Chapter 1: Sent Away
Prince James Tiberius was in a crappy mood. He’d been cooped up in his family’s home for days on end without any end in sight. Or so it had seemed. He was finally going to get to go out into the fresh air and beautiful mountains near his home yesterday when a storm came in and he couldn’t go out after all.
With his brother, George Samuel, currently in charge as their parents were off planet, Prince James’ freedom was even more restricted.
He peered outside his bedroom door to see that the guard Sam—as his brother was known—had arranged to watch him, stood outside like he needed to be kept cooped up in the room.
“Keenser, what are you doing?” he asked the guard.
Keenser, a rather small but deadly alien who rarely spoke and never told him what he was, stared at him. “Stay put.”
The stare continued, but then Keenser shrugged. “Your brother meets with outsiders. His orders.”
Prince James closed the door and went back into his room. But he was hardly defeated. He went to the window and looked out. The day was beautiful and full of sunshine. He should be out in it. He flung open the window and looked down. His room was three stories up, but he’d spent days fashioning a rope that should do the trick.
And if it didn’t? He’d die trying he guessed.
He dressed quickly in the casual clothes he’d hidden from everyone. He wasn’t supposed to have them, but he’d bought them one day from a peddler. Then he grabbed his rope and flung it out the window and to the ground below.
The whole time he climbed the rope down, Prince James feared discovery, but made it to the ground, his booted feet landing safely.
With a relieved smile, he ran for it, toward the forest that surrounded the palace, and beyond to the green grass covered mountains.
The minute he reached them, the place he thought of as his sanctuary, away from it all, all of them, he spun around, breathing deeply, then falling into the grass, laughing with joy.
He’d fallen asleep in the grass, on the mountain, and by the time he woke, darkness had fallen. Prince James ran as fast as he could back to the palace, not with a lot of hope that his absence wouldn’t be noticed.
Sure enough as he approached the palace, he saw a group of guards forming together, with his brother standing nearby and Keenser beside him, both looking grim.
“Here I am,” Prince James said, breathlessly.
Sam glared at him. “Where have you been?”
“I went out for some air. I fell asleep.”
“Fell asleep? We’ve been frantic!”
“I am ‘Your Royal Highness’ to you,” Sam snarled. “You know the situation here is unstable right now and you just run off. Tricking your guard. Going out the window? You could have broken your beck.”
“I didn’t though.”
“Because of sheer luck only. What are we to do with you?”
“Well…” Jim fell silent at his brother’s withering stare.
“You will be silent right now,” Sam said. “Go to your room.”
“I’m not a child, I…”
Prince James turned away and as he headed into the palace he heard, his brother say, “How can I make him stay and listen to what I have to say?”
It was hours later when Keenser told him that Prince George Samuel wanted to see him immediately.
“Come in, James,” his brother said, when he arrived. “Have a seat.”
He sat before his brother, expectantly. He wasn’t sure what his punishment would be, but he was sure it would be something. The dungeon, maybe? Attending a bunch of fetes? It could be anything.
“Listen, James, I am unsure when our parents will be returning.” George Samuel steepled his fingers together. “I’ve kept this from you, but word is they are being held prisoner in some unknown location.”
“What? Why? When were you going to tell me this?”
“There is nothing you could do having the knowledge and I felt it would be better for you to be not be told. But now…the situation here is untenable right now. And you won’t listen. I can’t keep you safe the way things are now. Our enemies are looking for any vulnerabilities in our land, in our family.”
“Our enemies? How much have you been keeping from me, Sam?”
“It was in your best interests. And so is this.”
“What? What’s in my best interest?”
“I’m sending you away, James. Off this planet and to the planet Vulcan.”
He straightened in his chair. “Vulcan? For what?”
“Prince Spock has children and he needs a tutor for them. He’s requested a human tutor due to his own mother being human. He wishes for the children to learn both human and Vulcan ways. You are perfect for this duty.”
“What?” James laughed. “But I’m a prince, not a tutor.”
Sam smiled slightly. “You are not a prince right now. You will be posing as a tutor, Jim Kirk. It’s better for you to be in hiding right now.”
“You have to trust me, James. This is the only way I know at this point to keep you safe. Vulcan is safe. And working as a tutor for Prince Spock’s children is safe.”
“Died years ago. He is a widower. Pack your bags, James. You are headed to Vulcan. You will be met by a Nyota Uhura when your shuttle lands. She is Prince Spock’s private secretary. I understand she is human as well. She will take you to the Royal Palace and get you set up.”
“Will she be aware of who I am?”
“No. I can’t risk that. I don’t trust anyone right now. You are a simple tutor, Jim Kirk.”
“Here we are, Mr. Kirk.” Ms. Uhura stood back after opening the large ornate front doors leading into the Vulcan Royal Palace.
He tried a smile, but she just gazed back at him coolly, waiting for him to go inside.
He stepped inside. Uhura followed and closed the doors.
“His Royal Highness has been informed of your arrival. I’ll go and get him. Wait here.”
Jim nodded. Watched her leave. Gazed up at the winding staircase that led to the next floor. The flowers in the design looked like gold leaf.
“Impressive,” he said, whistling.
He walked forward, noticing a door leading to another room, or so he guessed. He stepped over and eyed the jewels embedded there with a shake of his head. Definitely wealthier than his family.
He opened the door and looked inside. It appeared to be some kind of ballroom. Did Vulcans dance? His research hadn’t indicated they had, but then again, Prince Spock’s mother had been human.
Jim jumped and turned around, facing a tall, slender Vulcan dressed in elaborate black robes with a pointed collar, gold braiding, and a jeweled medallion on a chain around his neck.
“Yeah.” Jim cleared his throat. “Yes, sir.”
“I am Prince Spock. That room is not related to your employment. Please exit and close the door.”
Jim winced, but did exactly that. He had to admit that Prince Spock was insanely gorgeous.
“If you will join me over here, I will summon the children.”
Jim walked over to where Prince Spock moved to, by the foot of the stairs. “How long have they been without a tutor?”
“You will be the fourth one in the last year.”
“Wait. What? You had three others?”
Spock stared at him. “Fifth. There was another late last year that I forgot.”
Jim exhaled. “What’s wrong with them?”
Prince Spock arched his brow. “There is nothing wrong with my children, Mr. Kirk. There was something wrong with the tutors.” He paused. “Obviously.”
Jim smiled. Tried not to show how shocked he was when Prince Spock drew out another chain from within his robe, and this chain had a very thin, golden whistle on it. He couldn’t imagine what it was for.
Noticing Jim’s stare, Spock said, “I use this to call the children.”
His smile faded and he tried to ignore the headache he was developing as Spock put the whistle to his mouth and blew.
Chapter 2: The Children
Jim guessed there was some pattern to the whistles, but it just sounded like a bunch of noise to him and he could barely keep the wince off his face as Prince Spock continued to make the ear-piercing racket.
Then he heard what sounded like hundreds of doors opening and slamming and then stomping feet, although he supposed it could be marching.
Then the first child appeared, a teenaged girl, it seemed, dressed in some kind of boring gray robe, that Jim quickly realized was some kind of uniform because the next child that appeared on the landing was a boy, dressed in an identical gray robe, then another girl appeared, and a another boy, and Jim began to gape as they came down the winding staircase.
“How-how many are there?”
“Seven,” Spock said calmly.
“Seven,” he repeated faintly.
The last one was a small girl maybe three or four at most, and everyone of them had dark hair and pointy ears, and looked stoically Vulcan as they stood before their father and Jim.
Spock looked to Jim. “I will now do their individual whistles. You will learn them and use them with your own whistle.”
But the prince ignored him. And blew.
The first teenaged girl stepped forward. “T’Enna.”
The Spock blew again, and the boy stepped out.
And then it continued.
Then the littlest one stepped forward and then back in line without stating her name.
Spock cleared his throat. “That is Amanda.”
Jim blinked. “Amanda?”
“Named after my mother.” Spock withdrew another whistle and made to hand it to Jim. “Now, here is the call I will do when I want you to come.”
“Oh no.” Jim pushed the whistle back at the prince. “No. With all due respect, Your Royal Highness, but I’m not using a whistle and I won’t answer to one either. I’m not in the military and neither are the children.”
Spock stared at him. “I see. You are a peculiar tutor, Mr. Kirk.”
Jim smiled. “No doubt.”
Spock’s eyebrow went up. “I will leave you to get acquainted as I have business to attend to. Dinner is precisely at seven, Mr. Kirk. Do not be late.”
“Of course, Your Royal Highness.”
Spock spun on his heels and disappeared from the room leaving Jim with the seven children who stood at attention before him.
“Uh. At ease.” He flicked his hands at them, and they relaxed marginally. “So, okay, your names again. T’Enna, Arev, T’Lar, Satok, T’Raya, T’Pak, and Amanda.”
“You’re very smart,” T’Raya said. “You got our names right the first time. The others have not.”
“But that shirt is quite ugly,” T’Pak put in. “It looks like you fished it out of the trash.”
T’Enna stepped forward. “I do not need a human tutor. I am likely already smarter than you.”
“T’Enna,” Arev said under his breath.
Jim smiled. “Maybe you are, maybe you aren’t. I guess we’ll see soon enough.”
It was Satok who stepped close to Jim now, peering at Jim’s face rather intently. “How many Vulcan children have you tutored before?”
“None? How many other children have you tutored then?”
“None,” Jim said cheerfully. “The seven of you will be my first.”
“Oh. Then perhaps we shall have to give you pointers,” Arev said. “How to behave around Father and things like that.”
Suddenly Uhura stepped forward, clapping her hands. “All right, children. It’s time for me to show Mr. Kirk to his room. And you should return to your studies until dinner. Come, Mr. Kirk.”
Jim followed Uhura up the stairs, conscious of the children watching him, and a strange tickly, wiggling feeling at his back. He started moving his shoulders back and forth.
Uhura looked at him. “Something the matter?”
“No. Just.” Jim stopped on the stairs and reached behind him into his shirt. His hand touched something slimy and moving. “Ack!” He pulled it out and some frog-like creature with antennae hopped out and onto the stairs.
The children stepped forward, holding their breaths, anticipation on their young faces.
Jim shook his head and continued up the stairs, aware that the children deflated at his reaction.
Uhura smirked. “You’re lucky. The last tutor they tried a snake.”
She led him down a hallway and to the last room on the right. She waved her hand across a panel and the door opened. “We’ll need to reprogram it for you to access it instead of me. But here you are.”
Jim stepped inside and she followed. It was a simple room, with a fairly big bed, a dresser for clothing, a closet, and a private bathroom to the side. He nodded. “Looks good.”
“In the closet is your uniform robe.”
“The prince prefers the tutors to wear uniforms similar to what the children wear,” Uhura explained. “Your boss sent along your measurements so that one could be made ahead of time.”
“My boss,” Jim murmured. Yes, he imagined that was exactly how Sam saw himself. The boss of everyone. Well, Jim, supposed, with their parents missing, Sam pretty much was. Thus why he was there posing as a tutor.
“However,” Uhura continued, “if your preference is to wear clothing of your own, Prince Spock does not specifically object. The uniform is merely a preference not a rule.” She eyed the windows. “Those curtains will be taken down and replaced with blinds tomorrow. It was supposed to be done before your arrival, Mr. Kirk. My apologies.”
“Mister is kind of formal. You can just call me Kirk. Or Jim, really. Honestly no one has called me mister.” Which was true. They called him Prince James or Your Highness.
“Very well, Jim. At least when no one else is around. In professional settings I will call you Kirk.”
Jim looked curiously at the curtains. “Why are you getting rid of them?”
“The last tutor demanded curtains and His Royal Highness complied. After she left, rather in a rush, I might add, they were just left up until a new tutor could be hired. Usually the windows have blinds. They are voice-operated of course.”
“Of course. What will be done with the curtains?”
Uhura pursed her lips. “They’ll be thrown away, of course. Why?”
“Well. I might use them for something. Clothing, I guess.”
She shook her head. “You can keep them if you want, but if there’s any clothing you need that you didn’t bring with you, just give me your order and it will be obtained for you. Now, please remember to be on time for dinner. You are free until then.”
“Thank you.” As soon as she left, Jim took out his communicator and typed the simple message, “Here.”
As he turned toward the bed, he noticed a large shape under the covers.
“What the hell?”
He approached the bed and heard a low growl. He quickly snatched off the covers to reveal a big furry animal that…
“A sehlat! How the hell did you get in here?”
Jim thought about his research and suddenly remembered they loved to be scratched under their chin.
“Nice, uh, boy? I dunno.” He put his hand out toward the beast’s chin and rubbed. For a second the beast remained stiff and tense, but then very slowly his eyes closed, and he began to relax and flop onto Jim’s bed.
Jim shook his head. “No wonder all those tutors left. Little brats.” He got onto the bed next to the sehlat, who now exposed his belly for Jim to rub. “Hmm. You and I are going to be good friends I think.” He noticed the collar around the beast’s neck. He was tagged. “I-Chaya.”
Chapter 3: An Awkward Dinner
Jim came awake to a dinner bell. Well, more like a gong. It was very loud and vibrated through his entire body. For a moment, he simply lay there on his bed, staring at the ceiling. When had they gotten a dinner gong like that? George…
A furry body rolled over and a butt was shoved against him.
Oh! A sehlat butt.
“Oh, Crap!” Jim scrambled up. He turned his gaze toward the curtain covered windows and saw that it appeared to be dark outside. He’d been tired, sure, but he hadn’t meant to fall asleep. And how the hell long was that bell going to ring?
He hurried over to the mirror in the room and winced at his appearance. His hair stood up on the left side of his head and he had sheet marks all over his face. Wistfully he looked toward the bathroom. He really needed a shower, but he guessed it would have to wait until after dinner.
“I don’t even really look presentable,” he said to I-Chaya, who looked distinctly disgruntled he had vacated the bed. “At home, I’d just order food brought to me.”
He sighed and tried to fix his hair.
“You’re not at home, Jim.”
And he felt that right down to the pit of his stomach.
At least that horrible ringing had stopped, but that meant he’d better hurry. One of the last things Uhura had said to him was not to be late to dinner.
Great first impression.
Jim gave up on his hair, wrenched open the bedroom door, and ran down the corridor toward the long winding staircase. He noticed a servant giving him the evil eye, which Jim wisely ignored, as he ran down the stairs and across what seemed an endless tile floor that his boots slid on as he ran toward the dining room.
Another servant stood before double doors staring rather balefully at Jim. This one looked properly Vulcan snooty.
“Hi,” Jim gasped out breathlessly. “Is this the dining room? I’m the new tutor.”
He received no verbal response from the Vulcan, but he did open the doors and gesture for Jim to go inside.
“Thanks,” Jim muttered.
He rushed in.
Seated at a large dining room table were Prince Spock, Uhura, and his seven children. Prince Spock sat at the far head from where Jim stood. They all sat at the table, staring at him, clearly not having been fed yet.
Jim was torn between feeling like he ought to crawl away and reminding himself he was a prince himself, damn it, and didn’t have to put up with this.
Except, yes, he did.
He stepped forward.
“I apologize for being late.”
Spock inclined his head. “Please have a seat, Mr. Kirk.”
There was only the seat closest to him available and it was the one opposite of Spock, as the children and Uhura were seated in the side seats. Jim noticed Uhura was carefully not meeting his gaze. The children though were openly staring at him.
He moved forward and sat down. He jumped up instantly as he sat on a pile of rocks. “Ahh!”
The children leaned forward in their chairs as Jim looked down at the chair. He brushed them off.
“Mr. Kirk, is there a problem?” Prince Spock asked.
Jim smiled and sat down. “No. No. Just, um, you know. Got a chill.”
The children sat back in their chairs.
“Do try and be on time for dinner in the future, Mr. Kirk. Punctuality is something I require in those that work for me.”
“Certainly, Spock, er…Your Royal Highness.”
Uhura looked to a female Vulcan standing off to the side. “You may bring in the dinner now.”
Suddenly doors opened to the side and several servants began to bring out bowls of what looked like a rather thick orange soup to place in front of all of them.
Spock cleared his throat. “Now, as I was about to tell my children…”
“You’ll forgive me, Your Royal Highness, but I’d like to just say something first, if you will allow,” Jim said quickly.
Spock put down his napkin. “Very well.”
“I just wanted to thank the children for the welcome gift I received upon my arrival.”
Jim smiled. “Yes. It was very kind. And I’m sure they must have guessed how awkward and intimidating it must have been for me to be beginning a new position here, and so their thoughtfulness was much appreciated.”
He noticed the children looking down at their bowls of soup.
Spock arched a brow. “And what was this welcome gift?”
“Well. I’m a little reluctant to say.”
The prince pursed his lips. “Very well, then, if you will allow me to continue speaking, Mr. Kirk…”
“A sehlat,” Jim said.
Jim nodded. “A sehlat named I-Chaya.”
“They gave you I-Chaya? Mr. Kirk…”
“Actually, Mr. Kirk, I-Chaya is a family pet of sorts,” Uhura interrupted. “I hope that he didn’t disturb you too much.”
“Not at all. He’s adorable.”
The children looked up at him with wide eyes.
“Adorable,” Spock repeated, then shook his head. “Are you quite finished?”
“Yes. Yes I am.”
Another servant approached the prince and handed him a message, which he quickly perused, then put down.
T’Enna pushed back her chair. “Father, May I be excused?”
“You have not finished dinner.”
She visibly deflated, but picked up her spoon to dip it into the soup.
“Children, I am departing for a meeting in the morning,” Prince Spock announced. “And I shall be gone five days.”
“Five days!” T’Pak exclaimed, but cast her gaze downward when Spock looked her way.
“But you only just returned,” Arev spoke up.
“Affirmative, but it cannot be helped. Duty requires it. I will be joining your grandfather. When I return I will be bring my brother, Sybok, back with me.”
“Uncle Sybok!” The children seemed delighted at this. Well, Jim thought, Vulcan delighted.
“Yes,” Spock replied. “As well as Baroness T’Pring.”
There was no exclamation or reaction at the mention of the Baroness, Jim noted. All of their expressions went unfailingly neutral.
If Prince Spock noticed this or was bothered by it, he gave no indication.
“Father,” T’Enna began. “May I…”
He sighed ever so slightly. “Yes, T’Enna. You are excused.”
She got up immediately and hurried out as Jim watched her go curiously.
“Now,” Prince Spock said. “Please eat your dinner. When you are finished, you are free from study for the remainder of the evening until bed. In the morning, I am certain your new tutor will have lesson plans for you.” His eyes met Jim’s across the table.
Jim smiled slightly and nodded. “Yes, of course.”