Chapter 1

USS Enterprise NCC-1701, Sickbay

"Report, Scotty!" Kirk snapped.

The landing party didn't have visual capability; that left Kirk staring at the strange ship that drifted off the Enterprise's port side. Worse, he had to do it on a small bedside monitor, lying in Sickbay.

The other ship showed no damage on the hull from a battle or anything else that could set it to drift. The shields were down though; maybe the ship had damage not visible.

His chief engineer answered immediately. "Her inside is much like her outside, Captain. The lines are Starfleet, but nae anything I've ever seen. The crew is unconscious and power is at a minimum. I sent a team to its bridge while I go to Engineering. Or at least where we think is Engineering."

Starfleet and not Starfleet -- and the saucer section emblazoned with USS Contact NCC-26546. Nothing in Starfleet had a registry number like that.

Plus, its structure: definitely a heavy cruiser like the Enterprise, but she -- this Contact -- was massive: more decks to the primary and secondary hulls and a more streamlined saucer and body. The pylons were flattened and connected to the warp engines at a ninety-degree angle. The navigational deflector sat fully recessed inside the ship and glowed blue. So did the sides of the nacelles.

"Can it be a prototype, Scotty?"

"Captain, what I'm seeing is too many jumps ahead of anything we have, and that’s without a glimpse of her engines. It's even ahead of any rumors in the journals."

Kirk asked, “Any chance this is all to draw us in?” Those shields were down and that might be the reason.

“Nae, sir. No scans show anything like it, but we’re watching ourselves.”

"What about the crew?"

"That'd be my department, Jim," McCoy cut in the line. Uhura on the bridge must have had him patched in so he'd be readily on hand. "I'm seeing the same sort of things Scotty is. I'm looking at lifeforms that I can't identify. I'm headed for the bridge."

That did it for Kirk and he turned to his first officer, who was also in the blue and black clothes of a Sickbay patient. "So am I, to ours. Spock, you're with me."

"Don't even think about it, Jim! It's too soon after your injury and you've aggravated it enough by being on the bridge during the Orion attack!"

Kirk's head swam and his legs wanted to buckle just from getting up. He hated when McCoy was right about these things.

But he wasn’t going to listen without a fight. "I should have been there as soon as scans picked up that ship."

"I told you that you needed a couple of days. I didn't make that up, and Scotty’s doing everything right."

Spock got slowly to his feet, hovering near Kirk's elbow. "Mr. Scott did react properly, Captain."

Kirk knew it. When the drifting ship was found, the engineer was in command. He scanned the other ship and hailed it, notifying his captain immediately. When it was necessary, he ordered landing parties and for Sulu to take the conn.

So his captain couldn't fault Scotty's orders, but he couldn't stop the aggravation that he wasn't the one giving them. He stared at the image of this mystery ship, yearning for his captain's chair or to be leading those landing parties. "Bones--"

McCoy shouted over him. "Chris, are you there?"

Chapel came from the back corner where she had been watching. "Yes, Doctor."

"If he tries to leave, knock him out! Under my orders. And if that doesn't keep you where you really need to be, Captain, I'll remind you I can have you declared unfit for duty for weeks! Scotty's got things in hand. Let us do our jobs."

Kirk chewed the inside of his lip. He would love to push further over this, but not in front of his other officers or his audience. Amanda hovered over Sarek, who was deep in healing sleep; she stayed carefully out of the way, but couldn't help but pay attention to what was going on.

She was also a physical reminder that their time was limited. He must get the ambassadors to Babel over the Coridan issue; he couldn't stay here as long as he wanted, figuring out what this ship was. "Release Spock then, Bones."

He didn't get the answer he expected from McCoy. "Wait a minute, Jim."

Kirk turned to the Vulcan. "Spock?"

"I have no theories as of yet, Captain. If, as Mr. Scott says, the technology shows an unusual progress for Starfleet--"

"Jim, one of my people found Vulcan lifesigns in what looks like a cargo bay. I'm almost there now."

"McCoy, belay that! Vulcans working a cargo bay is less important than going to the bridge and finding the captain."

"These lifesigns are coming from--" McCoy gave a sudden curse. "Enterprise, I need immediate beam out! Two others in my party with three Vulcans. Now!"

"Bones--!"

"They’re kids, Jim! We found them stuffed in a crate! They're unconscious like everyone else except they're drugged."

Kirk instantly echoed McCoy's order. Amanda left Sarek's bedside and rushed up to Spock who stood in tight lines. She started to talk, but McCoy rushing in with two crewmen, each holding a child's limp form, stopped everybody.

McCoy passed the girl he was holding to Spock. "Here! Since you want to override my orders to rest, you can give up your bed. You too, Jim, find a place to sit. Get off your feet. Chris, I need another bed for this boy so I can examine them. Oh hell, we’re short one. I’m not moving Sarek, or separating these kids with one in the other room. Put the girls together."

Spock started to lay the girl he held next to her sister on the medical bed, Amanda hurrying over to the other side to help, when the girl stirred. She looked up at Spock, dark eyes disoriented, and mumbled before wrapping naturally against her sister and falling back into unconsciousness. Kirk barely heard what she said -- mekino? -- but Spock snapped up straight, and Amanda's stare went from the girl up to him.

"Spock, what did she say?"

"She… called me her father, Captain. Clearly, a symptom of her disorientation."

Kirk stared again at the lines of the ship on the viewscreen, listening to the background noise of McCoy fussing over the children, running scans. "Bones.... Bones! Stop those scans - now!"

McCoy argued, "I got to see if these kids are okay! We don't know what they've been through. The drugs--"

"All right, but just you. No one else."

The doctor gave a sideways nod to Chris Chapel and she left the room. So did the two men who had beamed in with McCoy. "What is it, Jim?"

Scotty reported, "Captain, the crew is waking up. We're being ordered off the ship."

McCoy's jaw literally almost dropped as he looked at the scanner and Kirk had to ask, "What is it? The drugs?"

“...No. I got that, but it's something else in the blood test results.”

Kirk answered for him: “Spock's their father, isn't he?”

McCoy eyed the Vulcan and finally answered, “Yeah, he is. I don’t know -- I just ran the DNA comparison out of habit. I thought the kids might be a cousin or something, after what the girl said, and that could help in any treatment I gave them. But the girl’s telling the truth.”

Amanda swung on her son. “Spock! How could you hide this from us?!”

He stared down at the little girl whose dark hair fanned out from her shoulders to lay on the pillow. “Mother, they cannot be mine. I promise you, I have no children or even the possibility of them.”

Kirk told him, “Yes, you do.”

Amanda laid her hand on the sleeping girl’s head and then her sister; clearly identical twins who instinctively burrowed into each other like just out of the womb. Her granddaughters: Kirk could see Amanda was still trying to fathom even the idea of it. She swung to look at the boy who even asleep looked a lot like Spock.

Spock himself went from the Contact on the screen and back to the girl who had called him her father. His hand hovered to touch her like Amanda was, but then withdrew like he couldn’t -- or didn’t think he had the right.

Kirk questioned why he hadn’t made Amanda leave the room too when Chapel left. At the same time, he ordered, “Scotty! Listen to that crew and get our people off the ship immediately. All information that's been gathered is to be deleted, and the landing parties are not to talk to anyone about what they've seen.”

He then told, “Bones, delete the scans and the blood tests results.”

“Jim, I need to treat these children!”

Kirk wrestled with it for a second. “Fine, but with the same conditions as before. You’re the only one who goes near them and only for making sure they’re okay after being drugged.” He hated doing this to the children -- Spock’s children, but they faced something bigger. “All information on them must be wiped out afterwards. No argument.”

“Jim, why? What's going on?”

"I think we're looking at our future, Bones."

Read Chapter 2