it's my turn to play. Hands on the headboard and keep them there."

Jim shuddered and quickly complied with McCoy's order, wrapping his fingers around the bar of his headboard and staring at McCoy with pupils blown wide as McCoy swiftly stripped out of his own clothes.

"Now, I'm not sure that all the things you suggested to me today are actually physically possible, Jim," McCoy drawled as he reached out and stroked his hand over Jim's foot, "And then there were the things that are downright illegal..." McCoy's mouth followed the same path that his hand made as it brushed up Jim's leg. "But I will admit that a few of them showed promise.”

Jim gasped and bucked on the bed and McCoy gave a dirty chuckle. He glanced up to meet Jim’s eyes and felt an odd emotion flicker through the bond, just momentarily but it had definitely been there. He and Jim hadn’t begun their training as a bonded pair; in fact M’Benga was still pulling all the materials they’d need to work from together, so McCoy couldn’t place what the emotion was yet. He just knew that it wasn’t a good one.
He pulled back and studied Jim without the haze of lust and drew on his vast knowledge of James T Kirk as he struggled to figure what it was that he just felt.

“Come on, Bones. What the hell are you waiting for?” Jim wriggled on the bed in an enticing manner but McCoy wasn’t going to fall for the distraction.

“What’s wrong?” he asked.

Jim huffed. “I don’t know, the fact that you’ve stopped touching me maybe?”

McCoy caught the fact that Jim averted his eyes as he spoke. “Cut the crap, Jim. Something’s bothering you and I need you to tell me what it is before this goes any further.”

Letting go of the headboard, Jim sat up and gave McCoy an incredulous look. McCoy just stared calmly back, raising an eyebrow at him to emphasise how serious he was. With a frustrated noise, Jim jumped off the bed and stormed into the bathroom.

By the time he came back into the room, McCoy had climbed under the covers and was flicking through a PADD, waiting him out.

“Can you feel the bond?” Jim asked, leaning against the bathroom doorway and still naked as the day he was born.

McCoy nodded. He’d been able to feel it thrumming between them all day and had also occasionally caught the silver flickers of their shared shield out of the corner of his eye.

“It feels...Jesus, Bones, it feels amazing.” Jim rubbed the back of his neck. “It’s like I suddenly feel whole or some such sentimental bullshit that the centres shove down our throats. And I keep thinking...my parents had this. They had this amazing thing between them too.”

McCoy realised where this was going and had to fight the urge to get out of bed and hug Jim; he knew from experience that Jim needed to get all this out first.

“I hated my dad when I was growing up. I hated him for dying and leaving my mom all alone. Something had turned off inside her after The Kelvin. She said the right things, made the right actions but it was like living with an empty shell. In every way that counted my mom died the moment my father did and I blamed him for it,” Jim said, staring through McCoy as he got lost in the memories. “But since I became Captain I get it, you know? Why he did what he did. And all day, feeling this bond between me and you, I’ve been beginning to understand why Mom just shut down so completely after he died. Even after a day, if I lost this...lost you...but it probably won’t happen that way, will it? I’ll be the one going out just like my dad did and I’ve just condemned you to a fate like my mom’s.”

Heart clenching in sympathetic pain, McCoy looked at Jim. “Okay, I think it’s time we set down some ground rules. Rule number one: no more sitting on the damned Bridge, brooding about things that might not happen.”

Jim frowned at him. “We’re in Starfleet, Bones. On the flagship, it’s our job to go into dangerous situations.”

“And we’re not dead yet,” McCoy countered. “The only thing that’s changed from yesterday is that we’re bonded. We’re still living in a tin can floating in a vacuum. We’re still going to get into some truly ridiculous situations and then get back out of them by the skin of our teeth, just as we normally do. Yes, one day we might not get out of them but that’s the risk we take every day and, let’s face it, we’re always together anyway so if something happens to you then it’ll happen to me too.”

“But...”

“Jim,” McCoy said gently. “I’m not your mother and, despite what Pike and the other idiots tell you, you’re not your dad. We get to make our own future not be doomed to follow theirs. I don’t regret bonding with you, darlin’, not for a second and that’s not going to change no matter what happens in the future.”

Jim still looked a little sceptical so McCoy used the bond to show Jim just how much he meant that and was rewarded by a genuine and slightly awe-filled smile.

“Rule number two: no more hiding things from me and using sex as a distraction,” McCoy told him and he wasn’t just talking about when he got to Jim’s quarters. He’d realised that was what the telepathic porn show he’d been subjected to all day was really about. Speaking of which; “Rule number three: never send me your speculations on Spock’s sex life. I never want that mental image in my head again.”

Jim gave a surprised laugh but nodded his agreement. “Fair enough. What’s rule number four?”

McCoy grinned. “Rule number four: if you’re going to stand around naked, you’d better be planning on fucking me soon.”

Jim’s eyes grew dark at that and his gaze swept hungrily over McCoy. “I think that I can stick to that rule.”

When Jim literally jumped onto the bed and straddled him, McCoy laughed and then pulled him down into a passionate kiss.

 

The news that a little known planet called Prillovia had made enormous strides towards perfecting a Guide serum rocked the planet. Despite it's well documented and less than ideal beginnings (when a power hungry scientist tested the serum on live subjects including two kidnapped Starfleet officers) the serum managed to be perfected by Earth and Starfleet scientists and became a huge success. There was no shortage of people volunteering to become Guides and suddenly Sentinels who had all but given up hope of ever bonding were able to find compatible bondmates.

The impact was enormous. A sense of stability settled over Earth the likes of which had been sorely missing since the Narada disaster took so many of our best and brightest from us. New packs began to be set up in communities and this time the shroud of secrecy which had always surrounded Sentinels and Guides were dropped, allowing the entire community to become involved. Applications by Sentinels and their bonded Guides to Starfleet swelled ensuring a new generation of protectors watching over us from above, with many starships and starbases now having packs of their own.

The dawn of the new age of Sentinels and Guides also gained us a strong and long lasting friendship with Prillovia. The popular story of High Counsellor Bafjor and his love of Earth holomovies which prompted his desire to help Earth's Sentinels led, of course, to a holomovie of its own. The blockbuster starring Max Skaro was filmed entirely on location on Prillovia. The success of the holomovie made Prillovia a popular destination for travellers as well as other moviemakers but it was the success of the serum and the friendship offered to us that prompted Earth's Sentinels and Guides to claim the Prillovians as their brothers and sisters.

With many of the pair bonds now giving birth to a new generation, and the discovery that the artificially created Guide gene can be passed along genetically, the future is at last looking bright for the Sentinels and Guides of Earth.

Gray, G. (2266). Sentinels and Guides: The Dawning of a New Age. New York: Gutenberg Press.

Fin