Just in case you missed it on the summary, this is the third story of the trilogy of Colony War and Kirk's War. Those are rated M; this one is rated T.
Chapter 1 - Hospital
Kirk woke up to the sideways rocking movement of the surface he was lying on. He felt incredibly dizzy and disoriented until he opened his eyes.
"You're fine, Commander," a strange voice said.
Kirk lifted his head. He was being transferred off a shuttle inside a high-ceilinged planetside hanger.
"I can walk," Kirk said. He was strapped down, but only to keep him from rolling off the stretcher, not to secure him.
The woman ran a scanner over him, unhooked the straps while still studying the display.
"Up to you. You should get a full eval."
"I don't need one."
She made a dubious face, made a note on her device, moved off to the next gurney.
Kirk got to his feet, followed Riley's equipment encased body into the facility until the surgical unit doors closed in front of him, blocking the way.
No one questioned Kirk as he went from desk to desk, waited to talk to staff with privileged enough access to tell him where the rest of his crew were. They'd been split between two facilities: the more serious in Med Four, the others that needed less than a day of treatment had been sent to an outpatient unit attached to a public hospital. The staff IDed Kirk to prove he had rights to know all of this as their commanding officer. The staff pointed out that he was under orders for an evaluation. He resisted, then turned on the charm, promised he'd get to it as soon as his crew was settled.
Kirk located Mouse's room first. She didn't seem badly injured, but she'd been admitted to Med Four. She sat quietly a long time before tears began making her cheeks shiny.
"I want to go back and change it," Mouse said, yet again.
"I know," Kirk said. The visions of those moments of decompression, of empty space sucking everything away, they captured Kirk repeatedly, but fortunately Mouse didn't seem to care that he faded out into memory. That was probably why he spent hours there, expecting to be hunted down. But no one came. He had no communicator to be called on. No one official knew where he was.
Kirk stood. "I need to find Riley. He may be out of surgery."
"Yes, sir." She sniffled. "He looked bad."
"I'm afraid the damage we can see isn't the worst of it." Kirk should not have said that, but he badly needed to. She nodded gravely. Thought nothing of his weakness. He touched her shoulder. "Get better, all right?"
"It's what Jonesy would want."
Kirk eventually located Riley in the highest level care unit, had to argue his way in to see him. Life-sustaining machinery filled the alcove around the bed in the shape of a horseshoe. Riley's body had been moved from a temporary inflated enclosure to something less invasive, but still solid enough to hold his tissues together and supported while they were pumped with cellular repair components and toxins were filtered away.
He showed no signs of awareness even though the dials looked better than before.
Regrets dragged Kirk to a seat beside the bed. He could barely breathe again. A nurse came and went, ignoring him.
Someone else approached, but didn't leave.
"You didn't bring it back in one piece this time." This was spoken low.
Kirk raised his head. "Overlander."
"There are barely any reports filed," she said. "What the hell happened?"
Her voice lost the soft tone typical of a critical medical unit. "I mean it. What the hell happened?"
Her voice unnerved him, tore apart the little faith in himself he'd pulled together.
"You always this useless, Kirk?" she asked.
Kirk lifted his head. Feeling his hands trembling on his face wasn't helping. "Not usually."
"What happened? You haven't filed a report or I'd read it and leave you alone."
"No. I haven't. I probably should." He swallowed hard. His throat had closed up.
"Something hulled my ship," she said. "And my first officer."
Kirk resisted laughing. It wasn't any more hers than it was his. "The Potemkin fired on her. One fully loaded torpedo was all it took. She was too close to evade it." He remembered longing to scream at Ranger to take evasive. Remembered watching the torpedo catching up, exploding just at it struck the shield, perfectly timed.
She huffed. "You weren't even on board. Have I got that right? I've got bits and pieces from the crew I could find. No one from Fleet is talking."
"You saw the all receiver alert."
"Garrovick went rogue. Was going to attack Vulcan."
"Well, that's dandy. And why was Ranger there?"
Kirk frowned. "Sorry. Riley was drawn in to assist with the attack by Garrovick. Until I convinced him otherwise."
"And you were where?"
"On a private vessel, intercepting." He pulled at his hair, then smoothed it back. "It's a mess."
"You ordered the Ranger to take on the Potemkin?"
The derision sliced through Kirk. It made him feel terribly alone, on top of miserable.
"Why don't you wait and read the report," Kirk said.
"Because 'Fleet is burying it already. Calling it a drill gone bad."
"Coyran say that?"
"No, Admiral Argot said that on the feeds. Suggested it, might be the better term. There hasn't been an official announcement."
"It wasn't a drill. But you figured that out already." Kirk sat back, arms limp. "Learning a ship the size of the Potemkin can be sent to attack a core planet isn't going to make any Federation citizen feel good. They are sowing doubt about the real story."
"Someone going to tell the real story?" She crossed her arms, shifted her tall boots.
"It sows a different kind of dangerous doubt. So probably not. Not in whole."
"I talked to Rand. She wasn't much help casting light on things."
Kirk straightened with a jolt of his wounded emotions. "I haven't seen her. She okay?"
"She wasn't on board. She and Glissen had gone to look for you. Ranger departed without them."
Kirk rubbed his chin, nodded. "Rand would have gotten in the way of Riley taking off without direct orders."
"Where were you?" She sounded both worried and calculating.
"I'd been abducted."
She made a doubtful face. "By whom?"
"By someone I know well, as part of a Starfleet Security espionage operation." Kirk felt anger beating down his worn spirit rather than lifting him up as it had been. "I haven't reported to them either. Although I took part without any pre-briefing and don't really feel the need as a result. But the point was to stop all this from happening in the first place." He reached out and touched the bed beside Riley.
Overlander stepped closer. "What happened to Riley? Was he in engineering? The bridge is still fully intact."
"No. He must have rushed down there."
"That wasn't smart."
"I don't think he was trying to be smart and I worry what his intent was. I think he knew he'd messed up irrevocably. He wanted so badly to be the hero and that had become impossible."
"Well, hell." She dropped her arms and moved skillfully between the equipment arms to tower close over Riley's lax form.
"I want to be here when he wakes up," Kirk said. His hands were cold, and had stopped quivering because his muscles were exhausted.
Overlander turned to Kirk with a wry smile of sympathy. "I'm sorry. I'm giving you hell when you appear to already be in it."
"It's okay. The crew is all that matters. Take everything out on me that you need to. Don't take it out on Riley."
- 8888 -
Spock sat before the window on the surgery area. Sarek was laid out upon a bare table with a mind Healer lightly holding his temples. A surgeon worked from the side assisted by a delicate robot arm. Despite all the gadgetry and skill, blood was smeared on the gray cloth, on the shiny machinery tools.
Sten entered the narrow dark room. He hobbled even more than he had been previously. Spock wondered if he'd been injured or simply was too distracted to hide an existing debilitation.
Amanda followed Sten, hands clasped before herself. "Spock," she said with poise.
She stared through the glass, sighed. "Sten tells me you are responsible for this."
"I think father's condition is responsible for this. I simply thought it best that he cease delaying treatment." Spock breathed in, held it. "I was not aware of the issue. Although I should have suspected when he parked directly on the temple plaza to avoid the steps when he took me to High Priest Zienn."
She looked away. "It was his choice to keep forgoing putting himself in others' hands. I cannot overrule him." She lifted her head to Spock. "I am surprised you managed."
Spock didn't want to concern her with his state of mind. "I decided the repercussions for me were acceptable. From there it was logical."
There were stools along the window. She pulled one closer and sat upon it. Sten remained by the door.
"How long will it be?" she asked. Her poise was weakening already.
"Another three quarters of an hour, according to the estimate I was given."
She looked down at her hands. Spock reached out and took the closer one over to his own lap by the wrist and held it loosely. She stiffened but didn't withdraw which Spock was certain she would do if Sarek were present and aware. Sten turned to them, then returned his gaze to the floor, shifted his feet.
"I have a great number of questions, Spock," his mother said after many minutes. "But I should wait for your father to answer them."
"It is your choice, Mother."
She moved her hand, took hold of his wrist instead. "I don't want to cause you additional trouble."
Spock didn't want to state that nothing mattered, since that would concern her. He nodded instead.