As the days passed, shortly after their hastily-aborted shipwide party, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise watched their young captain slowly mature in mind and spirit to match his physical age, now that of a young cadet about to graduate from Starfleet Academy. James T. Kirk was a golden ray of sunlight amongst his people, always eager and willing to learn, and in fact endeared himself to more crewmen at his regressed state than he did in his proper age. Every department of the ship, especially those which had been damaged in the brief battle with the Romulans, was thoroughly inspected and questioned by the eager young man, and every department head nodded to himself and quietly acknowledged the command presence inherent even in so young a cadet.
Acting Captain Spock had opted, with agreement from Jim himself, to treat the young man as a Starfleet officer, a lieutenant; giving him officers' privileges about the ship yet still remanding him to the authority of senior crew members. It had been a reasonable compromise after two hours of negotiation and a chess match lost to the incorrigible human, but Spock deemed it a satisfactory near-end to the problem which had dogged their steps since the events on the Insonti planet. Jim was most likely capable at this time of resuming his command, yet they both had agreed he should not do so until the process had completed, for the safety of the ship due to his unpredictable physical condition.
Lieutenant Kirk, drawn almost magnetically to his Vulcan acting captain, soon became known in that fortnight around the ship as Spock's young shadow, an odd reversal of roles which was, if truth be told, somewhat disconcerting for the Vulcan. Spock was accustomed to giving loyalty, not receiving it, and to know that one is being viewed as a role model by the future most famous starship captain in Starfleet history was, at best, an oddly disturbing sensation. Though the crew privately joked about how adorable it was, Spock's instincts rebelled against the universal wrongness of it all, and finally, he chose the ultimate in embarrassing activities as his only method of rationalizing the matter.
McCoy stared at him incredulously across the desk in Sickbay, before spontaneously bursting into laughter.
"Are you seriously askin' me why he's attached himself to you in the last couple weeks, Mr. Spock?" the physician finally asked, grinning at his obvious discomfiture.
"I am asking if it is normal behavior for a typical human adult of his age, Doctor," he retorted, refusing to let the man's laughter rouse him. "I believe one of the lessons he was required to learn as an infant was independency of any one particular being. You know as well as I that he will not fully revert in age until he has fully learned all that the Regenratron required of him. A setback at this time would be disastrous."
"Well, yes," McCoy replied slowly, his dancing eyes sobering. "But it's still not abnormal, Spock, given that you've been his primary caregiver, father figure, older brother - whatever you want to call it, you've been all that for this whole shebang. It's not abnormal at all that he's transferred that childish…affection, to something more like hero-worship."
Spock was less concerned with that state of affairs, than he was about the fact that McCoy only looked…sad, he believed was the emotion playing across the doctor's lined features (though granted, he had yet to unravel the mysteries of human emotions). Sadness, and possibly resignation.
"You have been as instrumental as I in the process, Doctor," he protested. "Possibly more so, as it has been your expertise which has prevented him from serious illness during the immense physiological changes."
McCoy shrugged and averted his gaze for a moment to the computer monitor before him. "That's as may be, Spock," he finally sighed, leaning back in the chair. "Just rest assured that he's perfectly fine - will be himself pretty soon, I'd think."
Spock's brow furrowed slightly at the doctor's self-dismissive attitude, but moved on to focus on the latter part of his statement. "I concur, Doctor; I believe there could only be one, at most two, more leaps of aging before the captain returns to his rightful age. Such drastic transitions will take a terrible toll upon his physiology, will they not?"
McCoy pulled up Kirk's physical charts and then nodded, frowning. "Probably had better start making preparations for that," he murmured, almost to himself. "Kid will burn himself out before too long if we aren't careful. I'd suggest installing alarms that sound in both our quarters in case we have an emergency Code Gold during the night."
"Can a bio-bed sensor be modified to notify us of physical changes while he is asleep, should they occur at that time?"
"Mmm," McCoy nodded absently. "Cabin can register the physical condition of its occupant but it might not catch on to the fact that he's dehydrated and malnourished, or just plain fevering if he's asleep at the time. I'll put Scotty on a modification sensor for his bunk."
Spock nodded, pondering for a moment the enormity of the situation. At any moment, Jim could learn whatever final lesson the Insonti people had deemed him worthy of learning, and could change back to the seasoned starship captain whose absence they had suffered for nearly four months now. A jump in age of over ten years would be traumatic for the young man's physical condition, to say nothing of an adult mind suddenly struggling to reconcile two separate sets of childhood memories. In addition to this concern, there remained the political ramifications of the entire Insontis affair. Starfleet Command was beginning to grow weary of their poster boy being a starstruck youngster, and Spock was feeling the pressures of command more and more each day which passed. Now, more than ever before, he resolved anew to never command a ship of his own, at least not without considerable more experience in dealing with humans.
He became aware that McCoy was watching him with a mixture of fond curiosity mixed with resignation, again puzzling him as to why the human would be so reluctant to have the entire affair over and done. However, as he was no more qualified to discuss such things than he was to captain a starship long-term, he said no more upon the matter and soon left Sickbay and its strangely downcast Chief Medical Officer.
However, the uncomfortably human sensation of concern for McCoy's state of mind (only logical, as a ranking member of command and therefore under his protection, howbeit temporarily) remained for many days afterwards. It was not until after Jim did indeed return to his proper age, that Spock realized why the doctor had been so quiet and withdrawn during those last formative days - and it was that very transformation which illuminated the truth.
If only such traumatic events had not been required to provide that solution…
Two weeks after their skirmish with the renegade Romulans, the Enterprise had completed her repairs and was once again traversing deep space, finishing up the current assignment of stellar cartography. Crew morale was slowly regaining its former peak, as the news spread of Captain Kirk's imminent return, and all of the crew were pleased to learn that soon their 'milk run' would be finished and they could return to what they all had really signed on for: exploring uncharted space and planets, engaging in experimental sciences, and performing diplomatic missions. And so for another peaceful week, business aboard the Enterprise proceeded as usual.
In retrospect, Assistant Security Chief Garrovick reflected, they should have known better than to become complacent in such circumstances.
Granted, none of them had ever envisioned the Klingon Empire teaming up with an armada of Orion pirate frigates to attack the famous U.S.S Enterprise, while she was still under the command of the infamous Captain Kirk's half-Vulcan First Officer.
Deep into ship's night after a sleepy week, the crew never knew what hit them.
Garrovick was thrown out of bed (literally) by a blast hard enough to shake picture frames from the walls and hurl him out of his bunk onto the durasteel floor, followed an instant later by the shrill wail of a Red Alert klaxon. Instantly awake with the wide-eyed awareness that came of years in the Security division of Starfleet, he had rolled to his feet and into his uniform before a second blast rocked the ship. Stomping into his boots, he gulped as the room lurched sickeningly around him; the inertial dampeners were obviously flickering, the artificial gravity threatening to send up everything that wasn't fastened down. Two more lurches and he was stumbling into the corridor of Deck Five, which was filled with a haze of electrical smoke and alpha shift crewmen dashing out of their cabins at the alarm.
Two seconds later he was at the storage cubicle down the corridor, punching in an override code. Snatching a communicator and phaser, he finally, for the first time since the alarms sounded, heard the shipwide comm. The channel was so filled with static and interference he could barely make out any words, could only tell that it was Captain Spock's methodical voice clipped with tension, something about severe damage reports. He glanced around for a minute while he doled out the phasers to the half-dozen crewmen who rushed by him on their way to Engineering, but saw no members of the command chain; obviously they had either been on gamma shift duty or had been faster than he in reaching the Bridge.
He whirled around as Kevin Riley came flying down the corridor from the turbolifts a moment later, his hair askew and tunic on inside-out, obviously having been asleep when the alerts sounded.
"Klingons," was the young man's gasped reply to his curt inquiry, as Riley doubled over, heaving a breath of smoky oxygen into his lungs. "And Orions, if Spock's right…three frigates, two Birds of Prey, all cloaked…we waltzed right up to them, they were just waiting along our warp trajectory." Garrovick's blood ran cold at what was basically a death sentence for all of them. "They know," the lieutenant gasped, coughing as the haze around them thickened.
Another blast rocked the ship, sending them both tumbling to the floor. Down the corridor, someone screamed, and the sound of buckling durasteel suddenly crashed on a deck above them.
"They know the captain isn't - well, isn't him! According to what Mr. Spock told Scotty, the Klingons've promised Jim to the Orions in exchange for taking the Enterprise back as a prize of war! "
Garrovick cursed their publicity and the Klingon ruthlessness in every language he knew. Security Chief Giotto been expecting something like this for the first few months after Kirk's transformation, expecting some idiot or some organization to try to turn the Enterprise's apparent weakness to their advantage, but no one had tried anything until three weeks before with the renegade Romulans. Obviously, word had gotten out that time was running out for any conquering hopefuls. The Klingons hated James Kirk to a man, and obviously were taking no chances on letting him regain command of his ship.
"Move it. We've got to hide the captain first, and worry about the ship and the Bridge later," he said suddenly, shoving a piece of grating out of the way and sprinting down the corridor toward the captain and First Officer's quarters.
He heard Riley pelting after him, dodging debris and coughing in the smoky haze. "What's happening on the Bridge?" he asked curtly.
"Don't know - I went straight to Engineering and Scott sent me back after the captain," Riley gasped breathlessly. "Said there's no chance in hell of us coming out of this and to try and hide the kid somewhere if we could."
"Boarding party in the shuttle bays."
Garrovick swore softly. The wall comm beside them suddenly squawked into life in a thick Russian accent, clearly tight with panic over the sounds of a heated battle being waged on the Bridge.
"Intruder alert. Intruder alert. Maximum Security detail to the Auxiliary Control Bridge. Repeat, maximum Security detail to the Auxiliary Control Bridge."
"That's not good…" Riley gulped.
Another blast shook the ship, and sparks flew out of every comm-unit along the corridor wall.
Spock's voice sliced abruptly through the chaos, crackling with interference but unmistakable. "All hands prepare for Emergency Procedure Alpha One-One-Three. Repeat, all hands prepare for Emergency Procedure Alpha One-One-Three. This is not a drill."
Ice suddenly flooded his veins, and he met Riley's horrified look with one of his own.
"He can't be serious," Riley whispered. "It hasn't even been tested yet, that was first on Scotty's list after Kirk regains captaincy!"
Emergency Procedure A-113 was a theoretical maneuver which had been long discussed for constitution-class starships, the primary test subject of which was the Federation flagship Enterprise. Simply put, the procedure was a separation of the nacelles and a skeletal command central from the primary saucer section of the ship, thus enabling the majority of the crew to escape a situation from which there was no other alternative for survival. (1) The maneuver had never yet been tested outside laboratory conditions, though the Enterprise had undergone the necessary mechanical additions during the refit at the end of their third year. (2) It was a dangerous, highly experimental maneuver, and one which was never to be considered unless there were no other options to save the ship and its crew.
"Mr. Scott, are you capable of an emergency warp jump?"
Static crackled through the channels. "Only for a few seconds, Mr. Spock; there's naught I kin do to fix the damage that's been done here!"
"Five seconds will do, Mr. Scott; we need only gain enough momentum for a trajectory to be apparent and the saucer section to be hurled clear of our warp bubble."
"He is going to try it, he's going to get them to follow him to warp and then throw the saucer out of the slipstream and hope they don't notice it," Riley breathed, as they drew near the captain's cabin door. "He's insane!"
"He wouldn't try it unless we're all dead anyway," Garrovick replied sharply. "Against five enemy ships and carrying an underage captain the Orions would love to get their hands on? I think insane plans are the only option we have." Coughing as a wave of fresh smoke floated around them, he glanced at the captain's cabin door, from which a furious pounding was emanating.
"Spock, I swear to God, you let me out of here or I will bust you down to ensign when I get my stripes back!" a familiar young bellow sounded furiously through the durasteel door.
Riley and Garrovick exchanged a look.
"SOMEONE BETTER OPEN THIS!"
Garrovick entered the Security override, and the door slid open, to reveal a furious young man in a wrinkled gold tunic.
"Status," Kirk snapped, and Garrovick straightened to attention instinctively.
"Two Klingon vessels, three Orion, cloaked and waiting for us - and Spock's last order was to get you out of here," Riley said bluntly, saving Garrovick the painful duty of informing his captain, however off-duty, that his ship was about to become a prize of war. "The Orions want you, and the Klingons want the ship. He's trying the emergency saucer sep, sir."
However mature, twenty-year-old Jim Kirk still had the high-pitched near-shriek of a teenager.
"It sounds like there's no alternative, sir," Garrovick said quietly, as the comm blasted into life behind them, Chekov relaying a series of staccato orders to Engineering.
"He's going to break the ship apart!"
"Jim," Riley said warningly.
"We're not ready to try a saucer sep! It hasn't even worked correctly in lab demos every time!"
Before the young man could make any further protest, a powerful blast suddenly threw them all to the deck. The ship shuddered, groaning, under them, the shriek of buckling durasteel an eerie accompaniment to the chorus of panic beginning to rumble below decks. Garrovick groaned, blinking his vision clear from where he'd hit his head on the corner of the desk.
"Mr. Scott, I need full power," Spock's voice warned through the comm.
"Sir, that's all I kin give ye -"
"Hard about, Mr. Sulu! Mr. Scott…?"
"Sir, I canna do anythin' about it! We've lost the port nacelle, she's venting plasma too badly for any quick patch job…and I've been locked out of Auxiliary Control!"
"Mr. Scott, if the Klingons control the Auxiliary Bridge, they control the remainder of the ship after the saucer separation."
"Ye think I dinna know that, sir!"
"We're all dead," Riley whispered hoarsely, unholstering his phaser as he scrambled to his feet. He reached down a hand to haul their shaken young captain after him.
"It's worse than that," Garrovick snapped, reaching out to shove both of them before him as they bolted through the door into the smoke-filled corridor.
"If the Klingons have the AC Bridge, then they can override the saucer separation," he said shortly, pushing the younger men ahead of him toward the nearest Jefferies tube entrance. Pausing only for an instant, he hauled the cover off and gestured toward the small opening. Riley instantly scrambled inside, phaser held in one hand as he crawled. "And if they have the AC Bridge, all they'll have to do to take the ship is -"
A sudden hissing began in the corridor behind them.
"Fill the corridors with anesthezine gas," he finished, taking a deep breath and fairly shoving his protesting captain into the Jefferies tube.
Garrovick paused long enough to seal off the tube opening from the gas, and heard the shipwide intracomm fall deathly silent as he crawled after Riley and their twenty-year-old Captain Kirk, deep into the bowels of their now-silent starship.