Eight-year-old Jim Kirk had been just old enough to begin exploring his devious side. That he was a child genius was obvious to observers, and that he was a Kirk even more so; those few whom he could not charm he manipulated, and those even fewer immune to both actions he simply discarded as not being a part of whatever Plan he was intent upon at the time.
Ten-year-old Jim Kirk had the same personality, but also possessed the technical knowledge to accomplish his goals. He was an eager and well-mannered pupil, and within hours had the entire Engineering crew practically worshipping the ground he walked on. Everyone by this point knew Spock’s protectiveness of their little captain and so Experimental Sciences jumped to do the little pariah’s bidding if his innate charm couldn’t get what he wanted out of them.
On the second day since his turn into the "double digits," Spock caught him at the terminal in his old cabin, calmly hacking into the transmissions between the acting captain and the Insonti command central. Mentally thanking any and all deities that Jim had not decided to break into a transmission with Starfleet Command (because while he was capable of doing so, he was not capable of entirely masking his traces yet and Spock had other things to do with his time), he took the opportunity to explain to the child the situation in which he found himself.
Two hours of patient question-answering and explanation later, they were in the Observation Dome, watching the stars float lazily around them. It was a rare opportunity, this stellar cartography stint, for usually the ship was at warp and watching the intense swirl of light flashing past the windows was unpleasant for human vision. Spock had taken the young captain there, because it seemed even in his altered state to be still the most calming place on the ship for him.
“So…that’s why I can remember Sam, and the farm, but I can remember you and Bones with me here at the same age?” the child asked, frowning in concentration.
Spock nodded. “You will have two sets of memories which will slowly integrate as you age. When you regain your full age, which set is your true childhood and which set is this experimental de-aging will be perfectly clear to you. However, right now, your mind is struggling to assimilate the differences and you have no point of reference with which to decide that difference. Do not think overmuch about it, Jim; in time, it will become clear.”
The youngster shrugged. “Don’t have much choice, I guess. But I’m kinda tired of being a kid, Spock. If I’m the captain who’s taking care of my ship?”
“For the present, I am,” the Vulcan replied with understandably little enthusiasm. “We have hopes that this transformation is more than halfway finished at this time, as it has already been the time period we anticipated. You will soon be in your place again.”
“Wish I could remember,” the child sighed, looking out dreamily at the stars.
Spock was silent, for he could do nothing but echo the sentiment. He would not deny that these past weeks had been both instructive and, if he were entirely honest, somewhat enjoyable. He truly saw why the Regenratron was used by the Insonti people as a therapy device; it literally gave one the chance to make a new set of childhood memories, and to deal properly with trauma which had been inflicted as a child or adolescent. Jim had learned some valuable lessons, and he had indeed been a ray of sunlight, bringing joy to everyone with whom he came into contact.
But as the child aged, Spock’s awkwardness around him increased. He was not a parent, nor had any intention of ever being one; and certainly not of a human child. While the little one’s adoration of him had been flattering, and pleasant, that exact affection would become problematic when they both remembered these weeks – and that awkwardness would only increase as Jim aged, closer to an adult than a child. Add to that, the fact that Spock was not a starship captain, and while the crew seemed to genuinely appreciate his efforts it was, simply, not the same. He could not be Science Officer and captain, and had missed out upon much opportunity for scientific study due to his care for their resident child. While he did not regret this, it was nonetheless a factor which would not revert until the captain’s re-aging was completed.
He was more than ready for Jim to be Captain Kirk again, pleasant though this diversion had been.
The thought occurred to him, however, as they made to leave the Observation Dome, that ten years old was quite old enough for a child genius to grasp the concepts and strategy behind three-dimensional chess, and it had been far too long, it seemed, since he had played a game against that most intriguing of minds.
Perhaps this re-aging was not so unpleasant a necessity as he had originally thought.
“Commodore, do you realize the unique situation in which the command crew of the Enterprise is placed?”
Spock was not a politician, and years of close association with Captain James T. Kirk had given him no love for that particular breed of substandard humanity. However, he was a Vulcan, and it was unVulcan to show frustration with the idiocy of his superiors, however deserved the disrespect would have been.
Commodore Triberi sighed, and to his credit looked genuinely as unhappy as the crew were at the moment. “I do, Captain Spock; and if I had a choice in the matter I wouldn’t be chancing my head in asking you to do this. But I don’t have an alternative, and you probably don’t want Starfleet Command getting more involved with you than they already are, given your captain’s current condition, now do you?”
Spock had to admit that the less attention they attracted from the powers which could remove Jim from the Enterprise’s custody, the better off they would be. “Quite,” he replied succinctly. “And yet, Commodore, surely there is a smaller vessel more suited to perform the entirely innocuous task of ferrying a medical team to a little-used outpost in the next star system?”
Behind him, Uhura stifled a laugh at the perturbed look Spock was giving the viewscreen, though she understood completely. Hauling the Federation’s flagship off a mission, however boring that mission might be at the moment, to be a glorified medical taxicab for a team which were not even Starfleet members, was not their idea of wise resource allotment.
“Mr. Spock, there is no other ship within ten systems of your position which has the speed necessary to escort the personnel and emergency pharmaceuticals to the diseased planet. I understand your reluctance but there really is no alternative, if we are to minimize the death toll. I would not be making the request otherwise.”
Sitting somewhat stiffly in his borrowed chair, Spock saw no alternative but to acquiesce, and did so, albeit reluctantly. He ignored the Commodore’s frazzled-looking thanks and, with Montgomery Scott’s help, turned his attention to the problems which were sure to arise in transporting non-Federation personnel on a ship this size, minus the key component which usually kept missions like this from becoming diplomatic disasters, that being Captain Kirk's innate ability to somehow manage to charm nearly anyone he came in contact with. He was on his own, without the Kirk charisma to run the ship smoothly, and it did not promise to be a pleasant experience.
Ten minutes later he was comm-ed by a very harried-sounding Dr. McCoy, who had no qualms about shamelessly pleading to be given a break from a ten-year-old’s incessant curiosity and mechanical-minded genius.
Scotty grinned, making the final notations for speed and accommodation changes on his data-padd, and pretended to not notice their acting captain seemingly trying to shrink down into hopeful invisibility at the sounds of muffled chaos which filtered through the comm.
“So help me, Scotty, there’s a loaded hypo of Rigellian black virus with your name on it waiting in my cryo-unit! What the Sam Hill possessed you to teach the kid how to hot-wire a replicator!?”
“The lad needed something to occupy his attention, Doctor, and did ye really want him messin’ about with the mechanics of warp physics in a confined area?”
“Well you could have told him to practice somewhere other than my Sickbay! I asked the replicator for sterile spray cartridges and got a shot glass of God knows what!”
A stifled snicker sounded from the navigation console, but when Spock turned a dark gaze toward them both Sulu and Chekov were studiously working away at course computations.
Something shattered. “James Tiberius!”
“Ah…will just be in Engineering, seein’ about quarters for our guests, Cap'n,” Scott said hastily, darting into the turbolift as it opened to disgorge a yeoman with status reports for the Acting Captain’s signature.
Spock’s glare burnt a hole in the durasteel door as it shut behind the laughing engineer.
“Yeoman,” he said in a clipped greeting, accepting the pads and scrawling a signature across them as he skimmed their contents. “Would you be able to bring up a round of coffee for the Bridge crew when you return next?”
“Of course, sir,” the woman replied, smiling. The sexism behind making the female yeomen do the ‘fetching’ had still not quite been stamped out of Starfleet, but when the requests were made with as much courtesy as the gentle Vulcan gave to all indiscriminately, she didn’t mind it. “Three black, one with cream?”
Sulu, Chekov, and the Engineering lieutenant nodded with mechanical thanks, still working busily on course computations, and Uhura quietly asked for one sugar as well as the cream.
“Four black, Yeoman,” Spock corrected, signing a fuel consumption report.
Five pairs of eyes moved incredulously toward him.
After seconds of silence, he registered the looks he was getting and glanced up, eyebrow raised.
“I thought you did not drink coffee, sir,” Chekov was brave enough to venture, turning beet-red at being caught in his scrutiny.
“Until four weeks ago, Ensign, I also did not make a habit of babysitting a hyperactive child after four nights’ worth of incomplete sleep cycles,” was the dry reply. “I believe the Terran expression to be, ‘it is going to be one of those days’?”
The medical team the Enterprise picked up from Outpost Four-Alpha-Epsilon was a team of civilians, which automatically made them more alien than the non-humanoids the crew encountered on a regular basis. Civvies aboard ship were a pain in the neck at best, usually, and more often than not were more trouble to the crew than a horde of Klingons would be. They also had immunity from any but local law, unless the captain of the vessel could twist regulations to prove that the crew was being endangered by their general annoying worthlessness. Even though the group was only aboard for forty-eight hours while the Enterprise sped through space toward the disease-ridden planet of Cyrus III, and even though they were confined to one deck by regulations themselves, that was more than enough time to cause trouble.
Security Chief Giotto believed he could be forgiven the whimper which escaped him when he was notified of a possible altercation escalating in Rec Room Three. Honestly, he could see why non-humans rarely wanted to serve aboard mostly-humanoid ships. Security was actually excited about having something to do besides monitor boring surveillance footage, however, and were ready for action in less than their usual time.
He stepped into Rec Three and saw immediately that this was not going to be pretty. How do you deal with a ten-year-old who was in reality your own captain, squaring off against three adults twice his size?
“Not good, that is,” Turner muttered from behind him, seeing that one of the three men was already writhing on the floor, red-faced and moaning.
Giotto stiffened as the larger of the two still standing grabbed Jim by the neck of his shirt, hauling him up on tiptoes despite the child’s frantic struggling to free his airway.
And, to top his lovely day off, he then saw their Acting Captain enter the same room, no doubt alerted by someone, and freeze in his tracks at what he saw.
“Oh, crap, someone told Spock!”
“Intercept him before we have a few dead humans on our hands and a galaxy-class lawsuit,” Giotto snapped, pointing toward the Vulcan, and a quad of Security personnel immediately darted to obey.
“As for you,” he snarled, striding up to the hulking civilian and giving the back of his head the business end of a phaser with enough force the thud could be heard all around them, “take your hands off the kid or I swear you’ll be out an airlock in the next ten minutes!”
The man howled at the impact of the blunt edge against his skull, and dropped the child, who began coughing, rubbing at his throat where the shirt had constricted against it.
“There’s something fundamentally wrong with someone who harms a child, no matter what the provocation, and you’re dead sure not going to do it on this ship, mister!”
“The little brat needs to learn how to behave toward his elders!” The man on the floor, one of the medical personnel, spat back at them as he struggled to his feet. “He’s lucky I didn’t –“
“Finish that sentence and you’re really not going to like anyone in this room,” Turner warned, hand on his phaser as he backed the three men away from their small captain.
Seeing that his Security force had delayed but not deterred the most overprotective Vulcan he’d ever encountered, Giotto winced as the tension in the room ratcheted up about two thousand notches when the being in question stalked up to them.
Spock was entirely expressionless, eyes devoid of anything other than pure ice. That in itself was scary, because they all knew no one was as pure Vulcan as their Vulcan was when he was in reality restraining the urge to kill someone.
“I trust you had extreme provocation for your actions, Doctor Bannerman?” the acting captain asked coolly. “Extreme enough to justify assault against a minor?”
“Look, I don’t know who that little hellion is or why he's on board a starship but he had no right to –“
Turner jumped as a blue blur whipped around him like a striking cobra. In an instant the angry civilian medic was pinned against the wall by a much taller, and stronger, figure. Without using any weapon but his eyes and force of Vulcan scariness, Spock had effectively impaled the man in place like a butterfly pinned on a corkboard. Frankly, Turner thought the butterfly would be in a safer position.
“You will not refer to the child or any other member of this crew in such derogatory manner again, or you will be ejected in an escape pod with a transmitter, to find another transport to Cyrus III for your entourage, Doctor. Is that clear?”
Open-mouthed, the physician gaped for a few minutes and then nodded, bristling.
Spock turned to the young captain, who was currently trying ineffectively to hide behind the nearest redshirt. “Jim, what did you do to provoke such a reaction?” he asked sternly.
Hazel eyes flashed in defiance at him, enough that it made him pause; this was the adult coming out, and no longer the child. “I’m not sorry!” the child snapped, arms folded.
“Answer the question,” Spock said, deadly quiet.
“He made a – a dirty joke about Lieutenant Uhura!” the child said, glaring darkly at the man in question. “So I kicked him!”
“And he aimed a bit higher than the shin, Mr. Spock,” a lieutenant from Hydroponics added in an undertone of admiration.
“That’ll make ‘im think next time he wants to say something like that about one of my crew!” Jim snapped, looking for a moment so much like his older self that several nearby crewmen caught their breaths, realizing that for the first time that something inside the young man seemed to understand exactly who he was.
Giotto choked on a laugh. It was very, very Jim Kirk, and also very, very childish, the method of dealing with the situation.
Spock did not appear to see the humor in it, and to be fair he did have a potential diplomatic incident to diffuse and a civilian to placate. “Jim, return to your cabin and reflect upon your behavior,” he said, in a tone which brooked no opportunity for argument.
“Physical violence against another being is never warranted when an alternative is possible; you are well aware of this, and you chose to disregard that directive. Whatever the cause, what you did was not permissible. Return to your cabin.”
The child’s eyes filled with shock, and before anyone could make a move he had fled the room, face scarlet with embarrassment.
Bannerman smirked, raising a languid hand to patronizingly clap the blue-clad shoulder. Giotto cocked an eyebrow at the idiot; did he want to die today? “Well, it’s good to see that you have control over your…”
The medic’s words were cut off by a loom of silent, deadly Vulcan rage and a vise-like hand twisting his arm into place trapped against his body, which was again pinned against the wall in an instant. The man immediately froze; he was apparently not stupid enough to risk making the Acting Captain more angry than he already was. Gulping, the man looked up nose-to-Science-insignia at the impassive mask before him, then toward the Enterprise crew.
"Oh, he could kill you, and we'd cover for him, yeah," one of Spock's Xenobotany lieutenants drawled from a nearby table in the awkward silence.
The man swallowed hard.
“Doctor Bannerman, If you speak of anyone aboard this ship again in such a manner as you did regarding the lieutenant, I will personally see to it that you are arraigned before a Starfleet council for harassment and assault of an officer,” Spock said with quiet deadliness, and without releasing the arm he held pinning the man to the wall.
“You could never make that stick, with no evidence and no witnesses,” the man scoffed, only half-heartedly.
“Oh he’ll have witnesses.”
“And halloa, a ship full of level three or above computer techs who can hack any records system in the galaxy?” Turner snorted. “You’ll be lucky if we don’t set you up with a right lot of evidence to convict you of child trafficking or the like.”
Bannerman blanched ghostlike, and Spock stepped back, hands clenched behind his back in customary fashion. “You and your entourage will remain in your quarters for the remaining twenty-four hours of this journey,” he stated, not a question.
“You can’t do that!”
“You’d prefer the brig, then?” Turner asked mildly.
The man gulped, seeing the sea of angry faces around him, and hastily retreated with his friends, not stupid enough to brave a swarm of enraged and loyal crewman.
Spock turned to Giotto, who holstered his phaser and stood at attention.
“See that they do not exit their quarters until beam-out. I do not wish to see them again in any capacity, is that understood?”
“Loud and clear, sir,” the SC replied. “And, Mr. Spock,” he added quietly, as the Vulcan turned to leave.
Spock paused, and looked back, eyes expressionless.
“Don’t be too hard on the kid, sir,” he said quietly. “His intentions were pure enough, and he is still just a child.”
“I am aware of that, Mr. Giotto.” Something flickered in the Vulcan’s eyes, softening them slightly. “Your loyalty and support of the captain is…appreciated.”
And with that, he was gone. Giotto sighed. Poor fool just doesn’t get it, he thought, somewhat pityingly. For the moment, he is the captain, and he's got the same loyalty if he just looks around for it.
McCoy was of little help when informed of the events, siding with the child instead of Spock, which didn't bode well for the upcoming argument sure to follow on Deck Five. Giotto was perfectly happy to wash his hands of the child-rearing drama and return to the more enjoyable task of making sure the climate controls and water pressure in Bannerman’s cabin were mysteriously offline for the remainder of the trip.