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The human who first conceived of the adage always darkest before the dawn, had obviously never stepped foot aboard a starship, in which there was no dawn or dark save for the regulation of ship's day and night, Spock reflected wryly, for indeed he could not see that the current situation even had a dawn in sight. He sat in perfect silence on the regulation bunk, ostensibly meditating to the view of the security cameras outside, but in reality conjecturing, testing, and methodically discarding any and all hypothetical courses of action he could envision which might possibly lead to their escape and later retaking of the ship. Starfleet assistance, even if word reached them, would be at least three days in arriving, and it was highly unlikely that their numbers would be sufficient - and any ensuing battle would result in heavy casualties aboard the ships upon which the Enterprise crew were now imprisoned.

It had been a colossal series of mishaps, from start to last, and while there was little he could have done differently, the fact remained that the Klingons and Orions had victoriously taken the Enterprise and her entire crew, severely crippling the ship in the process. Even were they to somehow outwit the sheer numbers of their opponents, the Enterprise was in no condition to make a quick escape; and besides this, if the plans Spock had heard the Klingons discussing were correct, the Enterprise crew would by now have been distributed amongst the five enemy vessels. Obviously, the ingenuity of the Enterprise's command chain and her crew were as legendary as cantina ballads would have them believe, and the Klingons at least were taking no chances that the crew would band together and escape unscathed. They well knew that any crew of Captain Kirk's would never leave a man behind, much less several dozen on each enemy vessel, and so division of their prisoners was the most logical action open to them.

Their enemies knew them too well, Spock reflected with forgivable regret, and it was about to cost them dearly.

He had been forced to surrender the Enterprise, thankfully not under his own power as no commander ever wished to feel that stigma. But even Vulcans are not immune to anesthetic gas, and he had been awakened by unceremonious blows to the face when the Klingon boarding party had reached the Bridge and realized that he had managed to lock out all computer systems before succumbing shortly after his human crew had lost consciousness. They might board her, but they would not find it so easy to operate her.

Captain PetaQ of the lead Klingon Bird of Prey, the Qeh, had not been pleased to have been so thwarted by a race which could not be persuaded under any known torture methods, Spock recalled with a twinge of human glee.

Said frisson of pleasure was swiftly extinguished by the knowledge that, however gallantly, the ship was irretrievably lost, and with it their entire crew - including their as-yet underage Captain Kirk. Spock knew what Orion slave traders would have planned for the handsome, charismatic young man, and the knowledge was enough to make him feel physical illness. Such an eventuality was unthinkable, and he would sooner give his captain a mercifully painless death by his own hand than damn the vibrant twenty-year-old to the life intended for him by the Klingons' temporary allies. 

It was that sickening knowledge that tempted him to, yet again, unwisely attempt to bodily short-circuit the force-field reinforcing the bars of the Enterprise's maximum security cell in which he had been unceremoniously thrown after PetaQ's brief but unsuccessful interrogation attempt. He was saved from yet another ten-minute stint in electric-shock-induced unconsciousness seconds before his endeavor, by the rhythmic clanking of detention doors being rolled back from the opposite corridor; obviously another prisoner being admitted to the highest security facilities existing among the six ships.

He was slightly surprised, but simultaneously relieved, to perceive that the Klingons' regard for the healing arts had saved McCoy at least, from being transferred to the hold of an Orion pirate frigate, or worse.

He was equally surprised, and amused, to find that the human evidently knew enough colloquial Klingon to insult the hulking figure's mother, father, and half-a-dozen other family members' honors, before being shoved into the adjoining cell with enough brute force to send the physician sprawling heavily on the durasteel flooring.

"…Ow," he heard after the Klingon had spat upon the floor of the corridor and stalked away, rolling the security doors closed behind him and locking them.

Spock stood and moved across the small cell to the bars separating them. "Are you undamaged, Doctor?"

"More or less," McCoy groaned, pulling himself upright with a wince. The bruise darkening the human's left eye, and the stiff manner in which he held himself, bespoke otherwise, and Spock felt his jaw tighten with enough human anger that he knew he must regain control, else surrender his usefulness to any future escape attempt. He firmly quashed all else but the quest for knowledge, and began his inquiry.

"Report, Doctor McCoy."

The physician settled gingerly on the edge of the hard bunk, not-very-subtly wrapping an arm across his midsection as his breath caught in the back of his throat with a choked-off grunt of pain.

Spock vaguely decided regaining control of his ancient warrior blood's desire for revenge was most likely out of the question, at least temporarily. Surely the cause was sufficient.

And if it were not, he was, as the humans would say, more than slightly past caring.

"Can't say bein' woken up by a Red Alert and running out the door into a squad of Klingon muscle is my idea of a pleasant morning, but at least they let me see to some of my patients just now before deciding I was too dangerous to be let loose."

He raised an eyebrow. "What, precisely, did you do to give them that impression, Doctor?"

The human shrugged, tugging uselessly at his torn tunic sleeves. Then one blue eye glinted evilly at him. "It might've been my Southern charm…might've been the fact that I locked down Sickbay before they grabbed me and I'll see them all in hell before I'll override the lockdown…might've been the fact that I kicked one of 'em where it counts when they made Christine leave a wounded man in the transporter room and sent her over to whatever vermin-infested hole they crawled out of. Take your pick, Mr. Spock." A crooked sliver of a grin appeared, briefly, and Spock felt himself relax slightly under the familiar drawl. "I have a very good knowledge of xenospecial anatomy, and it comes in handy. Apparently making sure someone's incapacitated by any method other than face-to-face combat is a highly dishonorable action, who'd've known."

"Antagonizing a superior species is, I have observed, one of your more outstanding abilities, Doctor."

"If I wasn't tryin' to make sure this cracked rib doesn't puncture a lung, I might have somethin' to say about that, y'pointy-eared know-it-all," the human sighed, and Spock firmly prevented a sudden flare of anger from becoming more than a smolder of deep hatred deep within. "Anyway, from what I could see on the way here, the ship's almost deserted. I know PetaQ shipped Scotty over to the Qeh, but I didn't hear where the rest of the command chain is, my Klingon's not good enough to understand most of what they said. Our people - the ones who're still standing - are basically divided among the five enemy ships, Commander." McCoy's pained eyes betrayed his grief and worry. "Even if we retake the Enterprise, we're not going to take all five ships before they catch on to us."

Spock settled on the floor of the cell, fingertips together in a feeble attempt to center his vacillating mental shields. Control, he must find control. Closing his eyes, he leaned his head back against the bars and inhaled slowly. "Casualties?"

"According to Chapel before they beamed her out, no confirmed deaths yet, which is surprising," the doctor replied quietly. "They caught us at the end of gamma shift, so most people were on the rec decks or in their quarters, and that saved their lives. Given their alternatives with the Klingons or Orions as captors, though…I'm not so sure if that's actually a good thing."

Expressionless, Spock nodded. "And injuries?"

"They let me look at the worst off in Shuttle Bay Two when I came round, for about an hour before they brought me here. Sickbay's still under lockdown, but I dunno who all was inside when I locked it down. Mostly plasma burns in Engineering and several broken bones in the lower crew quarters; we got hit pretty hard there and in Decks Nine through Twelve." Spock heard a dull thud, and glanced up to see that the human had slid down the wall to sit beside him on the other side of the durasteel bars. "I'm sorry I don't have more details for you, Mr. Spock," he said lowly, head hanging.

"You need not apologize for that which is beyond your control, Doctor," Spock answered. "None of us could have foreseen these events, though perhaps as a whole we have grown complacent to our potential dangers while awaiting the last stages of the captain's transformation."

"Speakin' of," McCoy began, a frown creasing his lined face.

Spock leaned back once more, trying to center his wavering focus. "Doctor?"

"You'd think I'd've heard something about Jim, given that he seems to be the whole reason the Orions decided to team up with the likes of a renegade like PetaQ."

Spock cracked an eyelid.

"You heard nothing of Jim's whereabouts?"

"Not a peep, and you know how Orions are about braggin' about their prize captures." The human shrugged, rubbing uneasily at his side with a grimace. "The only time I heard his name mentioned, they didn't look happy about it."

"Indeed. This could be…"

"So help me God, if you say fascinating I'll reach right through here and clock you one, busted ribs or no," the physician snarled, and Spock allowed himself to relax slightly in amusement.

"I was about to say, that it could be promising, Doctor," he answered, lips twitching. "There is no need for your melodramatic, and certainly less-than-terrifying, threats."

McCoy lost all apparent animosity - a coping mechanism, and a familiar dance they both knew well by now - and sat upright, eyes sparking with interest. "You think he might've escaped them?"

"One thing is certain, Doctor; no one aboard, with the possible exception of Engineer Scott, knows the Enterprise better than James Kirk," Spock answered quietly. "If anyone can remain undetected aboard her, it is the captain. And if we have heard nothing of his capture…"

"But didn't you lock him in his cabin when the Red Alert began?"

"Not I; rather, it has been the standard Security precaution since the captain was a young child, at Commander Giotto's recommendation. I had not yet adjusted the security protocols accordingly to allow him to override the lock, but any Security officer of rank would be able to do so."

"So if someone got to him before the Klingons and got him safely hidden -"

"Which should, in theory, have occurred, as it is standing Security orders to do so in the event of a Red Alert and Priority One danger scenario," Spock finished, feeling a faint spark of hope for the first time since his world had exploded - literally - on the gamma shift Bridge hours ago. "For all our sakes, Doctor, let us hope that someone, at least, succeeded in his duty better than I."

"You know these goons are gonna be majorly ticked off if they ever do get a hold of us," Riley muttered rebelliously, scrunched in a painfully cramped position behind a panel in Ship's Stores and Requisition and painstakingly stripping wires in the adjoining circuit box. "Almost five hours since hell broke loose, they have to know we're hiding somewhere. What if they just blow the ship?"

"They're not going to just blow the ship, you idiot," Garrovick snapped, his patience frayed thin. "The Orions need a prisoner to seal the deal they made, meaning the captain - Captain Kirk, that is; and the Klingons need bragging rights to do the same, meaning they need the ship. We have one bargaining chip here, and we're standing in the other one."

"That won't stop them from methodically taking the ship apart to find us, though," Jim spoke up quietly, from where he leaned against the opposite wall of their tiny hidden compartment, barely large enough to contain the smuggled goods that occasionally got sneaked aboard by their liberal-minded Chief Engineer. Garrovick hadn't even bothered to deny the existence of such panels, given that the still in Engineering and its corresponding storage areas were a well-known secret aboard. "And I'm worried about the crew."

Garrovick decided not to tell the kid just yet that he'd heard about the divvying up between enemy vessels when he ventured from their hideaway an hour ago, or that there were rumors that the primary command crew had already been executed just on general principle. Given his only rudimentary grasp of Klingon, he fervently hoped that last had been his own translation error.

Riley looked up from his work, gave the young man a piercing look. "Your crew," he corrected gently.


"I've never heard you call them just 'the crew' before, that's all," he responded, a little awkwardly. He knew how to deal with his seasoned captain, and his thirteen-year-old version of that captain - but this strange hybrid between the two was disconcerting, and just flat weird at times. "They're your crew."

"Not now they're not," the young man said morosely, staring off into the vague middle distance. "They're nobody's crew now. We never even had a chance to fight back."

Busy trying to patch himself into the ship's intra-comm with their sole communicator, to see if he could monitor enemy transmissions, Riley yelped when a spark shot out of the instrument, singeing his fingers. (1)


"Button it," Garrovick hissed. "D'you want to bring the Klingons down on us?"

"We can't just hide in here for the next few days," Jim pointed out dryly.

"No, but Spock'll have my head on a platter if I let you go anywhere until we can figure out a general map of where our enemy forces are," Garrovick snapped curtly, watching Riley again try to patch himself into the comm-network without being detected. "Once we know where they are, then and only then, I'll listen to whatever plan you've got. Sir." He added the honorific as a courtesy, since the kid didn't really have a title yet.

"Plan I've got?" The young man gaped. "Me?"

Oh, fabulous, Garrovick thought with a silent scream. Of all the times for the kid to be indecisive…wait.

Filtering through the razor-sharp edge of adrenaline, he suddenly remembered a conversation held years ago, soon after he'd come aboard as a very average young ensign. An occasion when he discovered how his captain had once been navigator aboard his father's ship, the Farragut - when Mr. Spock saved his life from the same cloud-creature which decimated the Farragut, when he nearly got himself court-martialed by trying to play the hero at its capture. When Kirk had uncharacteristically visited him below decks, in his tiny little cabin, and talked to him for several hours about his father, and about what had happened so long ago on Kirk's very first deep-space mission.

Talked about Kirk's decade-long guilt over a failure to react quickly enough, a sense of blame that had fueled an unhealthy obsession with the creature in question, and which had nearly cost many of their crew their lives. Kirk had used his father's ship and Kirk's own experience to teach him valuable lessons that day, and he had taken them to heart and run with them, to forge his own way out of his father's shadow. Kirk had selected him for assistant Security Chief after a few years of watching him determinedly grow in skill and experience, and he had never forgotten that one afternoon of mentoring, those years before. (2)

But Kirk would have been, during that time aboard the Farragut

…would have been the same approximate age he was now, sitting across the tiny compartment and looking at his Assistant SC like Garrovick had grown a second head.

Well, this is just lovely, he groaned silently, realizing that he was pretty much on his own to coax the young man through what they all hoped would be his final lesson. They could definitely use the seasoned starship captain, instead of a green lieutenant still unsure of his own reactive abilities, much less of his command abilities.

"Yes, you," he finally spoke up, his voice sharp with a command edge. "Whether you're too young or not, you're the captain of this ship, and you're our best hope of getting out of this alive."

Riley, who had cocked his head, listening in the earphone mechanism of his communicator, suddenly grinned so wide his face nearly split in half. "That sneaky Vulcan!" he exclaimed in an admiring whisper, turning to both of his companions.

Garrovick's eyebrows pulled a Spock, and Jim sat up straighter, all attention.

"I just tried to access the communication logs for the last few hours, and it looks like our acting captain managed to lock down the whole computer system before he conked out from the gas," Riley answered, smirking. "That's a heck of a lot of quick programming overrides. Bet the Klingons are lovin' that."

"Meaning they can't go anywhere with the ship until Spock unlocks the computer," Jim breathed, grinning proudly.

"Meaning they can't so much as flush a lavatory until he unlocks it," Garrovick added, his face betraying his own admiration for the Vulcan's quick thinking. "However," he continued, more seriously, "it's only a matter of time before he has to cave and unlock it - all it would take is the right motivation."

Jim shivered suddenly. "I'm not so sure," he said quietly, and the other two turned to look at him. "Not even to save the crew," he added, nervously running a hand through his hair. "He wouldn't cede the ship to Khan, so why would he to a bunch of Klingons? Starfleet regulations forbid it, anyway, even if the entire crew is threatened, because of the sensitive information a constitution-class ship carries in its databanks." (3)

Riley swallowed hard.

"He's right," Garrovick agreed suddenly, keeping a sharp eye on their young captain. Plastering an appropriately worried look on his face, he continued with deliberate slowness. "Which means we have to work quickly, before the Klingons get...creative, in trying to motivate him."

He wanted to laugh at the sudden fire that ignited in the young man's expression; everyone knew the Enterprise captain's Achilles heel, though most regarded it as a strength rather than a weakness. Such personal motivation would serve the young man well in his struggle to vault these last hurdles before he became once again the captain of the Enterprise.

Garrovick silently hoped that there would actually still be an Enterprise to captain, when that finally happened.