Time period: between Star Trek: The Final Frontier and Star Trek: The Undiscovered Country

In the Kerjen universe: after Praise and before Momisms, Rescue Efforts and The Race of Cain


ONE

Kirk stared down the muzzle of the phaser. The dark brown eyes behind it held as steady as the hand with the weapon.

"Spock."

The one word said everything.

Nothing could set Spock more apart from everyone else on the bridge than that phaser, but his Sickbay patient's scrubs came off as an insurgent uniform against the Starfleet red on the rest.

No one moved, not McCoy who stood behind Kirk's left shoulder, not Sulu or Chekov at the helm, not Uhura behind him or any of the less experienced officers. They waited, the very air around them saying they watched their captain for what to do, even if they didn't look directly at him. The only ones who might try to attack Spock were the Maperellian ambassador and his two aides. The shock of Spock pulling the phaser would wear off in a couple seconds, just as it had when the Vulcan first aimed at them, before swinging it on Kirk when he started to disarm his science officer. His best friend.

"Captain," Spock said, speaking for the first time since making his charges - again - against the Maperellians, "I regret this action has become necessary."

A normal statement except to Kirk, and McCoy, who heard the wealth of what wasn't said.

"Kirk!" The Maperellian ambassador found his voice again. The short white feathers that formed a tight cap around his head spines ruffled, showing his agitation, and his lips had thinned. "This has gone far beyond a sick man having hallucinations! This is a diplomatic insult!" Hard, black eyes bored into Spock. "I'd expect better from Ambassador Sarek's son."

Spock did not answer something as petty as that, not at this stage of his life. He calmly kept his gaze on Kirk. "I require one more opportunity to prove my theory is correct."

Kirk was his best friend, but he hadn't made the rank of starship captain by running away from doing what was right. Even when the decision was as hard as this. "Spock.... I listened to everything you had to say. I gave you a chance."

"Four chances!" the one Maperellian aide interrupted, his hands balled into fists, black feathers rippling like a wave. Uhura whispered to them, saving Kirk from splitting his attention.

Kirk reasoned, he didn't plead. He wouldn't reach Spock through begging. "Just this morning you said yourself that you were hallucinating. That your theory was false. It's what you told me."

"You are quite correct, Captain. I did believe I had been wrong. However, I know now I was not."

"Spock.... do you admit you're ill? That you've had hallucinations about the Maperellians?"

"He has to admit it, Captain!" The other aide piped in, his feathers a golden russet where his leaders were white. "Anything else would be a lie!"

Kirk let his eyes slide to McCoy.

"He did say before that he's hallucinating, Jim." The doctor looked like he'd rather swallow his tongue than agree, but he held up a medical tricorder in one hand. "I still can't find what's causing them, but no one else is seeing what he is. And the scans we've taken on the ambassador and his aides are fine."

The first aide snarled, "Taking those scans was a violation of our religious beliefs, Kirk! It is an intrusive act that threatens the integrity of our souls! But we allowed it to give Mr. Spock one last chance - you promised it was the last one!"

Spock crooked an eyebrow, and McCoy winced at the calm familiarity in the gesture. "Doctor McCoy is also correct, Captain. However, what I state is, I was wrong to agree to these being hallucinations. I return to my original viewpoint. They are not illusions, they are real."

Except they had proved just an hour ago that they weren't. When the Vulcan faced the Maperellian ambassador and saw him, not a false image of a human Dillegean, the enemy of the emissary's people. An enemy in the brutal war that had lasted ten generations already.

Spock finished, "Therefore, I cannot allow the Ambassador's party to transport to the conference. I would be giving the Dillegeans' access to make a devastating attack."

"Captain!" Uhura called, "we have a priority transmission from the USS Pullman."

"Sir!" Chekov shouted almost on top of her. "Sensors show a ship approaching!"

Kirk gestured for Uhura to wait. "What do we have on that ship?"

"Small, Keptin, and one of ours. No shields or veapons raised."

"Check it out. Uhura."

Chekov jumped to the science station, his lack of even looking at Spock showing his faith that the Vulcan wouldn't harm him. Uhura read out. "'Lieutenant Saavik is reported absent without leave. She has abandoned her post with the USS Pullman's survey team on Yusehl V. Her current location is unknown, but she is believed to be headed for the USS Enterprise, NCC-1701A. Enterprise is ordered to detain her and report to the Pullman if she does arrive.' Report is filed by Captain Hinderman, Commander, USS Pullman, NCC-1697."

Saavik! Kirk cursed himself. How could he have forgotten her? He had been the one to answer her when she first contacted the ship. She had found out her latest assignment brought her relatively close to their location, and when Spock couldn't answer her, Kirk himself told her about the Vulcan's sickness, how he hallucinated, and how he fell unconscious. And then, when Spock woke up and couldn't get anyone to believe him, Kirk had passed on the Vulcan's message to her by saying, "He's asking for you." She had immediately signed off without a goodbye.

Kirk's eyes shot to Chekov. "That ship?"

"Aye, sir, a long range shuttle. Its registry shows it is from the Pullman. One Wulcan lifesign on board."

Saavik wasn't just AWOL; she had stolen a shuttle.

Hinderman was the worst kind of officer when it came to something like this. He had refused Saavik's request to go to Spock when she first heard he was seriously ill, even though she wasn't critical to the survey team. He probably had refused her request to leave after Kirk's second message. But for her to actually go AWOL...

Kirk told himself he should have expected it. And felt grudging respect for what it took to get that shuttle from the Pullman.

Spock surprised everyone by saying, "My calculations were correct then. Further proof my health is quite well."

"What calculations?!" the ambassador barked.

Spock only raised an eyebrow at the Maperellian, but Kirk answered in his own mind, His calculations on how long it would take her to get here. Once I told her Spock wanted her. Of course, Spock wasn't surprised she had left against orders. He counted on her getting here no matter what and knew she'd do just that.

"Uhura, open a channel to her." This was all going too far. Adding another wildcard to the situation put his command of it at risk.

But Spock played the better hand. He called sharply out into the air, "Saavik! I require you on the bridge. The crew will attempt preventing you."

Kirk yelled on top of it, "Cut the channel!"

Uhura reported, "Too late, sir. She did it herself."

The ambassador smacked down on the railing on the upper deck. "Now what's going on?!"

"Chekov! Raise shields. Don't let her beam on board or land that ship in the shuttlebay. Ambassador!" Kirk grabbed a tight rein on his temper. "This is my ship. I will deal with this situation."

Chekov had anticipated the order, and the station indicated shields securing the Enterprise before Kirk had finished.

"Now then, Spock--"

"Keptin! Our shields!" In front of Chekov, the same display now showed the Enterprise's dropping. His hands flew on controls trying to bring them back up.

Kirk rushed the few steps to the science station. "How!"

The navigator had no answer for a beat. Then: "Sir, it is the prefix code. She's taken control."

Kirk almost felt Spock's eyebrows lift and McCoy said it for all of them. "I can't believe I'm surprised."

And I showed her how to do it. No one could say Saavik didn't learn fast and well.

A flashing light brought Chekov from the shields. "Ve have transporter activity - ship's control has returned."

"Get Security to that location!" Kirk barked. No sense bringing the shields back up now, but he ordered it anyway.

"Keptin, the transporter activity - she didn't beam to one of the stations." He pointed on his display. She had picked her spot well: she chose an empty room off one of the busiest corridors. The crew spilled out from dinner, headed for the recreation deck, and every other option available.

Chekov explained more. "Security ordered all hands to attention so they could clearly see if she vas there, but she had already left, Keptin."

"It was good thinking, Chekov. We know where she's headed - here - and that's a limited number of ways. Tell them to cover the lifts, access tubes, service corridors, all of it."

Spock stated calmly, "I need her to prove I am right, Captain."

"Security reports they have no idea vhat decks Saavik is traveling," Chekov stated.

"Internal scans for Vulcan lifesigns. We have only two on board. And issue tricorders to the Security teams." Kirk thought of telling Chekov to report only with the displays, because the news didn't help with the avian Maperellian diplomats.

Right on cue: "Kirk! Order this - whoever off!"

McCoy snorted. "It doesn't work that way, Ambassador. You ever meet someone who would dive into hell and kick the devil's ass just because somebody else asked them to do it? You're about to and God save the fool who gets in her way."

"Bones," Kirk reprimanded. That wasn't helping, especially with the inference that they were the fools, even if McCoy didn't intend it. Not to mention all the times they did the same thing themselves.

Kirk felt uncomfortable in the role that he had defied in the past, but Spock's illness and mutiny put lives at stake.

"Keptin, Saavik's lifesign places her in the access tube near the bridge, but Security reports she's not there."

"Get them up here," he ordered.

Uhura's fingers jumped to her board.

"You dragged Saavik into this," Kirk whispered fiercely to Spock, "This isn't just going to end your careers. You're putting yourself in the stockade and her in it with you! Over hallucinations, is that what you want?"

Chekov spun his seat around. He kept his voice contained despite the message. "Sir, sensors say Saavik's here."

"Sulu," Kirk ordered in shorthand. The helmsman got to his feet to stand next to his captain who gestured down to the deck plates. He turned his own eyes to the ceiling. He and Sulu were the best ones to bring Saavik down if she didn't listen to his orders. It was easy to forget, when looking at the Vulcan officer, that Saavik elevated her studies in the martial arts, even above the Fleet norm, ever since Genesis.

Chekov got up from his chair and took a step closer to Kirk. They watched for the slightest tremor below or above them, which was how Saavik managed to get past them.

A panel below the science station opened silently and she pulled herself through like a mechanic from under a vehicle. She was almost to her feet when Chekov saw her and a few steps from him when everyone else noticed.

"What the hell?" McCoy blurted. "Since when do we have that!"

Saavik answered as her dark eyes darted around her. "It is simply a panel to service the station. I used the maintenance hatch on access tube twelve to reach it."

Chekov protested, "That goes only the rear of the station. It doesn't connect to this panel."

Spock raised an eyebrow at himself, thinking. "You would have to remove the GH array. That would be noticeable in the station's functions."

"No, sir," she explained. Kirk noted that Spock was still 'sir'; she still reacted as a fleet officer. "I merely had to extend the array to the end of its connective wiring. I then moved through the space I created. It was narrow, but possible."

Chekov squeezed his eyes shut. He hadn't thought of that; neither had Security. That had to be dealt with later, although Kirk could tell even Spock hadn't expected her to come in that way. The Vulcan paused, still thoughtful, and then nodded.

Five years from now, Kirk would learn about Hellguard and what it forged in Saavik's abilities. Spock's nod over her tunneling around the people after her would make sense then.

The captain also recognized Uhura hadn't called the Pullman; she was too good an officer to make that mistake. They didn't need Hinderman screaming at them while they handled what was important.

Saavik took in the unreal conditions around her in less than a second. Her eyebrows lifted and she looked at Kirk. "The situation, sir?"

He ordered immediately, "Saavik, stand down."

Her eyes went from him to Spock and back.

Kirk allowed it for just a couple seconds. If Spock heard from someone from the outside, especially when he had been the one to call for her, he might finally concede.

Saavik watched Kirk and said nothing until his nod. She was another good officer. It was the kind his Enterprise took pride in turning out. Including Spock, of course. His captain hadn't forgotten that.

So he allowed McCoy to hurriedly say, "Spock's sick, he's hallucinating. He keeps saying the Maperellians are really the enemy, the Dillegeans. Even after he stopped having the visions this morning."

Her eyes went up and down the ambassador's party. They didn't appreciate it. "And scans on the Maperellians, Doctor?"

"All clear."

Saavik turned to Spock. "Do you acknowledge this?"

"Yes."

"To the hallucinations and their ceasing this morning?"

"Yes."

She nodded at his admittance. Kirk jumped in immediately. "Saavik."

"The decision is as simple as the discussion, sir. I agree with what has been said."

"Finally! This is settled!" the ambassador shouted. "I will be filing a complaint with Starfleet Command, Kirk, but I'm glad we've reached the end of it."

The captain ignored the insult, for now, and stepped down from standing next to his chair. "Come on, Spock, let's get you back to Sickbay."

He caught a blur of movement from the corner of his eye and then Spock was gone from in front of him. His first officer no longer held the phaser.

Saavik did.

Her other hand was still against Spock's chest from getting him out of the way, maybe to even steer him if she needed to move and keep him with her. Behind the phaser, her eyes stayed firm. The hesitant look that Spock hid, but Kirk had still seen, didn't exist in Saavik's expression. She'd fire on Kirk and nothing he could say would change that.

"Where's Security?" he demanded.

Saavik answered him. "Unable to reach you, Captain, and no longer able to call. I locked down the bridge before I transported to the Enterprise." When she had control with the prefix code. "The maintenance hatch I used is also locked down, as are internal communications to here. They were severed based on a timer for when I arrived. I did not want to risk my needing them before that."

He heard Uhura's muted noise and could tell she worked to break that blackout. Sulu was right behind him, coiled to spring if ordered. He passed some quiet signal to Chekov who moved to flank Saavik from that side.

She knew they were there, but didn't bother with them. She knew she didn't have to; one movement on their part in her peripheral vision and Kirk was shot. And then the ambassador before anyone managed to get to her. She may not even bother with shooting him; the best tactical move would be to knock him out with a nerve pinch while simultaneously firing at the Maperellians.

And back to not knowing what that stun shot will do to their physiology .

"Lieutenant," Kirk stressed the rank. Not only to emphasize what she was doing to a superior officer, but because these things had been ingrained into Saavik through her training and experience. "Stand down."

She surprised him. "I cannot, sir. Spock clearly needs your help, Captain. Only it is not the kind you suspect."

So she recognized the truth: Kirk hadn't only crossed the bridge because Spock threatened the Maperellian delegation. He did it to help out a friend who desperately needed it. And she no longer addressed Spock as 'sir'. Things became personal when she snatched that phaser.

"Like I said," McCoy mumbled, "time to kick the devil's ass."

The ambassador snorted, white feathers standing on end. "Billions to die for blind obedience."

Spock interrupted with some insistence. "Saavik does not blindly follow anyone."

She added, "I assure you, my choice is logical."

Was it? Because Saavik would do anything, break anything, disobey anyone for Spock if she thought she needed to.

Later in the years when it looked like she had betrayed Spock, with a letter that severed their relationship and hurt him deeply, Kirk should have guessed something was wrong. That Saavik would never do such a thing. He should have remembered this moment.

But the entire Maperellian system below the Enterprise waited for him to make things right.

Spock cut in before anyone else could. "Saavik, when was the last time you used a nasal inhibitor?"

"This morning."

"You will need another."

The ambassador's second aide demanded, deliberately causing his russet feathers to stand out in a mane, "What are they talking about?!"

Spock answered him, "Vulcan females have a keener sense of smell. The nasal inhibitor nullifies the effect, so scents in the air will not disturb her. Nor will something odorless that is meant to affect her in other ways."

Saavik nodded in understanding. "Is this why my vision has blurred?"

"Kirk! She's catching what he has!" the same aide nearly whined.

"Hold on!" McCoy exclaimed. "Saavik, you're having problems seeing?"

She tilted her head to the side as her eyes darted around the bridge. "When I look at the Maperellians."

"Wait then. Jim, just --- just give me a second. Call it me diagnosing her vision problem. I don't have an actual nasal inhibitor, since I obviously didn't know you were going to show up, and we don't have any Vulcan females on the ship. But this," he loaded a spray applicator, "will do the same thing. Spray it into the air and inhale it."

Kirk could have stopped it. He could have ordered McCoy not to give her the makeshift inhibitor, but he took Bones' advice as seriously as Spock's. If the doctor thought it worth the time to see what happened, maybe his captain should as well.

McCoy tossed the spray to Saavik and she took the one hand from Spock's chest to catch it. Kirk watched her look down at it for half a second. She couldn't know if McCoy was telling the truth or if he had just given her a tranquilizer. She'd have to take a leap of faith and Kirk wondered if she would.

The ambassador started to rush down the bridge, thinking her attention was diverted.

The phaser swung on his party. "Not one move more," Saavik commanded. "My hand and eye coordination are excellent, even with blurred vision, and you are large targets in a confined space."

She made the leap. She sprayed and inhaled the makeshift inhibitor.

"Kirk, she threatens our lives!" the ambassador called. His anger sounded more like... desperation.

But the captain got his first glimpse at what might be happening. He took that all important second to glance at McCoy whose forehead was furrowed in thought. "Saavik," Bones asked, "how's your vision?"

The Maperellians interrupted with complaints, but Saavik ran through them and now she stressed Kirk's rank. "Captain. I approach this as an outsider." He stared at her repeating what he had thought a minute ago. "Spock would not come to this point for a hallucination, especially one he acknowledges. And that is without 12.125 billion lives at risk."

He'd research the hell out of what he was going through before he'd threaten even one life. Before he'd threaten me.

McCoy caught the thought too. "He did search through that lot of data after the hallucinations stopped. Remember, Jim?"

Something odorless that affected them…. If that was true, if he had let Spock talk before… and if he let the Vulcan play out what he had in mind now. Something that needed Saavik and not just for her loyalty.

Even with the phaser in her hand, Kirk looked past Saavik. "Spock, you got your one last chance. One minute and one minute only."

"Captain!" the ambassador shouted.

"You're already filing a claim with Starfleet Command, Ambassador. Let me make it worth it."

They tried to sneak out the lift, a stupid move because Saavik had already said she had locked things down. She fired past them to the doors anyway for effect. "You will remain here, Ambassador."

"Spock," Kirk said, "go."

Spock nodded, but he focused on Saavik. "Saavik, are you with me?"

She kept her gaze on everyone on the bridge. "Clearly I am."

"You may wish to change your answer when you hear what I want next from you."

"Tell me."

"Harm yourself."

Saavik's eyes flicked towards him and then back.

"It does not have to be a great amount, but you must not use your pain controls."

McCoy saw what was coming and yelled, "Saavik, no!"

She slammed her left hand into a railing, splintering it.

The ambassador screamed, "This is crazy!"

Spock replied quite calmly. "We neglected to inform you that Saavik is half-Romulan."

She blinked.

"But then, Ambassador," Spock finished, "we both already know the issue you have with half-Vulcans."

The diplomatic party darted glances at each other, but Saavik's phaser somehow was even deadlier in her aim at the ambassador and his party, who now looked like they wanted to disappear. "I take it these are Dillegeans?"

Spock agreed, "I surmised the same thing."

McCoy took a step down and she did nothing to prevent it. "You see them too?"

"Quite clearly."

Kirk immediately ordered, "Mr. Chekov, scan the Maperellians and display it for Saavik."

Let's get a second confirmation.

"Such scans are a violation of our religious beliefs, Kirk!" the ambassador's aide with the black feathers shrieked. "We told you! And for what?! Doctor McCoy clearly drugged her using that thing he had her inhale! He's been part of this all along!"

Spock lifted an eyebrow. "That is the most outrageous statement you have made since coming on board."

She added, "And I would no more risk an entire people for a hallucination than he. No Vulcan would." She half-turned her head to see the scan results. "Interesting. Not only humanoid, but human with the one addition to the glandular system."

Spock ordered the medical data be sent to Sickbay for further research. McCoy took obvious joy in saying to the exposed ambassador, "And that's what you should have expected from Ambassador Sarek's son!"

"Thank you, Doctor."

"Sir!" Uhura called, "Communications restored with Security."

Kirk called back, "Warn the Maperellians they could have same thing going on down there. Put it through under my name, high priority. Don't let them pass you off on some - bureaucrat who can't do anything, Uhura."

"Never, Captain." She couldn't resist saying lightly to Saavik, "Sorry to break your blackout, Lieutenant."

With equal nonchalance, "I always expected you would, Commander."

The revealed Dillegeans shifted towards Kirk, and Saavik made a deliberate motion of raising the phaser level to kill. "Don't," she ordered. "I have warned you twice."

"Saavik," Kirk ordered and shot his eyes to Chekov. She rattled off a code and the navigator used it to release the bridge. Security officers immediately spilled out of each set of lift doors.

Saavik lowered her phaser as soon as she saw them take the fake ambassador and aides into custody. She then turned to Kirk. "Sir, I surrender myself." She spun the phaser neatly in her hand so she could safely offer its grip to him, and held her wrists out to Security for restraints. Spock's were offered right next to hers.

"Wait!"

McCoy shouted it, but Kirk had been about to. "Get that cuff off her bad wrist!" The doctor rushed down to Saavik's side and gently took her mangled hand. "She's not going with Security, Jim. I'm taking her to Sickbay. You couldn't just slap the railing, could you?" he chastised her. "No, you had to risk severing a major artery. Spock said it didn't have to be a big deal!"

She looked down calmly as he administered to her wounds. "This is not a 'big deal'. Doctor, you can easily work on my wrist in the brig."

He muttered, intent on the injuries, "You saved a planet. I'm pretty sure they let you off for that."

"I am still AWOL and have stolen a shuttle," she countered matter-of-factly.

Kirk instructed Security, "No restraints and take her to Sickbay. Hell, take them both to Sickbay. I'll be down in a minute."

"Sir?" the officer, Simon DeSmet, asked. "Captain Spock does not appear wounded."

"He's not, but we need to find out how the -- Dillegeans are affecting everybody." The captain had corrected himself midsentence; he still saw the avian Maperellians.

Spock looked over to his captain. "I could answer that now."

Kirk ground out, "Just take them, DeSmet."

Chagrined over his earlier questioning orders, the Security officer gave a quick, "Aye, sir."

The two Vulcan's were removed from the bridge and Kirk watched each step until the lift doors closed. He still had a lot to do.

"Uhura, get me the Maperellian premier."

TWO

Captain's Personal Log:

I have ordered scans for human lifesigns on the Maperellian world to search for any possible Dillegeans. Both Mr. Spock and Mr. Saavik are going through the data to ensure our continued hallucinations don't let anyone escape. Doctor McCoy is working on a solution to break the Dillegean hold on the rest of us, and Lieutenant Saavik has put her own medical treatment on hold until the crisis stabilizes.

In the meantime, I've ordered nasal inhibitors and tricorders be distributed to Security teams going to the surface. Maperellian scientists are investigating ways to modify the inhibitors for their own use.

I am talking with Captain Hinderman about keeping Saavik here as we clean up the immediate situation as well as dropping any charges. She came through for Spock, which means she came through for us and the twelve billion who would be under attack. Like Bones said, saving a people counts for a lot.

 

Kirk frowned in thought. "Bones, you're saying it was pheromones?"

"Not exactly, Jim." McCoy stood next to Saavik's medical bed. Spock was on the other side of her. "Although it's a helluva lot like them. These are airborne too, but the Dillegeans release them on command. Putting aside the full medical explanation, they rewire the general pattern of brain waves. They make you see what they want you to see."

"But how can they make us hallucinate medical scans?"

"When I said 'see', Jim, I meant what your brain processes, not your optic nerves. Your eyes take in the information, but these biochemicals change it on the way to your brain. So your eyes see a Maperellian, but your brain sees a Dillegean."

Kirk turned to his first officer. "Why didn't it work on you?"

Spock looked up from watching Saavik flex the fingers of her repaired hand. "It is an attack on general brain patterns, Captain. It can be specific to an individual, but such an occurrence requires information they do not readily have."

McCoy pointed up to the screens. "Look, Jim. They generally go by species, because the basic patterns are all they need. They still have to get that data, of course. In fact, we think that's why it took them so long to make this attack. They got the Maperellian one, but still needed to get close to primary targets. We're still looking through records, but they probably were ready to attack when the Federation got involved."

Kirk chewed his lip as he thought out loud. "It added all these species they needed to catalogue. Humans, Vulcans, Andorians-" He looked again at Spock. "If they used general brain waves, that's why they didn't work on you. They tried using a Vulcan's, didn't they? The human's wouldn't work either."

"Right," McCoy said, pointing again to the screens. "That's the basic Vulcan signature and here's a human. But there's Spock. See the differences?"

Spock nodded. "My mind's patterns are unique. This morning, they had the biological data they needed to work on my own brain processes."

Kirk had it all now. "That's why your hallucinations stopped." He gave small nods of his head before he bit out, "But we still didn't listen. So you asked for Saavik."

Spock's eyebrows drew together as he caught the underlying message. "Captain, I never believed you had failed my trust in you. I did not think it of even Doctor McCoy."

"What do you mean, even Doctor McCoy?!"

But Kirk felt a knot in his chest loosen. Still, he didn't break away. "But you knew she'd come here."

Spock and Saavik glanced at each other. She answered. "Of course. I understood he would not ask if it wasn't critical."

McCoy jumped in again. "And she's also half-Vulcan and the Dillegeans don't have any idea what Romulan brain waves are. This is her signature on the right of the Vulcan one. Stop looking like that, Saavik. Those Romulan patterns saved you. And us. And the Maperellians."

She protested that she had not 'looked like' anything.

"So now Spock gets more proof of what's going on by asking for Saavik," the doctor went on. "Because finally someone else is seeing the Dillegeans. But Vulcan and Romulan DNA are close, that's why her vision blurred, but she didn't see them right away."

Spock finished, "It is also why I had to ask her to harm herself. The pain stimuli caused a complete disruption in their biochemical effect."

McCoy shook his head, still looking at her screen. "Pain does heighten senses. In her case, it heightened the difference between her brain waves and what the Dillegeans were targeting. We were lucky, Jim." He turned away from the monitors and folded his arms. "If our friends in the brig had done their research, they would have been prepared to meet Spock. And we'd probably all be dead. By the way, Jim, we think this is a genetic manipulation. The Dillegeans haven't been away from Earth long enough for evolution to make a significant change like this. Might be another reason why they didn't attack until now -- they hadn't figured out the operations to mutate the DNA."

It always amazed Kirk how easily 'saving the day' could have been 'utter disaster'. If the Enterprise didn't get this mission, if Spock didn't serve here, if Saavik hadn't come when he called, if the Vulcans had backed down when ordered instead of having the courage of their convictions, and if Kirk hadn't given them that one last chance to prove themselves right. So many 'ifs' that had to happen to keep billions of people alive.

Saavik watched Kirk as if she wondered if the subject was closed. He lifted up his chin in a nod of permission to speak. "Sir, the Maperellian world?"

"Some Dillegeans were down there, waiting for this party. We -- meaning you and Spock -- prevented the main attack. It's a security nightmare, but Bones made an antidote, so to speak. They're pumping it through the air systems. It makes just enough difference to see clearly without harming anyone. I have teams down there helping them."

He sat down on the edge of one of the beds. "That takes us to the next part. I'm obviously not charging you or Spock with your actions on the bridge. They were necessary under the circumstances."

Kirk leaned forward with his hands clasped. "I talked to Captain Hinderman. I explained everything and I convinced him not to bring the AWOL and shuttle charges against you." He opened his hands wide and forced a smile he hoped didn't look forced. "You did help save over twelve billion people. That's the definition of extenuating circumstances."

Her head tilted to the side and he thought she heard the unsaid 'But' in the air. "There is more, isn't there, Captain?"

Saavik deserved for him to look her in the eye when he said it. "I'm sorry, there is. Hinderman still insisted on putting a letter of reprimand in your record."

McCoy, of all people, was the one to explode first. "Jim, that could ruin her career! It sits in there for three years and who knows what damage it'll do for that long!"

Saavik, on the other hand, revealed nothing. "I expected no different, sir."

"I, however, did." Spock's forehead furrowed and his eyes became cold. "The judgement is unfair."

Kirk held up a hand to stop him from going further. "There's good news. We're getting you away from Hinderman before things get worse. I found a berth for you on another ship, Saavik. She's got a good captain, Captain Hunter, and she needs a science officer. I spoke to her. She read over your record and she's taking my recommendation. The spot's yours if you want it. The Aerfen is a good ship, the head of Hunter's squadron."

"Squadron, sir?"

"It's border patrol. Not the long range goal for a science officer, but serving with Hunter is a great move for your career and you personally. She can teach the most experienced officer a thing or two, including the Admiralty. She also knows that Hinderman -- well, she knows what he's like. She doesn't care about his letter on your record. After all, you have Admiral Nogura's note as well as your other commendations. She knows what to pay attention to."

Spock and McCoy were keeping what he wasn't saying to themselves, but they knew Kirk and Hunter had been lovers, had even planned to marry, before he broke her heart. All of it laid under the surface as the two of them talked; it hadn't been easy this time, but maybe someday it'd be better.

Kirk finished, "Say the word and the position's yours."

"Captain Hunter and her ship have your approval, sir. I would be foolish not to accept."

He started to smile for real. "Good. I have the transfer papers ready. And I already started getting the reprimand expunged from your record. I contacted the Starfleet Suitability and Evaluation Board."

Spock immediately said, "I will as well."

McCoy grumbled, "I would too, if anyone would listen to me."

Kirk grinned, lightening the situation. "The three of us might seem like overkill, but it gives us something to do."

Her expression came as close to stunned as a Vulcan could. "You honor me, sirs."

"You deserve it." He looked at her, intent that her understanding how much he meant what he was about to say. "And remember, we're bringing you back to the Enterprise as soon as possible. Command canceled you coming here as Sulu's replacement since they already had someone, but that's not the end of it. You're coming back here, it's going to happen."

Saavik and Spock exchanged another weighty look before she turned back to Kirk. "Captain--"

He could smile again as he held up his hand to forestall another Vulcan. "No need for that. Like I said, you deserve it." His eyes flicked to Spock who still watched her. "We all do. One more thing -- no, nothing like that. The Aerfen is going in for a refit, so you don't have to be there until after that. Your department is on extended leave."

Saavik rose to her feet. "I will report early then. I am certain a function exists that I can perform until the refit is complete. I need to return to the Pullman first."

Kirk got to his feet too. "You do. I wish we could take you ourselves, but we have more work to do here. Take back the shuttle, pack your things, and get the hell away from Hinderman. He commands a ship amongst the best of us, but not people. You'll do better with Hunter. Bones, can she go?"

McCoy waved it away. "They're both as healthy as can be. Either one of them could bench press one of these beds, and that's with the two of us sitting on it."

She started for the door and Spock went to her side. "Captain," he said to Kirk, "I will walk her to the shuttle."

The captain nodded and the two of them went out. Almost.

"Saavik!" Kirk had suddenly remembered something. She obediently turned back. "You may want to know before you get there. The Aerfen has an eagle painted on it. It's part of Hunter's culture."

Saavik controlled the reaction that all of them were thinking: the irony that she, as Starfleet's lone officer with Romulan blood, would serve on the only Starfleet vessel painted like a bird of prey.

When Kirk did find out about Hellguard, he was doubly glad he had given her that warning.

All she said was, however, "Interesting," and finally could leave with Spock. Kirk heard their conversation as they left, starting with Spock saying:

"The Enterprise has preliminary orders to escort my mother's party to a conference. I could give her a message if you would like."

"The linguistics conference? She told me she was unsure about attending."

They switched to speaking Vulcan and their voices trailed off.

Kirk rubbed his forehead and McCoy naturally noticed. "Headache, Jim?"

He dropped his hand. "More like in need of a strong cup of coffee before I beam down to help the Maperellians. As soon as Spock's done with Saavik, he can come with me." He managed a tired, small grin. "You wouldn't happen to know a group of hybrids we could round up?"

He was obviously kidding, but Bones looked like he was trying very hard to forget something he knew. "Not offhand. Go get that cup of coffee and put some flavoring in it. And I don't mean cream and sugar."

Remembering McCoy's Kentucky Bourbon already made Kirk feel better. Then he remembered McCoy's Romulan ale and he felt worse. "Maybe just the coffee."

He started to leave when Bones called out, "Did Spock say Amanda's coming on board in a few weeks?"

Kirk said yes.

"Isn't that around Mother's Day?"

"I suppose so."

McCoy suddenly clapped his hands together and rubbed them together briskly. "That gives me a lot of ideas!"


Author Notes:

Leonard McCoy is referring to my story Momisms at the end of this story. And he DOES know a group of hybrids; because he carried Spock's katra, he knows about Hellguard's Vulcan-Romulan survivors. That comes up in The Race of Cain.

The GH array that Spock and Saavik talk about is named after Rear Admiral Grace Brewster Murray Hopper (December 9, 1906 - January 1, 1992). She was one of the first programmers of the Harvard Mark I computer in 1944, invented the first computer compiler, and was one of those who popularized the idea of machine-independent programming languages which led to the development of COBOL. She is credited with popularizing the term "debugging" for fixing computer glitches (in one instance, removing a moth from a computer). Owing to her accomplishments and her naval rank, she is sometimes referred to as "Amazing Grace". The USS Hopper (DDG-70) is named for her, as is the Cray XE6 "Hopper" supercomputer at NERSC.

This whole story was inspired by "Mark of the Saurian" from Buck Rogers and the 25th Century.