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A Child of Two Worlds

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Thankfully (or not thankfully, because they really do need to get this whole ridiculous process over with), their holy terror of a teenaged First Officer only has one more growth spurt in the intervening four days prior to their reaching the Alba star system, meaning the immediate danger that comes along with two simultaneous timestreams hijacking the mind of the Captain of the Enterprise, is minimal. One thing Leonard McCoy is very much not qualified to advise upon, is how to keep any and all players in this drama from metaphorically (or even literally) murdering each other before they make planetfall.

What's not as minimal, is the very obvious fact that Jim has long since lost the ability to actually function at full capacity. While no ordinary crewman would be able to tell the difference under a typical day's interaction thanks to the man's almost dangerous ability to bluff otherwise, the indications are as glaring as a Red Alert to any trained medical officer, much less one as trained in the science of James Kirk as he is – and he well knows if Spock had been aware of this outcome when he planned this whole insane shebang it would never have happened in the first place. The Vulcan may have an illogically large blind spot when it comes to this particular human, but he would never jeopardize the man's command, in the name of scientific experimentation or otherwise.

But what's done is done, and it now falls on him to keep things from spiraling out of control until they can be brought back into a synchronous orbit again. That's easier said than done, when one of your commanding officers is a moody fifteen-year-old half-Vulcan, and the other an equally moody but entirely in-denial human who might as well be both fifteen and Vulcan himself for all the good it's doing any of them.

These three days have been an almost wholescale waste of time and resources, as he's no closer to finding a way to block the effects of the slipstream from Kirk's mind; nor, for some reason, is the connection getting any less…disruptive, is the only word the captain can come up with, to explain his inability to focus or even sleep for more than a couple of hours at a stretch.

T'lar explains this to be a common symptom of an unfinished or unreciprocated mental bond, but that's not really something that can be fixed until Spock's returned to his adult age and can understand the ramifications of it. There is no real way for them to finalize such a thing, not with one mind caught in a changing timestream – and that's even if they were to decide to keep the bond despite Spock not being fully in his adult mind and Jim not being able to discuss the matter with him. There just are no options at this time which work.

And that's assuming Jim even wants to consider keeping the thing, and after all this McCoy honestly wouldn't blame the man for instinctively wanting to boot their blasted First Officer out of his head for good, simply out of sheer human self-preservation. This thing's been a giant whopping mess, start to finish, even if it was done entirely accidentally.

Spock, you stupid fool.

Undoubtedly the lack of human mental shielding has to be trickling through despite the captain's best efforts to the contrary, and that probably has something to do with why Spock's been so quiet the last couple of days, steering well clear of both Sickbay and the human crew in general. He has the feeling it's not just half-human teenage moodiness, but in true human – and Vulcan – fashion, he's getting no answers out of the kid and he knows better than to push the issue with a teenager, of any species.

It's probably just as well, although Jim does seem to physically improve in the kid's presence; the tension in the room whenever the two are in proximity just isn't worth it for everyone else involved. An unfortunate and highly unusual situation, one that is so out of sync from their usual state of being that it has the entire crew slightly on edge, even though most of them have no real idea why.

And as for him? Well, he has no idea how to fix this rift between them, and it's not like a Vulcan is going to be of any help in straightening out their emotional baggage. Saints preserve them.

The news just before they hit the Alban system that there's been a small political uprising on the planet is not a welcome one, and they're halted before entering orbit over Alba Prime to await further instructions from Starfleet Command. Their negotiating team was being brought in to prevent just such an occurrence, and if it's escalated to physical violence, they may need further assistance.

"Alba II is not a large colony, Captain," Solvak says calmly during their briefing on the matter, the upper command crew assembled to go over the situation as they know it. "Most likely this is a final attempt only, by one of the dissenting factions who are aware that an amnesty agreement is forthcoming. I doubt, given the state of the planet as we have been told, that they are foolish enough to go to war at this juncture, with peace on their doorstep and Federation assistance for their dying ecosystem contingent upon said agreement."

"Let us hope so, Ambassador," Kirk replies, rubbing his forehead briefly. "Just the same, I will be sending down a Security contingent with the ambassadorial delegation."

"A show of weapons will not assist the ambassadorial cause, Captain," Solvak points out mildly.

"Understood," the man replies wryly. "However, I would prefer that cause not be catalyzed by martyrdom, so the weapons will remain. In moderation, of course."

"As you wish, Captain." Solvak acquiesces gracefully. "Though I would prefer once the negotiations begin, that your men show a little faith in the Alban people and depart with you back to your ship."

"And I would prefer to judge the atmosphere of the planet myself before leaving a party defenseless for whom I am responsible, Ambassador. Shall we agree to revisit on Alba II itself?"

McCoy cringes inwardly, but Solvak nods readily enough despite the curt reply; what is an obvious lack of the captain's usual diplomatic finesse likely does not even register to a no-nonsense race as the Vulcans. "That would be acceptable. T'lar, you would do well to engage in advanced meditation this afternoon. Should the situation prove unstable, your abilities will likely require additional shielding against the volatile emotions of the dissenting population."

The woman inclines her head in brief agreement. "And what of this…situation?" she inquires, gesturing briefly between Kirk and the silent Vulcan adolescent sitting to McCoy's left, boredly scratching away at something on a data-padd. "The Alban people are highly telepathic, Captain, and while reports state they do have strict laws in place against telepathic invasion, the fact remains that you are in no fit state to risk encountering a native who would disregard the interplanetary cultural differences in communication. Added to this, that it is highly irregular to bring a child to such a conference; the fact that you must now remain in fairly close physical proximity is already a hindrance to the negotiations."

"That's what I've been saying for the last twenty-four hours, Jim. Now will you believe me?"

The captain shoots him a look. "It is not a matter of belief. It is a matter of duty. Starfleet Command requires a representative of the Federation to oversee the negotiations, and a representative they will have." He raises a warning hand to cut off the rising protest. "This is not open to discussion, Doctor. Doctors."

"Well that's just fine, Captain. When you keel over down there and embarrass yourself in front of the entire planet? Don't expect any sympathy from me."

"Believe me, I won't."

"Your unusual level of human emotionality is clear proof that this process has reached a level detrimental to logical decision-making," Spock says absently from behind his padd.

"I really don't think anyone asked you to comment on my decision-making, mister."

"This is quite true, though your illogically rampant acts of denial are rather difficult to ignore."

"Did you really just say that to me?"

"Impaired hearing is a distinctly possible side effect of the process as well. Sir."

McCoy sends a boot-toe that direction under the table in warning, and receives a fearsome glare in return. "You got twenty years before that look has any effect on me, kid."

"I am not –"

"Don't interrupt me. Now you quit playin' with fire here and act your age or you can spend the rest of this waiting period restricted to your cabin like the brat you're being right now."

He sees one of the Vulcan aides goggle at him, likely never having seen an emotional human parent in action before.

Solvak clears his throat. "If there is nothing further you need from us, Captain."

Kirk's cheeks flush in brief mortification as his brain catches up with his reactions. "Negative, Ambassador. This briefing is over." The Thank Surak goes unspoken by multiple parties, but is clearly audible all the same.

The Alban people do appear to have effectively quelled their own small uprising in prompt fashion, aghast that a tiny rebellious fraction of their youngest and most radical populace, as they explain to the visitors eight hours later, would risk their entire star system's future over their own extreme political views.

The Federation, and shortly thereafter the Enterprise, are much relieved to hear that apparently what constitutes a violent uprising on the planet of Alba II in reality equates to nothing more than a march on the city capital and a protest outside a few odd government buildings, apparently broken up by law enforcement without so much as a blow being struck on either side.

"May I ask, if you too found their explanation just a little too glib, Ambassador?" Kirk inquires, sotto voce, as they enter the transporter room to make their way down to the beaming reception point.

Solvak looks unperturbed. "It is not our task to pass judgment on the truth of their report, Captain; suspicions automatically color one's perceptions in a diplomatic situation. I am but a neutral party in this matter. I will draw my conclusions in person, and not before."

Spock's eyebrow-slant at the older Vulcan's back could not possibly be more skeptical.

The Captain hides a smile under cover of turning back to the redshirt at the transporter controls. "Mr. Turner, if all goes well I should be signaling you within two hours to beam myself and Mr. Spock back to the ship."

"Right you are, Captain. And shore leave, sir?" the young man asks hopefully.

Kirk chuckles. "We'll see, Ensign. To use the Ambassador's words, I will draw my conclusions on that in person, and not before." The young man returns his grin briefly, bobbing his head as his hands fly over the controls. "Bones, we'll see you in two hours."

"Two hours, Jim, no more. You know I can see you rolling your eyes, both of you, this door's polished duranium."

"For the love of my sanity, energize, Mr. Turner."

It's not quite two hours later when his monitor pings with a routine Bio-Medical Alert, indicating a successful transport aboard.

There's nothing out of the ordinary about that; it's standard procedure, an automated alert sent to Sickbay every time the transporter is engaged and a life-form detected. Most of the time nothing more needs to be done; the alerts simply go on record in Medical with the name of the crewman transported, along with their bio-signature in case the transport record needs retrieved later. On rare occasions, something will flag the Medical computer, a contaminant or parasite or something unidentified, in which case it will trigger a Bio-contaminant alert and lock down the transporter deck. But most of the time, they're fairly routine.

The sudden switch of every wall-light in the ward from blue to the all-important, dangerous red, however, is not routine.

Behind him, he hears that dreaded siren that every Medical officer hates, accompanied by an order to raise the ship's shields and stand by on Red Alert, and that causes his steps to swerve from the aft turbolift to the forward one.

Because that isn't Jim's voice snapping orders into the ship's intra-comm.

And there's an extremely short list of reasons why he'd have reinstated command clearance for a Vulcan teenager, experienced or not.