Chapter 3

Of Mistakes and Beginnings

Under the cover of a dark and rowdy bar, the Command crew of the Enterprise, sans their Captain, sat huddled around a table. They were all dressed in inconspicuous civvies – dark, plain shirts with jeans – and were ducking their heads to avoid any attention. Each had matching grim expressions, drawn out with gaunt lines of exhaustion, fear, and worry.

"Anything?" McCoy murmured to the group, his grip on his beer so tight that his knuckles were white.

They all knew what McCoy was referring to.

Spock shook his head. "Nothing as of late."

It had been nearly fifteen days since Jim completely disappeared. Normally, McCoy would have some semblance of where Jim would be or what he was doing, but this time, there was nothing. Even Spock and Chekov combined couldn't even begin to find a trace of Jim. It was just like he was a wisp of smoke – one second there and the next, he was in the wind.

The crew had immediately confronted Pike about their Captain's whereabouts, but even the Admiral was in the dark on the matter. In fact, he hadn't even known that Jim was gone. Or at least, he hadn't expected Jim to have left so soon. The last they spoke, Dreyes had already put things into motion – no matter how anyone fought, Jim was going to be pulled into the depths of Section 31 and disappear until his mission was completed. It was just a matter of time and clearly, the situation was far direr than Pike had suspected if Jim was already shipped off within minutes of landing.

Frustrated, but resigned, Pike could only leave things how they were. Section 31 had hold of Jim now and there was absolutely nothing he could do.

And now, days later, the crew had less than what they started with.

"Goddamn. Where the hell could he be?" McCoy snarled quietly.

"He's left on missions before, Leonard," Uhura said gently, her voice tainted with worry that she would never show in front of Kirk.

"But he's never completely gone off the grid like this. No matter what kind of mission he was on, either me or Pike knew about the general location he was in or how long he'd be." McCoy hesitated and looked down at the table with such sorrow and hurt in his eyes. "He agreed that he'd always tell me…"

Chekov frowned. "Vhat are ve going to do?"

"Is there anything that we can do?" Sulu questioned. "I mean, you and Spock have been trying everything to find a single trace on him, but Kirk's a ghost. We might just have to wait until he pops up again."

"What if he doesn't? His note was extremely vague, and a vague Jim never means anything good," McCoy shot back.

"Ever the optimist, aren't you? I thought we were the 'glass-half-full' type of people," Sulu said, his words echoing a similar situation when Jim and Chekov had been captured in Germany. "You should know better than any of us that Kirk left us for a reason. What if we're endangering him by looking for him?"

Chekov fell silent, remembering his time in captivity in Germany with Jim. Back then, Jim clearly could have gotten himself out of that precarious situation so easily, but with Chekov in the equation, he had to take drastic measures to ensure Chekov's safety. It almost cost Jim his life and it was not something anyone of them wanted repeated.

"I agree vith Hikaru," he said sadly. "The Keptin is stronger vhen he does not hawe to look after someone else."

"While that is true, Jim is also infamous for his lack of self-preservation," Spock added.

For once, McCoy agreed with the Vulcan. "Jim needs someone to watch his back."

Scotty took a deep gulp of his scotch before speaking. "Ah think yer all forgettin' tha' Jim only gets reckless if he's tryin' to protect someone. Think 'bout it. Name one time tha' Jim got 'urt because he was tryin' to save 'imself."

"But he's never had a fucking flashing target on his back before! And it was put there by people that he should have been able to trust," McCoy snarled. "Pike said it himself – Starfleet's been compromised, which means Jim's mission could have been too."

"Jim's a smart lad and he knows what he's doin'. Trust me on this," Scotty said with conviction, completely disregarding McCoy's worries. "Wherever tha' lad is, he's alive and survivin'. All we can do is stick around and make sure tha' he has a family and home to come back to."

"But what if we can't? Our next orders haven't even come in yet, but there are rumors that we're being reassigned Captains," Uhura hissed. "If we get shipped out before Kirk comes back, there's nothing we can do."

McCoy groaned and rubbed his face tiredly. "We're in a hot damn mess, aren't we? Goddamn it, Jim…"

"We are all worried, Doctor, and we all fear for Jim's safety, but exhausting ourselves over what could happen is not conducive to anyone." Spock paused and his voice suddenly became softer. "Jim would not wish for us to worry about him as much as we are now."

"Then what will you have me do?!" McCoy almost burst out, only remembering at the last minute to keep his voice down. "Jim's out there doing god knows what with absolutely no support! I can't just sit around and do nothing!"

Spock leveled an even look at McCoy. "What can you do that will help him then, Doctor? Pray tell, because I truly would like to know as well."

McCoy's entire body tensed, as if he was about to wrestle with the Vulcan, but a second later, he deflated, completely resigned.

"Jim will be fine," Spock tried again, trying to comfort himself as well as the rest of his friends.

Leonard slammed his beer to the table, screeching his chair back as he suddenly got to his feet. "He damn well better be, or I'm going to avenge his idiotic ass, damn the consequences and the fuckers that played him like a fucking puppet."

The highly wound-up doctor stormed away, banging and swearing his way out of the bar.

Uhura sighed and stood as well, though much more delicately than McCoy had done. "I better make sure he doesn't do anything stupid." And she followed Leonard out.

The rest of them didn't sit around for long after them. Spock left almost immediately after Nyota, planning on seeing what else he could dig up; Scotty waited for a few more minutes to drain the last of his scotch before leaving silently.

"We should probably go too," Sulu said to Chekov who merely nodded quietly.

The two paid for the tab and stepped out into the street. People bustled about in the sun before them, rushing to their destinations without sparing them a glance. It was almost unfair how the world kept moving without Jim around – there wasn't a single shred of his presence in this world that he had saved over and over again.

But perhaps that was only because Chekov was searching for Jim in the people moving around him. He wanted to see that cocky smile that Jim always had before he did something amazing; he wanted to see the gentle and caring soul that Jim always saw in the hearts of the complete strangers around him. But without Jim beside him to remind him that there were genuinely good people out in the world, it was hard for Chekov to see past his own hurt, anger, and sorrow.

Sulu patted Chekov on his shoulder, attempting to be comforting, but he knew that it wasn't going to be enough because he simply couldn't understand the depths of Chekov's emotions. He and Kirk had always been fast friends – not quite as close as Spock or Bones – yet enough that they could call each other brothers. Sulu had every faith in Jim to keep himself safe, but he knew he was being naïve. He couldn't even begin to fathom what Kirk was facing right now while Chekov could. The young Navigator had been with Jim on one of his missions, and they both came back bleeding and dying. Sulu didn't know exactly what had transpired in that dirty prison cell that the two had been kept in, but what they went through – it created a bond between Kirk and Chekov that no one but the two of them could understand.

He didn't know how to comfort Chekov, but he certainly could try, and Chekov appreciated it.

The young genius smiled at Sulu gratefully, not saying a word.

"Take care, alright, Chekov? I'll stop by tomorrow if you want to grab lunch."

"I vould like zat," Chekov responded. "See you tomorrow, Hikaru."

Sulu waved once and turned around, strolling away. Chekov waited for a couple of seconds before going the other way to head home. As he did, he caught a flash of a hooded figure standing across the street from him, staring directly at him. The black hood covered most of the man's face, leaving only a small section of his pale chin visible to the public. His hands were shoved into his jeans' pockets, making his shoulders slightly hunched. He didn't stand out in the crowd – people paid almost no attention to him at all – but there was something vaguely familiar about his tall, fit figure.

Before Chekov had the chance to work though anything, he blinked and the man was gone – disappearing like a mirage. He shook his head, rubbing his eyes. He must be tired and strained if he seeing things.

Pulling his jacket closer to his body, Chekov started walking again, not even realizing that he was being followed. After a few blocks, he turned into an alley – a shortcut to his apartment.

That was his mistake.

He only had the time to take two steps before hands reached out and grabbed him – one wrapping around his mouth to silence him and the other in an unbreakable hold around his stomach and waist.

He couldn't even scream, let alone fight, before he was dragged completely into the shadows.

And absolutely no one had noticed.

Pike sighed tiredly as he turned the key to his door. His home was dark and empty, just as he left it. He had just come back from a long day of work followed by an entire evening of mollifying Spock and McCoy about Jim. Nothing he said did anything to help, but the alcohol and the company had temporarily soothed all parties involved.

Exhaustion hung on Pike's older frame, his own worry for his "adopted" son weighing heavily down on him as he started to remove the thin jacket he had on. Keys clinked into its glass bowl by the door – the only sound besides Pike's breathing.

Trudging forward, Pike moved into the kitchen, refusing to turn on the lights. He had planned on pouring himself another tumbler of whiskey when the hairs on the back of his neck rose. Quietly and covertly, Pike opened one of his drawers, his hand resting on a phaser that he had hidden inside.

"There's no need for that," came a very familiar and tired voice.

Pike almost jumped at how close the man was to him, but that was quickly replaced with such relief that it made his knees weak. "Damn it, Jim! I could've killed you!" he exclaimed, turning around and switching the lights on in one gesture.

Jim stood a few feet away from him, leaning casually against the counter. He was in jeans and a navy-blue, long-sleeved shirt. His hair had been mussed with and there were weary lines drawn deep into his young face, but there was a small smile there as Jim looked at his father-figure with fondness.

"No, you couldn't have, and you know it, Pike," Jim chuckled. His laughter was strained, almost forced. It was to be expected though. Fifteen days scampering around god-knows-where, fighting and surviving did a lot of things to a man. If it were any longer, Jim probably would have forgotten what it felt like to smile or laugh.

Pike just eyed Jim and reached up, opening a cabinet to pull out two glasses and a bottle of whiskey. He poured equal amounts into them, sliding one over towards Jim. "I didn't give you that key to scare the hell out of me, kid."

"Shouldn't have given me the key to your house in the first place. That was your mistake," he quipped as he easily caught the tumbler.

"And yet, this is the first time you've ever used it."

Jim shrugged and drained the whiskey in one go. Though strong, the alcohol was nowhere enough to even give Jim a little buzz.

"When did you get in?" Pike sipped at his own drink.

"This morning."

"Where have you been?"

"Somewhere cold."

Pike knew better than to ask details of his mission under Section 31. "You okay?"

"For now," Jim said cryptically. "I need a favor, Chris. A huge one."

The fact that Jim used Pike's first name set off alarm bells in his head. Jim only ever called him 'Chris' when he was desperate. Pike tried to not let his panic show in his body language and resolutely lifted his chin. "Anything, Jim. You know that."

Jim set the glass down. "The mission was a bust. There's nothing I can do now except wait for everything to go to hell in a handbasket."

"What's going to happen?"

"I don't know the exact details, but it's not going to end well for me." Jim ran his fingers through his short hair nervously. Now Pike understood how Jim's hair got so messy – he must've been repeating that motion over and over again to calm his agitated nerves with no avail. "Chris, no matter what happens, I need you to let it play out. It's the only way."

"You know I can't do that if you're going to be in danger, Jim…" Pike whispered.

"You have to. This is the end of the road for me, but there's something that you can do." Jim slid a folded piece of paper towards Pike. "Burn this when you've memorized it."

Pike frowned as he picked it up. "What is it?"

"Instructions. Tell no one about this, Chris. Not even to Bones or Spock. This cannot get out." Jim stepped away when Pike skimmed through Jim's hastily scrawled words.

"Jim…this is…?!" Pike glanced up in horror at Jim.

Jim winced. "Yeah, I know. Trust me, I'm not looking forward to it either." He paused. "I gotta go. There're a few more things I need to do before tomorrow."


"Keep my family safe, Chris," Jim interrupted, his voice quiet and soft. "That includes you. Don't do anything stupid and tell them to stay the hell away from all this. I can't let you guys get burned by the whiplash."

"Be careful, Jim. Please."

Jim smiled so sadly that it made Pike's heart ache. "That went out the window long before I even got involved." He walked towards the door, knowing full well that Pike was going to follow him there. Stopping at the now open exit, Jim turned to look at his father-figure one more time. "Thanks for everything, Chris. Goodbye. See you on the other side."

Before Pike even got the chance to reply, Jim was gone again, taken by the darkness around him.

The night was chilly and a slight fog had started to settle in. The streets were completely empty at this late hour, and it was exactly how Jim wanted it. He pulled up his hood, zipping up his jacket as a cold shiver ran through him. It wasn't quite as cold as Serbia or even Iowa during the winter, for that matter, but the weather still chilled Jim to his bones.

After leaving Pike's house, Jim had tied up a few more loose strings before wandering out to clear his head. Emotionally, Jim was completely drained. He had left a letter to Bones lying on his coffee table back in his apartment. He had no doubt that Bones regularly checked his empty place (he refused to call the small studio as "home" since he was barely ever there anyway) to see if Jim had ever stopped by. Jim didn't risk it, of course. The reporters knew where Jim lived when he was in San Francisco and often staked it out, which is why Pike had given him a key to his place. Pike's home was on the outskirts of the bustling downtown – it was traditional and unchanged, almost replicating the twenty-first century style housing – and it was quiet and more importantly, undisturbed. But Jim hadn't dared to take Pike up on his offer, choosing to stay over at Bones' place until reporters figured that out too. Then, Jim had just bounced between his crew, staying only briefly until shore leave was finally over with and he could get back on board his usual, beautiful girl.

It was going to be a while before Jim would be able to step foot on the Enterprise now, if ever. He was going to miss her and everything that came with her: his family, his crew, and his freedom. He still wasn't sure what the hell Iosif and his comrades had come up for him, but he had an inkling of how it was going to go down. He had known for a while now that his downfall was never going to be about him dying. His death would mark him as a martyr for the history books and his name would forever be remembered in awe and inspiration (even though he didn't deserve it); Iosif wanted to destroy his very existence. To do that, Jim would have to, as Iosif said, fall from grace. He hadn't lied when he accidentally let it slip during that mission with wisps that someone was out to destroy his reputation, not that anyone actually paid attention to it. He, himself, hadn't even realized that he had blurted it out – he had never meant to let his crew know anything about this.

With Iosif dead, Jim just knew that things were in motion now – they had to act quickly, especially when they weren't sure if Iosif talked to Jim. This was going to be his last night. Tomorrow, he was going to meet up with Dreyes and just let everything hit him at once. Maybe – just maybe – Jim would still be able to stand after the harsh beat-down that he was in for.

And all Jim wanted to do was find Bones and crash on his couch. He wanted to get his best friend piss-ass drunk as they used to do when they were in the Academy. He just wanted Bones' sarcastic and grouchy company, god help him. He wanted to do math problems with Chekov, play chess with Spock, serenade to Uhura, fence with Sulu, and share tales with Scotty. His heart ached and yearned to be with his family – to see them smile and laugh with him, to have their presence warm him and keep him human.

In the fifteen days that Jim was separated from them, he could feel the familiar apathy creeping up on him. There was a coldness settling in his chest; lives around him stopped meaning something. He was returning to the "kill or be killed" world and the people around him started appearing as wolves wrapped in sheep's clothing. It reminded him too much of Tarsus – of his time as J.T., and that frightened him, because he was never scared to do what needed to be done, no matter how dirty his hands got. He was terrified of that; he knew what he was capable of, which was exactly why he was absolutely petrified of looking in the mirror one day to see a monster staring back at him.

When he was with Bones, Spock, Chekov, Uhura, Sulu, and Scotty, Jim could pretend that he wasn't aware of his dark side. He could pretend that people really didn't hate him as much he hated himself. More importantly, he could pretend that he was human – that his past didn't define him. Being around his family let him feel that he was actually living and not just surviving (because there was a huge difference between the two, as Jim was well aware). He was happy, and that kept J.T. at bay.

But all good things came to an end – it was his rule number thirteen ('lucky' number thirteen…). Jim knew that better than anyone.

It was time to go, but he remembered what he was leaving. He remembered the best, and his friends had always been the best of him. He could spend lifetimes and still not be able to express the depths of his gratitude to his friends, especially to Bones. Bones was the first – the one constant in Jim's chaotic life – and to him, Jim left everything, though it wasn't much. His savings, his apartment, and all those trinkets that Jim had gathered over the years he had known Bones – they were all going to his best friend. Bones would finally get to find out about the college fund that Jim had started for Joanna the day he became Captain. Pike would, under Jim's instruction, get a damn good lawyer and perhaps he could get full custody of his kid.

Jim wasn't sure what he could possibly leave to the rest of his crew, but he hoped that they would still stay together. He had never thought that they would disperse just because he wasn't around – their bonds were stronger than that – but Bones would need them as much as Jim did. Bones filled holes in Jim's life and Jim did the same for the doctor; this was going to tear them both apart, damaging things that were barely patched up in the first place. And it killed Jim to have to do this to his best friend – to his brother.

Goddamn. Jim really wanted to see his family, but it was too dangerous. Going to any of their places would just rouse suspicion and Jim couldn't risk putting his friends in danger right before they were going to be shipped off to Zenobia where they would be safe.

Jim had just talked it over with Dreyes. In the morning, the Admiral was going to send out the orders for Wolff to take over for him. The sooner the better too, unfortunately, because Jim didn't want them to be around and caught up in the aftershocks of the earthquake that Jim was about to set off. Jim was going to be the epicenter and lives were going to be ruined if they were in too close of a proximity to him.

All Jim had to do now was meet up with Dreyes tomorrow to "officially" be given his orders and wait for his life to fall apart.

Hopefully, Jim had been able to predict all of his opponents' moves and his contingency plans would be able to cover and counter their actions. Jim wasn't a genius for nothing – he was fairly confident in his abilities to get himself out of tight spots.

He didn't believe in no-win situations, especially in this match of chess. Jim almost never lost at that game.

And he wasn't about to change that.

Jim had a sense of foreboding the moment he woke up in his dingy, dirty, no-name motel room, and it wasn't because he saw a rat scampering across the floor at the foot of his bed. These sort of conditions never bothered Jim (not after his past experiences – nothing could be worse than Tarsus). He had gotten maybe an hour or two of sleep before the first rays of sunlight woke him up. A heavy feeling sat on his chest, constricting and twisting like a boa constrictor. It was something that he had felt before on a day that he was never going to be able to forget for the rest of his life. This ominous, sinking sensation was almost exactly what Jim felt the morning that Kodos executed half the Tarsus IV colony before his eyes.

He rubbed his face wearily, trying to shake away all trepidation, but he knew that it wasn't going to do much. Swinging his legs around, Jim pulled himself out of bed and started pulling on his jeans and a tight, black long-sleeved shirt. Glancing at the mirror, Jim noted that he had lost weight – his face was gaunt and pale; there was steel in his blue eyes, tinting it grey. It had been a long time since Jim had seen such a look in himself – over twelve years, in fact – and he wasn't sure how he felt about it. Terrified was probably a good adjective to use at the moment. It was a strange combination with his determination and resolution.

With his heavy heart, Jim left the sanctity of his room and made his way unnoticed to Starfleet Headquarters. People bustled around him, each rushing to their destinations and to complete their tasks. No one paid any attention to Jim, though he did purposely hunch his shoulders to make himself smaller and unnoticeable. As Jim stepped into the pristine white building, he could feel his nerves grating and he almost hesitated, but he kept going.

There was no going back now.

Straightening, Jim marched to Dreyes' office with purpose now. Passing cadets and officers started to take notice of Jim, making way for the young Captain as he walked into the elevator to go up five floors.

He paused right before Dreyes' door, completely freezing even as his hand prepared to knock. Something was off. His instincts were screaming at him, ringing all sorts of bells in his head, and he was immediately on guard. He had learned long ago to always trust his instincts (rule number two), because they were almost always right.

But he couldn't figure out what was amiss. The hallway was usually fairly empty with a couple of officers going from one end to another, so there was nothing different about that. There were no sounds of a scuffle or angry words being thrown at some hapless cadet; there was nothing different about his immediate surroundings.

Frowning, Jim knocked on the door, but there was no response. Dreyes should be in his office – he had made an appointment with Jim at 0800 sharp, and Dreyes never missed or was late to an appointment. Trepidation ran down Jim's spine as he cautiously turned the doorknob to open the door.

An overwhelming stench of iron slammed into Jim and panic started to rise. He could recognize that smell even asleep – it was something that he had never been able to wash off: the pungent scent of blood.

Without even thinking, Jim burst into the room, not caring that, in his haste, he had slammed the door so hard against the wall that the thud was heard down the hall. Dreyes' office was an absolute mess – papers were lying uselessly on the ground; furniture was overturned. It was a far cry from the obsessive compulsive cleanliness that Dreyes maintained.

Jim's blue eyes settled on Dreyes a second later and his entire stomach dropped out. Dreyes was sitting in his chair, leaning backwards at an awkward angle. Blood was beginning to pool around the legs of his seat, dripping down from numerous stab wounds in his torso. The knife's handle was still protruding from where it was buried under his left clavicle. His eyes were closed and his right hand was lying limply on his desk, leaving bloody prints all over the documents that were set on the table.

"Shit!" Jim swore under his breath and took two giant running steps to reach Dreyes' side. He pressed his fingers against Dreyes' left jugular vein and felt a thread and fading heartbeat.

There wasn't much hope for Dreyes. Now that Jim was closer, he could actually count how many times Dreyes had been stabbed. The poor man had been attacked from the front, which meant that Dreyes had known his attacker. For him to be stabbed seven times, it must have been someone that Dreyes had fully trusted. The first act alone had probably stunned Dreyes so much that he couldn't react to the rest.

Still, Dreyes had a heartbeat and Jim may still be able to get him to say who it was that attacked him before it was too late.

Jim knew to not remove the knife – it was probably acting as a plug for that particular wound, which prevented further blood loss. He pressed his hands straight onto Dreyes' chest. Nausea rose in Jim's throat as he felt the warm liquid gush over his fingers. With each fading heartbeat, more blood was pumped out onto Jim's hands. It raised memories that Jim never wanted to touch again.

Little Charlie had just been shot by Kodos' soldier; his brown eyes were growing more and more vacant even as J.T. tried to stop the bleeding. Minutes ticked by and soon, those eyes saw nothing more, leaving behind bloodstained hands that could never be clean again.

Shaking himself out of the memory, Jim pressed down harder, eliciting a weak groan from Dreyes. The Admiral slowly peeled his eyes open and Jim could see the once brilliant look glazing over as his body failed him.

"Hey," Jim said reassuringly, despite the worry that he knew was shining in his eyes. "You're going to be alright."

Dreyes breathed laboriously as he struggled to find the words. "Bull…shit…" he panted.

"Who did this to you, Dreyes?" The urgency in Jim's voice couldn't be hidden. Dreyes was fading before him so fast, like a candle flame on its last legs.

Dreyes coughed, blood splattering onto Jim's face.

"Dreyes! Stay with me! Who the hell did this to you?!" Jim almost shouted, shoving down harder on Dreyes' chest.

The Admiral weakly squirmed in pain; his breathing was getting shallower and clearly, he was fighting to drag in that precious oxygen into his punctured lungs. He wheezed, "Trap…"

"What trap? Tell me, what trap?!"


"What about the Enterprise? Come on, Dreyes! You're stronger than this, you damn bastard!"

But Dreyes was done. He wheezed in one last breath and gurgled, blood filling his mouth to the point that it started dripping down his chin. And then he breathed no more. Dreyes' entire body went slack and his open eyes stared unseeingly into the distance.

"God fucking damn!" Jim hissed, pulling his hands away. He wanted to run his fingers through his hair, but his hands were soaked in blood.

Horror and disgust of the feel of blood on him consumed him and he wanted nothing more than to run away.

Dreyes was never his favorite person – he barely even got along with the man, but it was still hard to see someone that he knew, die before him. And the fucking bastard left more questions than answers. What did he mean by trap? And what did that have to do with the Enterprise? She was already getting ready to leave San Francisco to go to Zenobia. Was she flying into a trap or was Jim going to be trapped by her?

Pieces slowly connected and oh. Oh. In that instant, Jim knew who had killed Dreyes – or at least he had a good guess, but he would have to confirm it before he acted upon it. Quickly, he ducked down to glance at the knife, grabbing the handle and pulling it out for any clues. As he did, his eyes caught sight of the papers underneath Dreyes' hand.

Sitting on Dreyes' desk was a half-signed form stating that Captain James T. Kirk was to relinquish his captaincy of the Enterprise to Commander Royce Wolff, effective immediately. Dreyes' signature had tapered off in the middle of his first name. Clearly, someone didn't want Dreyes to finish what he started, and it pointed directly at Jim – the one person who had everything to lose from Dreyes signing that form.

It was an obvious implication of Jim's supposed guilt.

Shit. This was going to turn on Jim so quickly that his head was going to be left spinning. He was in the motion of setting down the blade when three officers came rushing in, shouting with their phasers flailing about. Someone must've heard the door slamming when Jim ran in and his subsequent shouting and called in the cavalry.

Jim was caught red-handed – literally and metaphorically – with the murder weapon in his hand and hovering over the dead Admiral.

"Stop! Put your hands up and set down your weapon!" yelled a tall, brunette man.

"This isn't what it looks like," Jim said slowly, putting the knife onto the desk with delicate movements. He then did as he was told, raising both hands up in surrender. "He was already dying when I found him."

Suddenly, one of the officers tilted his head and his eyes widened in recognition. "Captain Kirk?" His tone was incredulous and baffled.

"The one and only." For once, Jim was glad for his reputation. "Look, I had an appointment with Dreyes this morning in regards to a mission that I just completed. I'm sure if you look around, you can find some documentation of it. And besides, I have no reason to want to kill him. I have no motive."

The officers looked at each other, unsure of what to do.

"You keep watch on Captain Kirk," the first person said to the one who realized who Jim was. "We'll look around to confirm what he said."

Jim was pushed (none too gently) towards the door and shoved face-first against the wall. He hissed in irritation. "Is this really necessary?"

"I'm sorry, Captain, but this is protocol."

"It's protocol to man-handle innocent people into walls? Who the hell wrote that rule? Seriously, people. A little decorum would be nice here."

"An Admiral is dead – murdered in his own office. I think decorum just went out the window."

Jim fell silent. Yeah, he had to give the officer that.

"Hey! Look at this!" the third officer said loudly.

"Oh my god…" breathed the first.

Jim's heart sank once more as his brilliant mind figured out what the officers had found. He couldn't believe that he had forgotten Dreyes' half-signed document on the desk.

To all those who knew Jim, they knew that his Captaincy of the Enterprise meant everything to him. To lose her could easily send him into a murderous rage – at least that was how it would seem to the outside world.

It was a clear-cut motive.

That, combined with the fact that Jim was found holding the murder weapon and his hands covered in the dead Admiral's blood, was damn condemning evidence that no one could ignore. At this point, Jim wasn't even sure if his mission that was ordered by Dreyes was recorded, (he had been working under Section 31 after all), let alone written down among the papers scattered in his ruined office. It wasn't known as Starfleet's clandestine service for nothing. Jim's name was probably never even recorded and all his missions were most definitely coded and hidden deep, deep within Starfleet's archives.

Jim felt cuffs being clamped onto his wrists tightly and a phaser being jammed against his back.

"Captain James T. Kirk, we place you under arrest for the murder of Admiral Dreyes. Anything you say can and will be used against you in a court of law…"

Jim tuned out the rest of it as he tried to fight down his despair and anger at being wrongfully accused of a murder that he didn't commit.

As he was paraded out of the door as a high-risk criminal, Jim finally understood what Iosif said about him falling from grace. The humiliation and shame were almost enough for Jim to want to escape from his restraints (something that he could do easily) and hunt down Dreyes' actual murderer, but he had to let this play out.

There was more to this – Jim just knew it. With all the trouble Iosif and his people went through to frame Jim for this murder, there still wasn't going to be enough to convict him. With how advanced technology was now, it was only a matter of time before Jim was freed. His reputation probably wouldn't even suffer from this scratch.

No…Iosif and his friends were far from done.

This was just the beginning.

To be continued...

Um. So I'm still playing catchup with my horrible grade. I did bring it up quite a bit so I'm actually passing the class now (yay!) but it's still not where I want it to be. I'll probably be working my butt off for these last 5 weeks of school, so again, and I'm sorry, but there's going to be slow updates. I want to thank you guys for being so understanding and giving me so many words of encouragement. I really appreciate all of your kind words and I'm eternally grateful. So thank you so much! I love you all!

Thank you for your reviews and I hope that you continue to review my stories!