“Almost done,” the child hollered out the ajar bathroom door, and McCoy sent out a fervent prayer of thanks. It had been a long evening, though he believed a good one. Spock was currently finishing up ship’s business on the captain’s terminal, and also making sure to block access from the terminal to any vital areas which the child need not see yet.
He decided to scan the youngster through the open door as the child finished brushing his teeth. When Jim closed the door for privacy to use the facilities, he turned and moved over to the desk.
“I think you should know he’s aged eighteen months already,” he said quietly. “I thought as much earlier in the evening.”
Spock halted in his typing and looked up. “He is now nearly twelve years old?”
McCoy nodded. “Obviously the events of the day have done their job in teaching him the right kind of lessons between that mess in the rec room earlier and your chat with him. But given his last leaps have been larger age gaps, and the majority of his changes appear to take place while he is sleeping probably as the body’s defense against the massive mental and physical drain of the its resources, I wouldn’t be surprised if the change continues either overnight or sometime tomorrow. You need to be ready for that possibility, because you’re the one staying in the next cabin. I’m the next deck down; if something serious is wrong you’ll have to be prepared for a minute or two until I can get up here.”
The Vulcan nodded, looking for just a moment inestimably weary.
“I’m done!” the child announced, stalking out of the bath in his pajamas.
“Go back and wash your hands,” McCoy said without looking up from the medical tricorder.
“Properly, and with soap.”
Jim muttered something and re-entered the bath, grumbling. Spock raised an eyebrow.
“Like any kid that age will do it properly without being prompted!”
“I did, Doctor,” was the deadpan reply.
“Yeah, and look what a lovely human you turned out to be,” the physician snorted, eyes twinkling at the indignant look he received.
Their young charge careened out of the bathroom with an inarticulate yell and dove into his bed, whereupon he grinned angelically at the twin looks of exasperation he received.
“To be so energetic after such an exhaustive day is not logical,” Spock stated, making the physician hide his laugh at the sight of the dismal look. They were both ready to be relieved of child-rearing duty, but Spock more so than anyone else since it had been the greatest strain upon him.
Hopefully, they didn’t have much farther to go.
“What, don’t I get a story tonight?” the boy asked plaintively, as they moved to lower the lights.
“You’re almost twelve years old, Jim-boy. Old enough to go to sleep without adult help, aren’t you?”
Jim scowled, obviously miffed. “You just don’ love me any more now that I’m not a cute bratty four-year-old,” he mumbled, curling up under the covers with an injurious sniff.
McCoy sighed, lowering the lights. “Annnnd here we go into the emo teenage years,” he muttered under his breath. Then, in a louder tone, “We do still love you, kid.”
“Though your current behavior does not much differ from that of said ‘bratty four-year-old,’” came Spock’s unexpected dry observation from out of the darkness.
The child snickered into his pillow, curling up with his stuffed panda in apparent non-offense.
“Look, kiddo, if you start feelin’ sick during the night you comm Spock and then me, okay?” the doctor said, leaning over the small figure in the bunk. “You’re going to start having one heck of a hormone imbalance in addition to the usual issues we have with this whole process, so don’t pull the hero act and refuse to ask for help if you need it.”
“’Kay. Can I have a cookie before –“
“No,” the doctor grunted, moving to leave before the child could ask for anything else. “Along with teenage hormones comes acne and weight issues and that’s all you’re gonna need, is one more complication with this.”
“Aww, c’mon, Bones! Just one?”
“I said no. Now shush, you.”
Spock stayed a moment longer to ensure the child was in need of nothing, before he too adopted the better part of valor and retreated from the room.
“You know he’s in there reading with a flashlight under the covers,” the doctor sighed as he moved down the hall toward the lift.
“As long as he is content to do so in silence I have no objections,” Spock replied tiredly. “Good night, Doctor.”
“’Night, Spock.” He was almost at the lift before he turned and hollered back, unmindful of the passing officers who studiously ignored any and all that went on on this particular deck, “And you’re looking a little peaky yourself – get some sleep, you hear me?”
“I believe they could hear you in the Delta Quadrant, Doctor,” Spock sighed, and entered his own cabin.
At 0630 the next morning, Spock was abruptly woken from the first sound sleep he had had in many days by a minor Gold Alert on his computer, indicating that their child captain had left his cabin next door.
This was not in itself worrisome; his first thought was that the child was hungry and in search of a snack; or else he could not sleep and had gone to the observation dome. As he was no longer five years old and had, to some extent, run of the ship provided he did not disturb the crewmen at work, that was not a crisis in itself.
However, 0900 hours later came and went, and Spock had not been able to locate the young captain.
He respected privacy, but he was acting captain and as such a member of his crew might possibly be in danger. Jim may have wished some time alone, but he knew better than to disappear for longer than thirty minutes without checking in with the department head of whatever section he lingered in; that had been policy set up for several days now since his last transformation.
“We gotta find the kid, Spock,” McCoy said worriedly, after another half-hour of checking the captain’s usual haunts. “Even if he’s just runnin’ around getting re-acquainted with the ship he’s going to be sick here if he doesn’t get some supplements into him.”
Regretting the breach of privacy, Spock knew the doctor was correct and moved to the closest wall computer terminal. “Computer, location of James T. Kirk, former captain, on temporary medical leave.”
“There is no record of a crewman by that name aboard the Enterprise.”
McCoy swore. “He didn’t. I installed that transponder for a reason!”
Despite the profanity, Spock wholeheartedly agreed with the sentiment and resisted the urge to slump against the wall in the knowledge. “A simple pulse on the appropriate wavelength from any basic engineering technology, or even a tricorder tuned to the right frequency, will disrupt that signal so long as he carries the instrument on his person. I believe we may presume that he has completed the next step in the transformation as you surmised, Doctor.”
“So he’s hiding out somewhere, scared to death, until he can figure out what’s going on and where he is,” the doctor groaned, massaging his temples. “PTSD, probable paranoia, definite malnutrition and dehydration, and he’s still Jim Kirk; if he doesn’t want to be found then I doubt we’ll be able to find him, not on this ship. Tell me again why you didn’t just lock him in his room like I suggested last night?!”
Spock flinched almost imperceptibly, and the physician saw. Lowering his voice, he shook his head, one hand pinching the bridge of his nose. “That’s not fair, Spock…I’m sorry.”
The Vulcan gave a minute shake of the head. “Recriminations at this juncture are illogical and counter-productive, Doctor. At the moment, locating the captain before he incurs physical or mental damage is our top priority. He will have two sets of memories vying for dominance in his mind; the original set, the last of which is whatever point in the timeline he currently is after the genocide of Tarsus IV – and the second set, which enables him to recognize his surroundings and his crew as non-threats. If the second set has been superseded in his mind by the first set, then he may very well not recognize us or the ship until the mind settles itself.”
“Gonna send out a GQ?”
“To place the crew on General Quarters would only serve to warn the child that we are searching for him. If he does not wish to be found, then he will not be found by the usual means.”
Spock set off toward the lift. McCoy had to hurry to catch up with his companion’s ridiculously long legs. “What’re you gonna do, then? If he’s in anything like the physical condition I expect he doesn’t have long before he’s going to be in pretty bad shape…the replicators, Spock!”
The Vulcan gave a small nod, eyes glinting in approval. “I should be able to track unauthorized access to food and beverage replicators, as that most likely will be his first priority. Since he is technically on Medical Leave, his access codes are unauthorized for those replicators and should send up an alert. Failing that, I can back-trace his authorization codes from the ship’s computer, used when he erased records of his existence and masked his presence aboard. That will take more time than we most likely have; it would be prudent to divide the search responsibilities between us and a few discreet crewmen.”
“I’ll get on the replicator angle and Chapel will have Sickbay ready for him when we find him,” the CMO vowed fervently.
“And I will of course inform you as soon as I am aware of any further developments.”
Said developments were over two hours in processing. Jim Kirk had disappeared from his cabin literally without a trace five hours before, erasing the knowledge which the computer needed to track his movements. Spock was inclined by this point to believe that the child retained at least some of his knowledge of the Enterprise herself, else he would not have been able to remain hidden from both ship’s sensors and a discreet Security sweep for so long. Not even Montgomery Scott, who knew the ship well enough to navigate it blind, had been able to locate him in the most remote hiding places he knew. Spock had searched the usual areas himself after seeing that there had been no unauthorized access to replicators nor had anyone reported food or beverages mysteriously disappearing from the very few places real food and drink were stored aboard. McCoy and his staff had attempted to track the child by using medical’s databases and sensors to sweep the ship looking for signs of malnutrition and/or underage life signatures.
Nothing. Their child genius was just that – a genius, and he was now no longer a child with a child’s mind.
Spock checked in with the alpha shift Bridge crew and assumed watch at 1100 hours despite the minor drama which was unfolding aboard; duty was duty, and he had a responsibility to Jim’s ship. He did, however, inform those closest to the captain of his status, as they had a right to know. While most of them were of little use on the Bridge, Chekov did spend an inordinate amount of time on the intra-comm with the Medical and Science departments, trying everything they could think of to track the young man; from scanning for any life-sign showing signs of intense hunger, to back-tracing all access to Jefferies tubes and crawl spaces aboard from 0600 to 0900 hours.
After another hour of fruitless searching, Spock seated himself at the library console. “Computer. List all general inquiries for information made of ship’s primary database in the last twelve hours.”
“Working. General inquiries: Name of this Federation vessel. Current coordinates of U.S.S. Enterprise. Mission directives of U.S.S. Enterprise. Command crew of U.S.S. Enterprise. Brief biography of Captain James T. Kirk. Reason for Captain James T. Kirk being temporarily relieved of command. Brief biography of First Officer Spock. Mission logs of Stardate 4219-4221, Insontis Treaty Negotiations. Schematics of U.S.S. Enterprise. Enlarged schematics of Jefferies tubes network of U.S.S. Enterprise. Enlarged schematics of -”
He resisted the urge to sigh aloud. "Computer, pause inquiry."
“He has been busy,” Chekov remarked quietly, at the Vulcan’s side scanning the ship once more.
“Indeed,” Spock replied. “We may assume that he has assimilated the information he sought; we can only believe that this knowledge will permit his memory to settle and acknowledge us as non-threats. Computer, origin point of these inquiries.”
“Working.” The machine whirred, lights flashing. “Unable to comply.”
A slanted eyebrow rose. “Redirect inquiry. State reason for inability to retrieve previous command’s data.”
“Unable to comply. System recognition of origin point failed.”
“That is impossible,” Chekov muttered, scowling. “It takes experienced hacker to know how to erase a trail like that.”
“May I remind you that at age eight he had already succeeded in bypassing level two security protocols, and he is the only Starfleet cadet in existence to have changed the programming for the infamous Kobayashi Maru without leaving a trace to a computer terminal or personal data device?”
“Point,” the young Russian sighed. “I do not see how we can…Meester Spock!”
“What is it, Ensign?”
Chekov pointed to his scanner, where a small yellow blip was blinking at regular intervals.
“It appears that he has deactivated the interfering device, sir.” Chekov looked up at his mentor, worry clear in his eyes. “He is stationary at the moment…almost as if he is now wishing to be found, yes?”
Spock was not about to speculate on the nature of Jim’s sudden decision to make his location known, not without further data. “Where is he, Mr. Chekov?”
The young navigator smiled up at him. “He is in your quarters, sir. The last place any of us would have thought to look for him.”
Spock should have thought of that; he had not returned to his quarters since early morning, and his door was programmed to open at James Kirk’s bio-signature, to avoid the unnecessary formality of knocking. Jim had never abused the privilege, which was why Spock had permitted it for years – and it was the one place on the ship which would open readily to him at any age.
It also indicated that yes, he did wish to be found now.
“Have Doctor McCoy meet me in my quarters, Lieutenant,” he said as he passed Uhura’s chair. “Mr. Sulu, you have the conn.”