Summary: Jimmy Kirk arrives on Tarsus IV in time for a planet- wide disaster. He and his companions must evade capture by Kodos' troops and free the colonists that have been condemned to death.
Disclaimer: Star Trek is owned by Paramount, Viacom and others; this is an original story that does not intend to infringe on their copyright. I only wrote it because I love Jim Kirk, and I've always wondered just what really happened on Tarsus IV.
Warnings: Lots of old fashioned action-adventure, innocent first love, kids in jeopardy, and more than my fair share of "Don't tell me, show me" errors because this is my first ever fiction effort.
SUMMER CAMP by Syl Francis
Fun! The time of your life! Yeah, right, Jimmy Kirk thought sarcastically.
Jimmy recalled the Science Camp packet which had included a slickly produced holovid produced by the Tarsus IV Tourist Bureau: "The people of Tarsus Four welcome you!" The pleasant voice proclaimed in a voiceover, as the governor's personal transport, the Tarsus One, gracefully took off from the colony's lone spaceport.
This was followed by several panoramic views of the planet and people in various states of recreation and enjoyment. "Come enjoy our parks with their myriad hiking trails, white water rafting, and indigenous lifeforms. Explore the mystery of Tarsus Four's many caves. Or, for the more romantically inclined, come and enjoy our endless miles of white, sandy beaches and warm, sub-tropical waters. Browse through our one of a kind shops. Best of all, meet with Tarsus Four's best ambassadors: Our friendly citizens. Each is anxious to welcome you and make your stay on our beautiful planet a memorable and pleasant experience."
Sure, Jimmy thought. They just left out the part about trying to kill you. Well, he still have a few things left to do in life, and that did not include dying on this backwater colony planet!
He thought back on all his Dad and Sam had taught him. The first order of business was survival; survival until help arrived. His Dad and Uncle Bob were probably doing everything humanly possible to leave their current patrol area to bring the Enterprise at maximum warp as part of the relief effort.
Before that happens, Jimmy sighed, I've got to rely on myself.
Jimmy knelt, blousing his trousers into the tops of his boots, then securely retying his bootlaces to ensure his trouser legs didn't slip out. Where he was going, he didn't need distractions like his pants getting caught on one of the many rock outcroppings that rose before him. Working furiously, he quickly checked himself and his equipment: Weapon safety--on; shoulder strap--secure, but comfortable; hunting knife--in his left boot.
That's about it, Jimmy-boy, he thought to himself. All you've got left are your wits and your charm. He paused shaking his head. I don't stand a chance.
As he started climbing, he kept a spirited commentary running in his head. Okay, don't get discouraged. Remember what Sam said: You're having the time of your life!
What did *he* know? His Science Camp had been on Vulcan; the only danger there came from too much thinking. How did Sam put it? Jimmy's minds eye returned to the last conversation he'd had with his older brother almost a month ago. Winning the Federation Science Foundation Summer Camp award had seemed so exciting at the time.
At the moment, though, Jimmy had other concerns: Namely, escaping detection. So far, he'd succeeded through sheer luck and utter doggedness. But as he continued his steady climb, his mind kept going back to Sam....
#### CHAPTER ONE
"You'll have a great time, Squirt!" Sam Kirk's brown eyes smiled over the commchannel. "I had fun at Science Camp--at least as much fun as possible on Vulcan. But Tarsus Four...I hear Governor Kodos has implemented all sorts of social programs which make it one of the most progressive colonies in the Federation!"
"I gue-ess-" Jimmy replied doubtfully.
"I'm telling ya, Jim, you'll have a blast...and don't worry about being the youngest kid there. Remember, I was only fourteen when I won the Science Camp award--the other participants were really friendly, though...almost respectful."
"I guess they were a little intimidated by a fourteen-year-old kid who had won the Science Camp award." He paused, then continued reassuringly. "You'll probably run into the same type of kids...I mean, they're mostly all scholars and will respect each other's abilities. Besides, Jimmy, by now you should be used to being the youngest in just about everything, right?"
Sam, throughout his short speech, smiled affectionately at his younger brother. Jimmy knew that his brother was proud of him. Sam had had as much of a role in raising Jimmy as his parents: Their mother, Winona, worked full time as a research xenoagribiologist on the Kirk farm; while their father, George, Sr., a Starfleet officer, was absent constantly on deep space assignments as Chief of Security on board the USS Enterprise.
Now Sam, following in his mother's footsteps, was at MIT working on his doctorate in xenoagribiology. Mother and son were interested in researching procedures of improving world food production methods. While Winona specialized on Earth food harvests, Sam was interested in pursuing his studies on the colony worlds.
"By the way," Sam began excitedly, "I've got some pretty important news myself."
"You got it!" Jimmy jumped in, excited for his brother.
"We sure did," Sam smiled smugly. "The Deneva Colony Planetary Council was more than happy to recruit two scientists for the price of one. They've guaranteed us prime living quarters, research facilities and laboratory assistants for five years."
Sam was grinning widely. "Aurelan's pretty excited about moving to Deneva. It's one of the Federation's most beautiful worlds. Of course, that means that we have to move up our wedding to next June, because they want us to report no later than July or August." Sam paused smiling happily. Then adding slyly, "You don't happen to know anyone who could possibly serve as Best Man?"
Jimmy's face slowly started brightening into one of his famous circuit blowing smiles. He couldn't believe what he knew Sam was about to say.
"I've already asked several of my fellow students here, but they're all going to be busy next June," Sam's voice had taken on that gentle teasing quality he'd always assumed when being playful with Jimmy. "I don't suppose you're going to be free next summer? I mean, a busy guy like you?"
Jimmy started laughing. "Don't you *dare* ask anyone else to be your Best Man! It's the least you can do for me since you stole Aurelan right out from under my nose!"
"Stole? Me?" Sam's eyes were all innocence. "Whatever do you mean?"
"You know what I mean. The only reason you got Aurelan is 'cause I wasn't allowed to stay up past seven-thirty. A real dirty trick, I think. Waiting for little six-year-old Jimmy to be innocently in bed, then making time with the fifteen-year-old babysitter."
"I protest! You malign my relationship with my beautiful future bride!" Sam was holding his hand to his chest in mock severity. "Besides, I was *not* making time! I was trying to do a few other things you're still too young to know anything about--" Sam added, laughing and shaking his finger at Jimmy, "--but I was *not* making time!"
Jimmy smiled. He was pleased and proud of the honor. Despite their age difference and constant childhood quarrels, the boys were extremely close--best friends. Jimmy knew that Sam was there for him and always would be.
"You know nothing could me keep away. Congratulations, Sam. Aurelan's gonna be a beautiful bride--and the prettiest biochemist in the Federation!"
Both brothers smiled at each other over the commnet. Then, remembering the original reason for the call, Sam returned the conversation to Jimmy's upcoming Science Camp.
"I tell you, Squirt--" Sam smiled wickedly at Jimmy's grimace at being called *Squirt*; Jimmy *hated* the term, "--you're gonna have the time of your life!" Then, taking the sting out of the hated childhood nickname, added, "Oh, and by the way...I showed off your paper to several warp drive engineers and scientists here."
Sam paused, his brown eyes dancing mischievously.
"They all just scratched their heads and walked away, muttering something about why they hadn't thought of it before."
Sam had taken on an exaggeratedly perplexed look, mimicking his colleagues' facial expressions. Then, his voice assuming a high falsetto, Sam echoed the words of one female Jimmy knew his brother found particularly annoying, "It's all so obvious...How did I *ever* overlook this?"
Sam was absolutely beaming by now.
"Imagine, a kid like you coming up with a method to cold start a starship's warp engines while it's in a decaying orbit! I'm not sure I understand the physics behind it myself!" Sam paused, crossing his eyes in a goofy expression. "Let's see...The resulting implosion will result in a time warp which will in effect sling the starship backwards in time, thus saving it from destruction because the emergency never existed...right?"
Sam looked at Jimmy for confirmation.
At Jimmy's assenting nod, Sam continued chagrined, "And, of course, it all just *came* to you? While you were playing chess...or was it rock climbing...or while in the middle of pitching a no-hitter?"
"Rock climbing," Jimmy confirmed sheepishly.
Sam sighed and shook his head.
Jimmy grinned, embarrassed over his brother's obvious pique. Sam had once referred to Jimmy's multi-dimensional view of the universe around him as almost Zen-like.
Their Dad, on the other hand, suspected Jimmy used trick mirrors and voodoo to achieve, what to ordinary mortals such as himself and their mother, seemed impossible.
Jimmy knew that although Sam was extremely proud of him, it still annoyed him that Jimmy just took his superior intellect in stride and remained completely unaffected by it. Jimmy could pitch white hot curve balls with deadly accuracy at his team's opponents. He could just as easily explain the physics behind the curve ball.
All boy, Mom called him; an enigma, who happens to be my little brother, countered Sam.
Jimmy didn't understand all the fuss. He had never thought of himself as a genius, or otherwise gifted--he just understood new ideas and concepts faster than others did. Sure, he could see beyond abstractions and make laser-accurate intuitive leaps of logic that no one else seemed able to. Sure, he'd been doing it almost his entire life. But that was why he didn't think he was doing anything particularly special; he'd always assumed it was something everyone could do and was therefore invariably surprised when his analyses of a set of given facts and hypotheses predictably left others behind.
"Have you heard from Dad?" Sam asked.
Jimmy's excited nod was accompanied with a circuit-overloading, mega-watt grin.
Knowing the answer already, Sam asked, "Did he say anything?"
"Dad says Uncle Bob thinks he can sponsor me into next year's Academy Class! Uncle Bob says he'll twist some arms to get the age requirement waived! Isn't that great?"
"It's wonderful, Jimmy," Sam agreed. Then he asked gently, "What does Mom say?"
"Aww...you know Mom," Jimmy said reluctantly. "She's walking around kicking stray dogs and anything else that doesn't get out of her way."
Sam snorted at the inconsistency of their petite mother terrorizing the countryside.
"Anyways, I overheard her yelling into the commnet that no way is she letting the Big Bad Starfleet get her *Baby*," Jimmy rolled his eyes disgustedly, "before I'm eighteen."
He threw his arms up in exasperation.
"Honestly! The best news ever...*possibly* getting accepted into Starfleet Academy almost three years ahead of most incoming cadets--I'm not even *in* yet...and what's her response? The usual Attila the Mom stuff...she's upset with both Dad and Uncle Bob...and she's sent each of them a scathing subspace message telling 'em what she thinks. It's probably scorching subspace communications between Earth and the Klingon border by now."
Sam laughed, believing the entire incident humorous, and dismissing it accordingly.
"I'd'a'loved to've been there when they received it! Can you imagine the lowly communications officer having to page both Captain April and Commander Kirk, and then having to recite the message over intrashipcom--with a straight face?"
Both brothers laughed at the incongruity of two senior Starfleet officers receiving a scolding message from an irate mother. Commander George Kirk and Captain Robert April, the boys' godfather--called Uncle Bob by both--were used to Winona Kirk's gale force temper.
Jimmy privately believed this was the reason why his Dad kept accepting deep space assignments--his parents' marriage needed a few light-years separation in order to stay intact. Jimmy suspected a few dozen exotic flowers from some outer world would be arriving soon as a peace offering.
"Well, look, kid. I've gotta go. Aurelan and I have a major exam tomorrow and need to study. But again...congratulations on winning...and, Jimmy, have a great time. You've earned it! Take care, kid. I'm proud of you."
"Thanks, Sam. You know that means a lot to me. I'll write you from Tarsus Four. Give Aurelan a kiss for me. Bye."
Both brothers signed off.
For a minute, Jimmy felt the same overwhelming loneliness wash through him that always did when he said good-bye to Sam. He still missed his older brother. It seemed that the older Kirk men were forever destined to leave home. Well, he'd be joining the male exodus next year, Jimmy thought determinedly, when he left home for Starfleet Academy.
Poor Mom, Jimmy thought. She'll be all alone then.
Jimmy shook himself. He wouldn't think about that for now. He had to start getting ready for Science Camp. He knew Sam was right. He was going to have the time of his life!
Remind me to submit my displeasure to the Science Camp Rules Committee about the shoddy treatment we've received from our host planet, Jimmy thought sarcastically.
Reach. Feel for a handhold. Feel for a foothold. Pull up. Repeat.
Slowly, steadily, Jimmy crept carefully up the face of the nearly sixty foot cliff they'd come across. He'd been sent to scout out one of the caves that was barely discernable from the ground. Adam and Thomas thought that it could serve as a safe haven for the Science Campers whom they had rounded up after their escape that morning.
Of course, Jimmy was the only one with climbing experience--and spelunking for that matter. He again congratulated himself in being able to salvage the tricorder from the fallen storm trooper. Without it, the youngsters never could have detected the caves so high overhead.
After what seemed like hours of climbing, which his chronometer showed him was actually only forty-five standard minutes, Jimmy reached the first of the cave entrances. Determinedly, he pulled himself up to the outside ledge near the opening and rewarded himself by collapsing, gasping for breath.
"Now, Kodos," he wheezed, "if you're going to kill me, please do it now. I'm so tired, I don't think I *want* to live."
As if in answer, a loud explosion suddenly reverberated through the small valley, endlessly echoed by the tall cliffs--a sonic boom Jimmy knew immediately. It was soon followed by a large shadow that whizzed overhead.
Diving from out of the sun, an atmospheric fighter zoomed in towards the valley below, the high-pitched scream of displaced super-heated air drowning out all other noises as it made volatile contact with the fighter's unshielded outer skin.
"That idiot is more hotdog, than pilot," Jimmy muttered. "What's he trying to prove? That he can blow up his craft without anyone's help?"
An idea quickly forming in his mind, Jimmy adopted a protected prone position underneath the cave's entrance. (One of Tarsus' many mystery caves, the holovid had called them, he remembered sardonically.)
Acquiring a careful sight picture with the high-powered energy weapon Kodos' goons had so conveniently provided, Jimmy led the supersonic fighter by--he could almost hear his Dad's voice patiently giving instructions--two football field lengths.
One thousand one...wait for it...one thousand two...Jimmy gently pressed the firing button. He felt the weapon kick back into the pocket formed by his shoulder and arm as the deadly high energy beam, set on kill force three, shot out of the weapon's emitter.
"Pow! Scratch one fighter!" Jimmy watched, satisfied as the pilot lost control of the atmospheric fighter and slammed into the nearby cliffs in a spectacular display.
Movement below caught Jimmy's attention. Chaos reigned! He could make out storm troopers and Science Campers running in different directions, seeking cover. Some of his fellow Campers, who had prior experience in unarmed combat, stood their place and fought back. Others fired from covered positions using captured enemy weapons.
Like earlier that morning, the Campers had the spirit and determination to fight, but the soldiers had the experience. Furthermore, Kodos' Enlightened Patrol seemed to be under orders to take back the Campers dead or alive. Jimmy was fairly certain which condition the soldiers would opt for if the Campers continued to fight back. As he observed the drama being played out below him, Jimmy knew that he needed a plan before all of their luck ran out.
I don't think I'm gonna like this.
Jimmy watched anxiously as Kodos' goons rounded up a group of the Science Campers, including Thomas Layton. Jimmy chidingly shook his head at the erstwhile leader of the Science Campers. Didn't your mother ever warn you to be careful about what you wished for, Thomas?
Jimmy was snapped back to the present when he heard, then saw Thomas gesticulating angrily as one of the soldiers roughly grabbed his girlfriend, Martha. Thomas' outcry earned him a stun rifle butt to the back of his neck. He crumpled wordlessly.
"You killed him!" Martha screamed, sobbing loudly. "What are you going to do to us? Where are you taking us?"
"Shut up! Or you'll get the same thing!" growled the storm trooper.
Jimmy cringed. He liked Martha; she'd been especially friendly, treating him like an equal despite their age differences. Although it was the storm trooper who was the imminent danger, it was Thomas Layton whom Jimmy blamed for their present predicament.
Kodos' offer of food and shelter had just seemed too good to be true. Dad had advised Jimmy to trust his intuition; he'd said that ninety-nine percent of the time, it was better than other people's facts. Jimmy's intuition had been right on target once again.
Whereas, Thomas had urged the others to surrender to Kodos' storm troopers, Jimmy had opted for cutting out and running while they still could. As he watched Martha, Thomas, and the rest of the Science Campers being systematically enveloped, Jimmy's mind replayed the circumstances since arriving on Tarsus IV which had led to the argument between Thomas and himself only this morning. It all seemed so long ago. Was it really just this morning? Jimmy asked himself, surprised.
Stepping off the orbital shuttle transport, Jimmy felt a tingle of excitement grip him! Tarsus IV! This was his first ever solo interstellar trip. Naturally, Mom had not been happy about letting him go, but she could hardly say no, when Sam had done the same thing when *he'd* been fourteen-years-old!
People who think it's easier being the second son don't know what they're talking about, Jimmy thought sourly. Instead of easing up as most parents do with each new kid, Jimmy's Mom had become even *more* protective.
Jimmy hated being treated like a helpless infant. Sam's leaving for college had only exacerbated the problem. If it were up to Mom, he thought resentfully, I'd still be in diapers.
In fact, Jimmy's Mom had at first insisted on accompanying her younger son to the Chicago terminal, but several protests from Jimmy, assisted by supporting calls from big brother Sam, had finally convinced her, albeit reluctantly, to allow Jimmy to make the trip on his own.
"I'm *not* going to think about Mom," Jimmy said aloud. "Like Sam said, I'm gonna have the time of my life!"
Jimmy looked around. Spencer's Landing terminal was relatively quiet. Not at all like Chicago's, he thought, wryly remembering his initial nervousness when he'd first walked into the Chicago Spaceport's main terminal. He'd been overwhelmed by what looked to him like pandemonium with Humans and nonhumans alike hastily scurrying to their various departure gates. Jimmy had almost turned around and headed back home to the farm. He'd successfully fought that instinctive fear, though, quickly orienting himself, and finding his way around with little problem. Now, looking around the Spencer's Landing quiet, almost deserted spaceport, with its bright, empty walkways and sunny glassed-in arboretum, Jimmy decided he'd have no trouble here on Tarsus IV.
Why it's nothing more than a planet-sized farm, really...not too heavily populated...an agrarian society much like Iowa, he thought.
Feeling confident, Jimmy continued walking through the spaceport, looking for an information kiosk. There had to be some type of welcoming committee for the Science Campers, he thought reasonably. Spotting a large group of young people underneath a banner stating, "Welcome: Federation Science Foundation Summer Camp," he headed in their direction.
Jimmy felt suddenly shy. Remembering Sam's reassurances, however, he gathered his courage and joined them. A lovely girl with sea green eyes, and short, summer-cut, chocolate brown hair gave him a welcoming smile.
"Hi! I'm Amavia Saraceno." Then turning to a tall, red-headed boy, who had what seemed to Jimmy about a million freckles, she introduced him, "And this is Adam Donlevy--our token Irishman."
"Well, someone has to represent the Green," Adam returned, smiling. "Pleased to meet you. And you are--?"
"Hey, you're kidding? You're the same James T. Kirk who wrote that paper on warp drive cold start?" Jimmy nodded his head, enjoying the lilting quality of Adam's Irish brogue. "Wow, that was some paper. I showed it to my Dad. He's a Starfleet engineering instructor at the Academy. He couldn't believe it--really impressed him! Of course, he also added that any starship captain who attempted it needed to have his head examined, but that's my Dad."
"Uh...thanks," replied Jimmy. "I think." Then adding politely, "I'm sorry...uh, Adam, I didn't read your thesis," or anyone else's for that matter, he thought, embarrassed.
"Oh, that's okay. The Science Camp committee accepted it, but with a caveat: That while an original theory, it didn't quite gel with our current laws of physics. But they conceded that didn't mean that one day it *couldn't* be possible. So here I am!"
The three youngsters detected a murmur begin amongst the rest of the Science Campers. A local delegation was purposely approaching them. It was led by a man who had an open, friendly smile.
"Hi, kids," he began without preamble. "Welcome to Tarsus Four and this year's Science Camp. Governor Kodos was supposed to be here to welcome you, but a sudden emergency has called him and his staff away."
He held out hands his apologetically, still smiling. "That doesn't mean that we can't get started, though. I'm Dr. Stephen Baxter, this year's Science Camp head administrator. These ladies and gentlemen are each members of the Science Camp staff. We like to call them *camp counselors*. Of course, each is a premier scientist in his or her field."
Dr. Baxter paused a moment. "We'll have a chance to get better acquainted once we arrive at the campgrounds. So, why don't each of you collect your personal belongings and follow us? We have several air transports waiting."
The youngsters received a quick, almost whirlwind tour of the Science Camp facilities, a four-building complex laid out in a quadrangle, separated by a well manicured commons. Dr. Baxter informed the campers that their home for the next six weeks had been built with few amenities. Lights and other necessities were not electronically controlled by computer, subject to voice commands.
"As all you young people are steeped in the hard sciences and mathematics," Dr. Baxter explained, "these facilities have been designed by the Tarsus Four Science Camp building committee especially with you in mind."
Grinning at their obvious confusion he explained further, "The committee is offering the facilities to you as one big engineering puzzle to be solved during your stay here. As part of your Science Camp hands-on activities, you will each be heavily involved in designing and constructing a Master Duotronics Unit that will take over the control of the Science Camp facilities. Eventually, the facilities will become the foundation of what the planetary government hopes is Tarsus' first university."
Dr. Baxter and the rest of the camp counselors smiled broadly as the impact of what he'd just told the Science Campers hit them. The room's occupants exploded into excitement when they realized the challenges facing them. A Master Duotronics Unit! Why the--
"Logistics involved--" "The planning--" "Power availability--" "What kind of workshops do we have--" "Duotronics--I saw some of Daystrom's designs--they blew me away!"
Dr. Baxter held up his hands for quiet once he felt he'd given the students enough time to let their assignment sink in. "Okay, now. Let's have a little order here!" he called over their excited voices. The group immediately quieted.
"George, Diane, and Mike here," Baxter pointed to the three head counselors, "have your group assignments." He smiled slyly. "I've gotta warn you. Groups have been selected randomly; if your personal areas of expertise prove seemingly useless to your group's assignments, well, each of you will just have to overcome such personal deficiencies." He paused to let that sink in.
"Each group has been assigned a tentative group leader; this doesn't mean that the job's permanent, though. At the end of the first week, group members can oust a leader if they feel that he or she can't handle the position. Furthermore, group leaders, it's your responsibility to organize your groups in any manner you deem necessary for the accomplishment of your group's goals. You also need to coordinate with the other group leaders to ensure that milestones are being met as needed."
Seeing their obvious confusion, Dr. Baxter added, "Oh, I'm sorry, didn't I explain that you're responsible for everything? Including backward planning? It's called Project Management, and requires careful coordination between groups. Welcome to the real world of project engineering."
Dr. Baxter smiled, enjoying himself immensely. "Each group will be given a specific technical problem to solve; therefore, group leaders, my one and only hint: I'd advise you to appoint someone as overall Project Manager. Then each group leader, becomes the Project Engineer for his group by default."
Dr. Baxter finally held up his hands. "Okay, enough of me talking! Form three lines alphabetically...George has assignments for A through G...Diane...H through O...and Mike...P through Z. Well, get going!" This last was thrown out good-humoredly when the youngsters didn't immediately rush as one to the front.
The days that followed were filled with enough challenges and excitement to last Jimmy a lifetime. The first week, Jimmy's group had gently fired their group leader, a shy boy, Toby Minoque, from Centaurus Prime.
Toby had been completely cowed by the other group leaders, and therefore Jimmy's group had been given nearly impossible milestones to meet. Furthermore, Toby was so afraid to speak out in his own group, that Jimmy had naturally taken to, at first, simply giving suggestions, then to necessarily making decisions.
Therefore, at first week's end, Jimmy found himself as Project Engineer for his group. Jimmy's group assignment was to trace the hard wiring of the four buildings in the complex and propose a means of utilizing what was already in place, and integrating it with the master control system the rest of the Duotronics team was developing. Despite protests, Jimmy required his team to personally trace the facilities' internal circuitry, not relying on the building plans they'd been given.
"This is crazy! We're wasting time!" Eric Molson, as always, was protesting any additional work. "The time table we've been given- -thanks to the Tobe, there--" he jerked his head in Toby's direction; Toby immediately blushed, dropping is eyes to the floor, "--doesn't give us enough time to *do* a manual trace!"
"You let me worry about the time table, Molson," Jimmy replied unconcernedly. "But if we're going to trace both the micro and nano circuitry accurately, then the only way to do it is the old-fashioned way--with hand-held locators."
Pausing dramatically, Jimmy walked over to stand next to Toby--a boy a good head taller and almost three years older than he--and placed his hand on Toby's shoulder.
"The Tobe, here," Jimmy began smiling, "whom I have heard Dr. Baxter refer to as a--quote--brilliant nano-electronics engineer--unquote--on a number of occasions, has designed and developed this--" Jimmy held up a palm-sized object, about five by three inches and wafer-thin,"--which is going to accelerate our time table so far ahead, we'll be knocking on *Layton's* door demanding *he* speed his team's production schedule to meet *our* deadline!"
Molson took the hand-held micro/nano-circuitry tracer, studying it speculatively. "Meet our deadline, huh?" he asked smugly. Turning to Toby, he punched the shy boy on the arm, "You're all right, Tobe."
Toby's response was his usual furious blush. Jimmy looked at him indulgently. Although younger than Toby, Jimmy had secretly adopted the brilliant, but quiet and painfully shy boy. Jimmy had felt terribly when the others had summarily fired Toby and appointed him in the bashful youth's place as group leader; however, a much relieved Toby timidly approached Jimmy immediately after he'd been replaced, and assured him that he had no hard feelings.
"You're better at this sort of thing, Jimmy," Toby had said eyes downcast. Then a little enviously, "A real, natural leader." Shrugging his shoulders, still looking down at his feet, he continued, "I get tongue-tied when called out in class to answer a question."
"Well, you just hang out with me--shyness has never been my problem. In fact, Mom says I suffer from 'swelled head' syndrome. I looked it up; there's no such thing, so I have no idea what she ever could've meant." Toby laughed, the first Jimmy had heard from him.
"You don't have a swelled head, Jimmy," Toby defended him. "You're just confident of your abilities. Something I've never been, I guess."
"Well, this is what Science Camp is all about, Tobe. To explore our abilities and learn about ourselves. The others are okay--I mean, like my brother said, they're all scholars and know what it took to get accepted here. Just be yourself. You'll soon make friends." God, I just sounded like Mom, Jimmy panicked.
Toby smiled shyly, nodding his head. "Thanks, Jimmy. I'll really try."
Jimmy's hard-line approach with his group paid off the first day, when two of his group discovered discrepancies between the building plans and the actual circuitry. He and Adam began drafting new engineering plans that showed where each fiber-optics sub-duodynetic particle conduit both originated and terminated.
"You knew we'd find discrepancies, didn't you?" Adam asked, accusingly.
"Well, I figured, why assign our group this task, if all we had to do was go over the engineering plans--too simple. There had to be catch here, I thought, so--" Jimmy shrugged.
"--So you played a hunch," Adam finished.
"Pretty much," Jimmy admitted. "Got Molson to shut his ever-protesting mouth, though, didn't it?"
"For that alone, the extra work was worth it. I bet he goes running to Layton every hour and reports our clandestine activities."
"Aw, come on. Thomas' okay. He's under a lot of pressure as Project Manager."
"Yeah, I suppose he is," Adam replied unconvinced. Jimmy just shook his head. Thomas Layton was a subject in which they were destined to be at odds. Not wanting to pursue it, Jimmy bent over his work, and continued making revisions in the building plans.
Adam studied the younger boy for a moment longer, marveling at Jimmy's naivete, a contrast to his demonstrated confident maturity in other areas, as well as, group leader. Well, nobody's perfect, Adam shrugged.
The days passed pleasantly by. Not all was work, however; the camp counselors had planned other fun activities for the youngsters, as well. After all, this was supposed to be a reward, not a punishment for them. The kids enjoyed picnics, swimming, and other outdoor activities.
The start of the third week of Science Camp found Jimmy running late for a swimming date with Adam and Amavia. Crossing through the picnic grounds, Jimmy noticed one of the two Vulcan scholars, Soran, sitting alone at one of the picnic tables with a three-D chess set. Soran was playing three-D Solitaire Chess.
Gee, that can't be fun, Jimmy thought. Instantly forgetting where he'd been going, he approached Soran.
"Excuse me," Jimmy began shyly. Soran and Stobel were only the second and third Vulcans he'd ever met. The first, Sarek, he'd met so long ago on Earth, he'd almost forgotten what he'd looked like. Jimmy had only been five.
Soran turned to face Jimmy, his eyebrow going up inquiringly. How do they do that, Jimmy asked himself for the hundredth time. He'd tried it one night when he was alone. Facing the bathroom mirror, he'd practiced raising one eyebrow for what seemed an eternity. Each time, though, both eyebrows stubbornly traveled up his forehead. Oh, well, he'd thought dejectedly, maybe it's hereditary.
Okay, how does one ask a Vulcan 'Can I play?' Jimmy thought. Nothing like the direct approach. "Can I play?" he asked facetiously.
"I do not know if you can play," Soran replied dryly.
Oh brother, Jimmy thought. How did Sam spend six weeks on Vulcan and not go crazy with their literal-mindedness? "I mean, may I join you?" Before Soran could make a rejoinder to that attempt at polite conversation, Jimmy hastily said, "What I'm trying to say is, will you play a game with me?" There, I said it, he thought.
Soran turned his eyes back to the three-D chess set. "That idea is not sanguine. I am rated a Delta Class Chess Master. To accept a challenge against you, would be of great disadvantage to you."
"In other words, you think I don't stand a chance against you?" Jimmy retorted sarcastically.
"I believe that is what I just said."
"I see. Well, if you're afraid, that's okay. I mean, I can understand how a Delta Class Chess Master wouldn't want to lose to a kid like me. Well, I'll see you later; I have a swimming date." Jimmy turned to go.
"Wait," Soran's voice stopped Jimmy in his tracks. "I did not say that I would not play a match against you; I merely pointed out the grave disadvantage that you will be under."
"Oh, then, what are we waiting for?" Jimmy asked, giving him a smile that reminded Soran of one of Vulcan's blinding noon-day suns. "Let's go!"
Four games and two losses later, Soran conceded that perhaps his assessment of Jimmy's disadvantage had been somewhat hasty. The players had acquired a small group of onlookers by this time. Word of Jimmy's first win spread through the Science Camp facilities like wildfire. Even some of the camp counselors had gathered to watch, impressed by the younger boy's obvious poise and sense of humor. This was the final match game, best three out of five. It was Jimmy's move. Looking Soran straight in the eye, Jimmy reached for his rook and said with finality, "Checkmate."
Soran shook his head, with annoyance (?) thought Jimmy...couldn't be. "You play most illogically. Your next move should have been your bishop."
"Sorry," Jimmy shrugged apologetically, his hazel eyes widely innocent. "I'm just a kid...I'm supposed to make mistakes like that."
The others who'd been watching laughed at Jimmy's comment and applauded the younger boy, impressed that he'd defeated someone they each knew was a chess master. Adam and Amavia, patiently waiting for Jimmy, rolled their eyes at his "I'm just a kid" statement. When Jimmy finally broke away from the others who'd been congratulating him, he joined them with a look of exaggerated casualness.
Adam looked slyly askance at Jimmy, "Just a kid, huh?"
Adam and Amavia burst out laughing.
"That's a great excuse!" Amavia said choking back her laughter. "Bet it works, too, when you want to get out of something."
"Yeah," Jimmy began good-naturedly, "like clearing the dinner table, or--"
"--or picking up your room--" Amavia interrupted.
"--or helping Dad do yard work!" Adam added.
"Though still entirely too short, the list is rife with great potential for continued growth, my friends!" Jimmy said smugly.
"Grown-ups can be so easy sometimes, though," Amavia said regretfully.
"Yes, it just doesn't seem fair to take advantage of them," Jimmy added philosophically. "I mean, poor Dad, comes home on leave, and pretty soon, he's helping me do all of my chores, even begging Mom to give me an extra helping of dessert."
"Life is good...too bad we'll all be going college this fall and have to start thinking about earning a living," Amavia said pensively.
Adam looked at Jimmy. "Well, at least some of us will be going to college anyway." Adam stepped aside quickly, as Jimmy swung half-heartedly at him. "Come on, roomie," Adam said. Then, unknowingly mirroring Sam, he placed his arm around Jimmy's shoulder, "Let's go get some chow."
The next day, the emergency on Tarsus IV reached the Science Camp facilities. Although Jimmy had been half-aware of a planet-wide emergency, neither he nor the other Science Campers had been keeping up with the latest news from the Ministries of the Interior and Agriculture. Therefore, when Jimmy came down for breakfast at his usual 0530 hours, he was surprised to find soldiers swarming through the campgrounds.
Dr. Baxter was in his downstairs office arguing with one of the soldiers. Jimmy could see him through the large window that fronted his office. Dr. Baxter never closed his office door or windows, preferring to smile, wave, or cheerfully call out to any of the Science Campers who passed by several times daily. What was going on? Jimmy wondered.
"This is outrageous!" Dr. Baxter said, barely controlling his anger. "The funding for this facility, including all utilities and rations, came from the Federation Science Foundation. Your government was paid in full, well in advance! And don't forget," Dr. Baxter reminded the soldier, his voice becoming cold, "it's your government who requested that Science Camp be held here! Your government invited us here! This outrage will not sit well with the Federation Council!"
"As you well know, Doctor," the soldier sarcastically replied, "Governor Kodos has declared martial law for the duration of this emergency. He has formed this special unit of the planetary militia to enforce his Enlightened Proclamations."
"Enlightened Proclamations," Dr. Baxter spit out with disgust. "Death sentences you mean!" Walking around his desk, he confronted the soldier face to face. "Well, these kids are *my* responsibility! And no one...not Kodos, not you...is going to get his filthy hands on them! Do I make myself clear?"
"We'll be back, Doctor. Do I make *myself* clear?" With that parting warning, the soldier executed an about face and strode outside. Through the open doorway, Jimmy saw the soldiers quickly board their ground transport vehicles and leave the campgrounds.
Dr. Baxter called to Jimmy.
"Jimmy, wake up the rest of the Campers. Tell them we're having an emergency assembly in the cafeteria--" he looked at his wrist chronometer, "--at zero-seven-hundred hours." Dr. Baxter looked at Jimmy seriously. "This is a very grave situation, Jimmy. Make no mistake. Now go."
Jimmy sprinted outside, crossing the commons to the dormitory. Knocking at the first door he came to, Jimmy called out loudly, "Hey, Thomas, wake up!"
After a short wait, Thomas Layton opened his door looking sleepy and irritated. "What's the matter with you, Jimmy; it's not even six o'clock."
"Dr. Baxter's calling an emergency assembly at zero-seven-hundred hours in the cafeteria. Wake up the rest of this hallway, while I go upstairs." Not waiting for a reply, Jimmy turned the corner to the stairwell and took the stairs two at a time. Knocking at the first door of the next floor, Jimmy repeated the instructions, then proceeded to the next two floors.
Not for the first time, Jimmy found himself wishing that the least the building committee could have done was to provide lifts that worked. While the architects had actually included the lifts, unfortunately, they weren't operational--and wouldn't be until the Science Campers provided the Master Duotronics Unit.
It's looking like we'll never get our projects finished now, Jimmy thought regretfully. Mission accomplished, Jimmy began heading back to the cafeteria. He wondered what was in store for them in the days ahead.
When the assembly gathered in the cafeteria, Dr. Baxter stood on top of a table; he quickly gestured for their attention. "I have some extremely grave news to report. Please, I ask that you withhold your questions until I have explained what's happened...and what may happen."
Looking seriously out at the sea of young faces, Dr. Baxter began talking, quietly at first, then growing stronger, more powerful. Through his explanation of what had been occurring on the planet almost since the first day of the Science Campers' arrival on Tarsus IV, Dr. Baxter's voice at times sounded deeply pained, at other moments angry. Jimmy listened, horrified at the details that he and the others were now hearing for the first time.
The briefing that Dr. Baxter provided was succinct, but frightening. He showed the youngsters holovids that members of his staff had been able to obtain through contacts in Spencer's Landing, the capital city. The vid graphically demonstrated the devastating swiftness with which the unknown and deadly blight had destroyed the world's food crop.
Within weeks of its initial discovery, the virus spread across Tarsus IV, killing all plants under cultivation, then attacking up the food chain: First, insects and fowl that ate the infected, cultivated seeds, then farm animals dependant on grains, and carnivores that ingested the contaminated animals.
The Human colonists were not immune to the virus; direct ingestion of infected grains and animals initially killed almost two thousand colonists before a moratorium was placed on all natively-grown plants and animals. Jimmy was sickened by the images of countless body bags being carried into the city's morgue.
Governor Kodos' sanctions were immediate, swift, and harsh. He declared martial law, imposed a world-wide curfew from dusk to dawn, and began a strict, rationing policy of all emergency supplies. Each citizen received one half-ration per day. The elderly, physically handicapped or sick, and children received even less.
No one was allowed to collect rations for another person. This meant that neither parents nor their children could collect for each other. Images of the elderly, the sick, and the handicapped making the daily pilgrimage to the food lines to collect their meager quarter ration shocked Jimmy's sensibilities. Many colonists who might otherwise have lived died instead. Jimmy heard a sob next to him. He turned to see Amavia burying her head in Adam's shoulder.
However, Kodos was still not satisfied. There were insufficient supplies to feed the entire populace even with these extreme policies. Too many would slowly die of starvation and disease before the Federation ships ever arrived. Because Tarsus IV was located at the extreme frontier of Federation space, Kodos did not expect the nearest relief ships to arrive for months.
The Science Campers watched, stunned, as Kodos' soldiers began a systematic roundup of so-called dissidents who supposedly disagreed with the harsh measures. Next, Kodos initiated a random, computer-generated blacklist of those who, as a last resort, would be forced to make the ultimate sacrifice.
The images at last faded to black.
"...Therefore, as you can see," Dr. Baxter's voice continued sadly, "although our position of being off-world guests of the colonial government protected us initially, our future has become untenable." He stopped momentarily, sighing, "Our facilities are well-stocked with enough supplies to last for almost eight weeks, two weeks longer than the length of time you're scheduled to be on Tarsus Four; however, now that the deadly seriousness of the blight has become known, the Camp's supplies are to be confiscated by the government. This morning I had a visit from one of Governor Kodos' Enlightened Patrol."
The Science Campers stirred uneasily at this last bit of information. Thomas stood up suddenly. Dr. Baxter recognized him. "Yes, Thomas, do you have a question?"
Because Thomas had been selected as the overall Project Manager for the Science Campers' Duotronics Unit, many of the Science Campers looked to him for leadership, including Jimmy. Thomas had already been selected to Starfleet Academy and would be entering this coming fall. This only added to Jimmy's open admiration of the older boy.
"I don't understand, sir. If we cooperate with Governor Kodos, why should there be any problems? The relief ships are probably well on their way by now. It's just a matter of waiting for help."
Dr. Baxter looked at his colleagues, sadly shaking his head. The innocence of youth. The staff returned his look with differing degrees of tolerance reserved for the very young. Dr. Baxter turned and addressed Thomas directly.
"Thomas, this man has already condemned many of his own people to death. There is no line he hasn't crossed yet when he deemed it necessary; therefore, who is to say that any word he gives us will be honored? You can't trust a known liar, Thomas, no matter how much you might wish he'll keep his word this once."
Jimmy felt himself nodding in agreement, surprised at Thomas for asking such an obviously naive question. He looked at Adam, raising his eyebrows inquiringly. Adam just rolled his eyes, shaking his head ruefully. He'd never been an admirer of Thomas Layton.
Dr. Baxter finally dismissed the assembly, promising to keep them all informed of any new developments. He then called his staff for a private conference in his office. The Science Campers hung around talking among themselves in small groups.
Thomas approached the small group that had gathered around Jimmy and Adam. Arrogantly pushing his way to the front, Thomas asked, "So what do *you* think about our situation here?"
"I think waiting for the axe to fall is tantamount to suicide," Adam replied, "and being a good Irish-Catholic, suicide is against my religion."
"Yeah," agreed Jimmy. "It's against my personal religion, too. I've never believed in giving my life for my country; like Patton, I'd much rather let the *other* guy give *his* life for his country. I say we should all pull out at the earliest--today would be good day--and head towards the relative safety of the continent's interior."
Thomas laughed derisively at Jimmy and Adam. "Sorry, kid, but I beg to differ. There is no way Kodos will do anything to us. The Federation ships are on their way even as we speak. Somehow I don't think that even Kodos would be foolish enough to harm the Federation Science Foundation Summer Camp winners."
Members of Thomas's group joined in, agreeing with Thomas. Jimmy saw that Molson was conspicuously standing next to Thomas--of course, Jimmy thought, disgustedly. He recognized Danny Ames, and his shadow, what's his name, Jimmy added sardonically. The other boy was Ames' constant and silent companion; Jimmy had never learned his name since he spoke to no one except Ames.
Jimmy, his eyes lighting up in that devilishly innocent look that those who didn't know him took at face value, dismissing him as 'just a kid,' nodded his head as if in agreement with Thomas' advise.
"Gee, Thomas, why didn't *we* think of that. You know, when you put it like that, I suddenly feel all warm and fuzzy. In fact, I feel so safe now that you've put it in such an enlightened perspective-" he paused, his eyes turning green, acquiring a hard glint, "-that I think I'll just go outside and start digging my own grave in order to save time."
Thomas didn't reply, wordlessly holding Jimmy's eyes, reassessing his evaluation of this enigmatic younger boy, whose presence at Science Camp attested to his precocious brilliance, but to whom Thomas had paid scant attention to since their arrival. Those young eyes were in turn assessing him, Thomas realized, feeling somehow the loser in the silent test of wills. Abruptly Thomas broke contact, and turning to his friends, said, "Come on. We're not accomplishing anything useful here."
"I'll second that," Adam muttered under his breath. Jimmy gave him a wry look with the barest suggestion of a smile.
"Let's go," Jimmy said. "We've got to find out if there are any others who don't want Tarsus Four to be their final resting place." Nodding, Adam followed.
Shortly after 1300 hours, the Kodos' Enlightened Patrol returned with shock troop suddenness. In minutes, Dr. Baxter and his staff were rounded up and herded without ceremony into an armored personnel transport.
Mike suddenly broke away from his captors, and attempted to wrest a soldier's weapon from him. As he struggled desperately with the storm trooper, the officer in charge calmly leveled his hand weapon on Mike and fired. Mike crumpled in a lifeless heap on the commons.
A soldier gestured to Dr. Baxter and George; stunned, they bent down and picked up Mike's body, loading him onto the transport. Diane watched the cold murder from the transport's armored window in shocked grief; she and Mike were to have been married in September.
The Science Campers stood helplessly by, unable to keep up with the series of confusing events that were unfolding at seemingly lightning speed. Jimmy felt an anger swell within him, ready to burst with explosive force. They had to do something! Those monsters had just murdered Mike! Mike had never done anything to hurt anyone in his entire life. He'd been a gentle, smiling man who took the time to patiently help any of the Science Campers who came to him with problems. Mike had been just a little older than Sam.
Dr. Baxter and the rest of the camp counselors had all been friends to the youngsters since their first day of arrival. Jimmy hadn't known how much the staff had shielded them from the dangers of Kodos' Enlightened Proclamations, nor the personal danger that they had placed themselves in by their overt defiance of the planetary government. Now, it was too late. He and the others could only stand and watch mutely, or face the same end as Mike.
Before leaving, the storm troopers confiscated almost eighty percent of the Science Camp's food rations. They searched each building thoroughly, ensuring that no food rations had been hidden by the camp residents. As they went through each building, the soldiers maliciously destroyed furniture and equipment, throwing chairs, beds, even desks through windows, breaking the so-called nonbreakable transparent aluminum.
Finally, the officer in charge spoke to the assembled Science Campers. "You are each hereby restricted to the Science Camp grounds. Violators found in areas designated as off-limits will meet with swift and harsh punishment. You will receive no second warning." With that, the officer and his men returned to their personnel transports and pulled out of the campgrounds, as quickly as they had arrived.
That's when the fun really began, Jimmy remembered.
Even with rationing measures that would rival Kodos', the Science Campers' food would still run out within another four or five days. Restricted to the campgrounds as they all were, there was little they could about it. Soran and Stobel discovered surveillance vidcameras surreptitiously hidden around the campgrounds.
Jimmy and Adam immediately began a campaign to reprogram the spy cameras and feed their secret watchers false images. Jimmy was happy to be doing something, but he knew it was an empty gesture, a game. Their situation was no game, and it was being played with no rules. Jimmy and Adam returned, laughing helplessly, from their latest escapade in the video wars--they'd programmed a Terran 20th Century entertainment vid-drama, called *Dynasty*, to feed on a continuous loop. Having viewed a few minutes of the confusing drama that Amavia had brought with her from home, Jimmy almost felt sorry for the enemy surveillance team.
Amavia ran up to them making shushing sounds with her hands. "Come on, you two, you've got to listen to this!" She quickly turned and crossed the room into the adjoining rec lounge.
"Listen to what?" Jimmy asked, admiring, as always, how the overhead lights seemed to add an elusive sheen of reddish highlights to her chocolate-brown hair and just as quickly trying to suppress his admiration. It didn't help that she was wearing only a bathing suit. He and Adam hurried after Amavia. As they entered the next room, Jimmy heard Thomas speaking.
"I say we quietly surrender to Kodos. He's only going to restrict us to our Science Camp dormitories," Thomas explained. "Look. He assures us that we'll be safe, we'll be fed, and generally, we'll be left alone."
Thomas looked around at the skeptical faces of the other youngsters.
"Come on, people. Be reasonable! Kodos can't afford to antagonize the entire Federation. I mean, look at us! We're the Science Camp winners, remember? Only one hundred selected each year from the entire Federation. Do you think he'd risk the wrath of a hundred worlds by harming us? Kodos may be crazy, but he's not stupid!" Thomas laughed.
Jimmy stepped forward, his small compact, muscular body fully tensed. His hazel eyes blazing green; his cheeks burning hot underneath his tan. Jimmy couldn't believe this nonsense! Thomas was a Science Camp recipient. He'd even been accepted to Starfleet Academy!
For chrisakes, Jimmy thought, he was supposedly an intelligent carbon life form. Jimmy had always admired Starfleet Academy Cadets; after all, he was submitting his own application soon. He had never questioned the judgement of the Starfleet Academy Acceptance Committee--until now!
Surrender? Like Hell!
"Kodos may not be stupid...but you certainly are!" Jimmy began, barely able to keep his voice, undergoing that annoying change brought on by puberty, under control. "How can you even consider trusting the word of man who has suspended all civil rights, is rounding up 'undesirables'--his euphemism for the sick and helpless--and is even now drawing up some kind of blacklist of supposed dissidents for God only knows what reason!"
"And what would you have us do, Hotshot?" Thomas flung back disdainfully. "Run and hide?...Run where? Hide where?...We're strangers here remember? We have no family, no friends...no one is willing to stand up for us...put us up...No, I say our only chance...our only reasonable chance is to cooperate with Kodos...He's promising us food and shelter. I say we take him up on it, and sit this thing out. The Federation rescue ships are bound to be enroute by now...If we run, like you suggest, we risk everything...they'll hunt us down and possibly kill us."
"And what makes you think that just surrendering to Kodos and his goons won't result in the same thing?" Jimmy prodded relentlessly. "What makes you think that we are worth even one meal--much less one hundred meals--a day, that could be going to either Kodos or to his supporters? Thanks, but no thanks! I'll take my chances in the wilderness."
"You don't understand, kid," Thomas continued. "If we don't all cooperate, if we don't all surrender...together...then none of us will be safe. Kodos could see it as a trick, and take it out on the rest of us...Uh-uh, hotshot--we surrender--together...for the good of all."
"You don't speak for all of us, Layton--!" Jimmy drew himself up to his full height, undeterred by the fact that he barely came up to the six-foot Thomas' chin. "--and you certainly don't speak for me! You can surrender to that murdering barbarian, but me and some others are taking to the hills. My Dad and his ship are gonna be arriving sometime soon...but until the Enterprise is actually here, I'm gonna do what Dad would expect of me--obey my instincts."
Thomas looked somewhat apologetically at Jimmy. "Sorry, Jimmy. But like I said, you don't understand." Thomas signaled with a nod, and two boys--Danny Ames and his pal, the one whose name Jimmy could never recall--suddenly grabbed his arms, pinning them behind him.
Jimmy's expression took on a derisive smirk. "What's the matter, Layton? Two guys just for me? I thought I was just a helpless little kid."
"Yeah, helpless like a viper."
At Jimmy's big, round, innocent eyes, Thomas countered, "And don't give me the 'who me'? routine. You and I both know just what you're made of."
Thomas looked at the two boys holding Jimmy, "Ames, Garcia...lock the kid up in that conference room upstairs...the one without windows...And Ames...round up the others who were going to follow the kid. I'm gonna call Kodos and inform him we're ready to surrender peacefully."
Jimmy tried once more.
"Thomas, you're betraying us all! Please...let's wait...at least until we see what Kodos does with the people he's been rounding up!" Jimmy looked around at the other Science Campers in the room. "Like our camp counselors," he continued, "remember them? Remember what happened to Mike? They were all taken six days ago! We haven't heard a word from them since!"
While Jimmy pleaded, Ames and Garcia dragged him, struggling, up the stairs. Jimmy broke away momentarily, running to the banister. He yelled at Thomas, still trying to convince him to use discretion.
"Thomas...just a few days...You don't know what you're leading us into!"
As Ames and Garcia grabbed him from behind again, Jimmy kept up his scathing argument while being hauled away.
"Is this how you're going to lead men and women when you're in Starfleet? Are you going to surrender at the first sign of danger?"
Thomas was standing still, his back to Jimmy, refusing to look at him, not responding to his pleas.
"Thomas! Is this the kind of leader you're going to be?" Jimmy's voice rose in desperation. "Thomas!"
Ames and Garcia flung Jimmy into the darkened conference room and locked the door immediately behind him. Jimmy stumbled against what he assumed was the conference table, then righting himself, he immediately fell over one of the chairs. He stayed down momentarily, allowing his eyes to become adjusted to the dark.
Jimmy couldn't believe what was happening. How could Thomas possibly trust that murderer? Jimmy knew that with their rations quickly running out, and, confined to the campgrounds with no means of replenishing their supplies, the Science Campers' situation was becoming increasingly dangerous. But to openly trust a monster whose actions could only be compared to the worse mass murderers from Earth's bloody history was incredibly ludicrous! Only Jimmy wasn't laughing.
Thomas seemed determined to prove that the best way to solve their dilemma was to place themselves directly in the hands of Governor Kodos. He used Kodos' promise of food and protection as the leverage to convince the undecided among the group.
Jimmy led the most vocal opposition to this plan. Trained from childhood as an outdoorsman, Jimmy believed that their best chances of surviving the emergency was to slip away from the Science Camp facilities and make their way to the outlying, uninhabited wild countryside.
He'd just been overruled.
CHAPTER EIGHT After countless hours of studying each building's engineering plans,Jimmy was able to easily picture the room's layout in his mind. He oriented himself, then confidently made his way to the wall unit, found the light switch and flipped it on.
At that moment, the door again burst open, and ten angry young men and women--seven Humans, four males, three females; three nonhumans, one Andorian and two Vulcans, all male--were shoved in unceremoniously by Ames, Garcia, Molson, and one other--Shoji Yasuhara.
"What's the idea?"
"You have no right!"
Ames, Garcia and their assistants didn't say a word, just closed and locked the door again.
"Jimmy!" It was Adam. "Are you all right? After you were dragged off by Ames and Garcia several us tried to reason with Thomas, but the idiot's determined to sell us all out."
"Yeah, Jimmy," Amavia agreed.
Amavia was still dressed (or, perhaps, undressed was a better word, Jimmy thought) in her bathing suit. As always, her sea green eyes left Jimmy feeling slightly dazed. Unconsciously, she reached and pushed an errant strand of hair behind her left ear--a nervous habit Jimmy had already surmised--an act he'd observed constantly throughout that summer.
"Eric Molson and Shoji Yasuhara just grabbed and dragged us all here.They wouldn't even let me go to my room to change clothes or grab a robe, the creeps."
At this last explanation, Amavia shivered slightly. Jimmy, who was Still wearing his denim jacket, quickly removed it, and gallantly offered it to her. Amavia smiled her thanks and put it on. Jimmy's stomach flip-flopped.
Adam stepped forward.
"So what's the word, Jimmy? Do we give in to Layton's suicide scheme? Meekly hand ourselves over to Kodos' Eraser Squads? Or do we find a way to break out?"
"Layton says cooperating with Kodos is the only reasonable thing for all of us to do," Jimmy said. His face then lit into a devil-may-care smile. "Well, if there's one thing my Dad's always accusing me of, it's that I don't know how to listen to reason."
Jimmy paused and looked at the others expectantly. "So, is there anyone here who wants to be *un*reasonable along with me?" The others began talking at once.
"Count me in," Toby answered instantly, smiling encouragingly at Jimmy.
"You bet," a girl Jimmy didn't know agreed. "I can't believe Carlos didthis to us--to *me*! I thought he liked me." She shook her head in hurt confusion, adding almost to herself, "I know it was he who sent me those flowers. There wasn't a card, but I *know* he sent them!"
"Mom didn't raise a stupid daughter," Amavia chimed. "You can count on me, too."
Adam's voice could be heard over the others.
"So, Jimmy. How do we get out of here? This room has no windows, no means of getting out except through that door. From where I'm standing, it looks like we're stuck."
"Situation hopeless? Odds against us? A no-win scenario...is that how you would categorize our chances, Adam?" Jimmy asked ironically.
"Yeah, sure sounds like fun, doesn't it?" Adam returned grinning.
Jimmy knew at that moment why he liked Adam--he reminded him of himself. "All right, everybody," Jimmy began, "first thing...a way out of here! Any ideas?"
"We could pretend one of us was sick," Toby suggested.
"Too trite. It's in all the old twentieth century literature and two-D vids," Adam countered dismissively.
"You're right," agreed Jimmy, "but still, who's to say we can't put a new spin on an old plot?"
"What do you mean, Jimmy," whispered T'Shal'K'hara, the only Andorian among the Science Camp winners. His sapphire blue eyes were flashing, antennae perked forward in what Jimmy recognized as the Andorian warrior at-ready position.
T'Shal menacingly continued. "I say we break down the door, and thenslit the throats of each of our enemies." He paused, grinning wickedly."There are only ninety of them after all."
The others looked away quickly, hiding their own grins. T'Shal'K'hara was the first Andorian Jimmy had ever met, but he was very much aware of T'Shal's strong warrior culture and propensity for overkill.
Although not as ruthless as Klingons or the legendary Romulans from the previous wars, Andorians had the reputation of tenaciously tracking down a person for some perceived offense, no matter how slight, and fighting a duel to the death. If the offense were a matter of honor, then it was not unheard of for the search for the alleged guilty party to last a lifetime.
"Look, T'Shal," Jimmy began, "we don't want to kill anybody. Especially, any of the other Science Campers. I mean, the whole point is to get away from Kodos' clutches, not start slaughtering our own friends."
Jimmy paused as if seriously contemplating the consequences. "Besides,"Jimmy continued, "if I killed any of the other Science Campers, and myDad found out...I'd be grounded for so long...my grandchildren would have to finish my detention!"
The others laughed breaking the tension.
"No, we need a plan of action. One that doesn't involve killing, okay?" Jimmy looked at the others for confirmation.
"That is logical," agreed Soran. "But we are still where we started: In a locked room, with no discernible means of egress."
Jimmy looked at Soran and Stobel, the other Vulcan. He began pacing, rubbing his hands together, circling the two, not looking at them directly, but keeping an eye out for their reactions through his peripheral vision.
"Soran, Stobel, about nine years ago, my brother Sam spent six weeks on Vulcan during Science Camp. I seem to recall Sam saying...correct me if I'm wrong...that Vulcans have some special telepathic abilities."
Jimmy paused dramatically. "Yes? No?" He stopped pacing and faced them both. "Well, is it yes or no? Do Vulcans have telepathic abilities that could be of use to us during this emergency?"
Soran and Stobel both lifted their eyebrows simultaneously.
I've got to learn to *do* that, Jimmy thought again.
Soran spoke first.
"It is a little known fact that Vulcans are indeed touch telepaths; however, it is also known that our beliefs frown strongly upon imposing those abilities on others without their given permission."
Stobel nodded his assent.
"Indeed. To force a telepathic contact without permission is equivalent to rape in our culture. Most distasteful."
"Indeed. Most distasteful." Soran agreed.
Jimmy shook his head in disagreement.
"Look, nobody's talking about rape! We're talking about survival. Layton has probably contacted Kodos by now, and his goons will be arriving here soon. We don't have time to get permission slips to effect an escape. You two are our one best chance."
At their stubborn look of refusal, Jimmy tried another tact.
"All I'm asking is can you put some kind of an idea in the guard's mind that we need him now, that someone's sick or dying--or, better yet, make him believe that one of us, or all of us, for that matter, has escaped? Can you do that?"
They nodded doubtfully.
Jimmy paused, lost in the idea; having dismissed the Vulcans' refusal,he took it as a matter of course that they would do it.
Talking to himself now, Jimmy restarted his pacing, unaware of the others' eyes on him. He was deep in thought, analyzing, looking for weaknesses in the plan. He stopped suddenly, an idea taking shape, and turned to the two Vulcan teenagers.
"Look, can you two control your abilities with sufficient subtlety to just give the guard an uneasy feeling...a feeling that something isn't quite right? Say, a sudden urge that's so strong he feels compelled to open the door and check on us?"
At their reluctant nods, Jimmy smiled and opened his arms wide. "Then let's get to it, guys. We have a jailbreak to do!" He looked at Amavia's bathing suit and bare feet. "Let's hope the guy on the other side is your size."
Blushing, Amavia swung at Jimmy with her right fist. He ducked easily, his eyes dancing impishly.
"Okay, let's get set up in slightly more strategic positions." Jimmy looked at others, quickly judging their physical abilities. "Amavia, Toby, you three," he addressed the other Humans, "stand over there." He pointed to an area on the other side of the conference table, out of harm's way.
"Adam, T'Shal. Over here. Next to the door." Jimmy looked at the two Vulcans. "Where do you need to be in order to get the strongest...uh, signal, I guess you'd call it?"
Soran nodded, "Signal is a close description of what we do; although mental picture is probably more accurate."
"I stand corrected," Jimmy acknowledged ironically. "Where do you need to be in order to transmit the strongest mental picture?"
Soran and Stobel both took up positions on the opposite side of the door as Adam and T'Shal. Stobel explained. "The guard is sitting on the other side of this wall."
"Okay, everyone ready?" Jimmy asked. At the others' nods, Jimmy looked at Soran and Stobel and gave them a thumbs up.
Before they could put the plan in action, the door burst open, startling the imprisoned Science Campers. Amavia gasped in shock. Jimmy gaped in equal amazement.
The four largest human beings he had ever laid eyes on, in full battle dress and carrying deadly high energy beam rifles, had immediately trooped in, blocking the exit, methodically aiming their weapons at the room's occupants. Their look of nonchalant professionalism only serving to make them seem even more menacing. Kodos' Enlightened Patrol!
"Okay, all of you against that wall." To Jimmy's surprise, the smallest of the three giants had spoken up.
"Hey, what's going on?" Adam demanded. "We haven't done anything wrong!"
Not bothering to reply, Shorty turned to Adam and gave him a powerfulbackhanded slap. Adam went flying across the conference room table,landing in a heap on top of several overturned chairs. Amavia and Jimmyquickly knelt next to him. Adam had a cut across his left temple, and although bleeding profusely, Jimmy saw that it wasn't serious. Though he's going to have a heck of a black eye, Jimmy thought. He and Amavia helped Adam to one of the chairs.
"I'm okay, guys," Adam protested weakly. He collapsed into one of the chairs gratefully. "Really, I'm okay."
Jimmy spoke to Shorty, the obvious leader, giving him his sincere most smile.
"Look, sir, Adam didn't mean anything. Honest. But as you see, he's bleeding pretty badly...We need something to control the bleeding."
Again, Shorty didn't bother answering Jimmy, instead, he recited formally, "You are all under arrest for crimes against the rightful government of Tarsus Four, and for threatening the sacred life of our glorious ruler Governor Kodos. You've already been tried and convicted by secret tribunal. If you resist, you will be executed here and now."
At the lieutenant's announcement, the youngsters broke into protests.
"What do you mean crimes?" "When did we supposedly threaten Kodos?" "You're crazy!"
The short leader abruptly signaled his men with a with a quick chop through the air.
Two of his men suddenly grabbed Adam and the girl whose name Jimmy couldn't remember. She was screaming in terror, struggling in vain. Jimmy and the rest of the youngsters were held rooted to their spots, shocked at the sudden turn of events.
"Over against that wall," Shorty instructed his men.
Adam and the girl were dragged, still struggling, to the wall which doubled as the conference room's projection screen. By now the girl was weeping hysterically. With a sick feeling of deja vu, Jimmy felt he was watching a holovid replay of the horror of Mike's murder. He had to do something, but what?
"Look," Jimmy began. "What good can it possibly do to hurt them? Adam's knowledge of engineering and--" he paused, struggling to remember the girl's name.
"Julie," Amavia prompted.
"--and Julie's knowledge of--"
"--biochemistry," supplied Amavia.
"--biochemistry, could be incredible assets to your planet during its current crises." Jimmy hurried on, unsure whether he was getting across to the storm trooper. "I mean, Adam could help design a more efficientmethod of replicator food production, and Julie could help research the blight that's killing your food crops."
Adam, still slightly woozy from the blow to the head, was nevertheless trying to comfort poor Julie, who by now had collapsed in a frightened huddle, crying uncontrollably.
"What good will it do to hurt them?" Jimmy pleaded, his adolescent voice cracking. He couldn't say *kill*, although he knew that was what the soldiers intended to do.
The lieutenant looked at Jimmy without acknowledging his pleas, thenturning to his men, he gave his orders. "Release the boy. Execute the girl."
Julie screamed, her hysteria transforming her human voice into the terrified screech of a cornered animal.
The soldiers quickly grabbed Adam and shoved him, off-balance, towards Jimmy, throwing both boys off their feet.
Julie was on her knees sobbing quietly, helplessly. She didn't understand why this was happening. She thought about her mother, who had been so excited over her daughter's being named a Federation Science Foundation Summer Camp winner. It had been all she'd talked (and bragged) about the weeks following the announcement.
Who'll tell Mom about me--how I died? How will she take it? I'm all she has.
Lowering her hands slowly, Julie weakly stood up, steadying herself along the wall. Taking a deep, calming breath, she turned and faced her executioners. She looked directly into Jimmy's eyes, her look profoundly sad, but determined.
"Remember what you saw. Please tell my mother how I died."
At Jimmy's nod, a lone tear slowly traced its way down Julie's left cheek. Amavia began to sob brokenheartedly; Toby went to her and held her to him. She continued crying quietly.
Shorty gave the command. "FIRE!" The troopers fired simultaneously, the high energy beams of deadly particle rays shooting out instantaneously.
Julie ceased to exist.
Her image was indelibly imprinted in Jimmy's mind. Her last few courageous moments a memorial to a nice girl whom he hadn't even known--but whom he'd remember for as long as he lived. Jimmy vowed that if he never did anything else in his life, he would find a way to avenge her death. #### CHAPTER TEN
The Science Campers were all gathered outside on the picnic grounds, or rather, what was left of them. Shocked, Jimmy noticed that there were less than forty of the one hundred Science Campers left. He dared not think about the others' fate, yet. Perhaps they'd already been transported to wherever they were all being taken. The Human girls were huddled together in one group, boys in another. The nonhumans were being held in a third group.
Shorty marched out of the main building, followed by four others. Jimmy assumed that they had been conducting a thorough search of the building to ensure that no other Science Campers were hiding. This was soon confirmed by the appearance of other storm troopers emerging from the other buildings.
Of course, there were no other Science Campers. Why should there be? Jimmy thought bitterly. He looked accusingly at Thomas Layton. You took care of that little problem for them, didn't you, Tommy?
Thomas felt Jimmy's eyes on him. Then ashamedly, dropped his own eyes to his feet. He couldn't face the others. This was all his fault. Hecouldn't blame Jimmy for hating him. He deserved it.
Shorty walked up to one of the storm troopers who was standing to the side. "Scan them," he ordered.
The soldier immediately took out a tricorder and began scanning the three groups. "No discernable weapons...They're clean, lieutenant. Oh, and sir," his voice took on a lecherous tone that sent warning signals down Jimmy's spine. "Several of these Human females are virgins."
"Good," the officer replied. "We'll separate them later. I'm sure the Colonel will be happy to hear that." Shorty signaled the soldiers guarding the nonhuman teenagers. "Get rid of all the lower subspecies except the Andorian and the two Vulcans...the rest are expendable."
The Tellarite boy, Garg, and the Rigellian girl, T'Pei, immediately assumed a back-to-back defensive stance. Soran, Stobel, and T'Shal also took up supporting positions. The soldiers, matter-of-factly, fired at the Vulcans and the Andorian. The three went down, stunned. Garg and T'Pei remained standing, their defensive attitude, defiant in the face of hopelessness.
The guards had the sense to remain out of the Tellarite's reach: His hoofed front paws could cut a man to pieces. As for T'Pei, Rigellians were genetically close to their cousins, the Vulcans: T'Pei had the strength of five humans with none of the self-restraint practiced by the pacifist Vulcans.
The storm troopers surrounded Garg and T'Pei, covering them with theirenergy weapons. "You two," one of the soldiers, a noncommissionedofficer, commanded, "this way. Unless you want to die where you stand."
"What make does difference it?" demanded Garg in his garbled Terran.
"That is correct," agreed T'Pei. "Your intention is to execute us anyway."
"Makes no difference to *me* where you die," replied the soldier, grinning nonchalantly. "I just thought you'd like to give your friends the best view of their possible future." His face took on a menacing scowl. "Now start walking towards those trees there." He pointed at a clump of trees at the edge of the picnic area.
"Rojan, Carolka," the sergeant addressed two of the soldiers, "secure them to a tree."
"Right, Sarge," they both replied.
"You heard the sergeant," Rojan spoke threateningly to the two frightened, yet defiant teenagers. "Move!" Reluctantly, both Garg and T'Pei made to obey their captors.
At that moment, Jimmy and Adam, who'd been waiting for an opportunity, sprang into action. Jimmy's suppressed anger exploded to the fore: He leaped straight up, and in a blur that the others were unable to follow, placed his hands on one of the guard's shoulders, and using it as a lever, launched himself feet first at Shorty's head.
Jimmy put the entire force of his one hundred and thirty pounds behindthe kick. His father had warned him repeatedly that this move could kill; therefore, he was to use it only in self-defense and only as a last resort. Well, this was certainly a case of self-defense, and he couldn't think of a more clear-cut illustration of a last resort. Shorty went down under the power of Jimmy's attack.
Jimmy's momentum carried him forward and over Shorty. He tucked, as his Dad had taught him, then effected a perfect shoulder roll when he slammed to the ground. Jimmy's athletic young body recovered quickly. Instantly on his feet, he turned, then smashed the heal of his stiffened right hand into Shorty's protruding Adam's apple.
Jimmy felt, as much as heard, the sickening crunch when his handimpacted with the vulnerable spot. Gagging, Shorty reached his hands helplessly to his throat, his eyes huge with disbelief. Jimmy followed through with a side kick to the solar plexus.
Falling to his knees, Shorty slowly, inexorably, reached out to Jimmy; then lips blue, eyes bulging, blood slowly frothing from the right corner of his mouth, he fell forward. Shocked, Jimmy stood over him, momentarily mesmerized by the storm trooper's death throes. Jimmy was going to be sick--and soon!
Jimmy heard Amavia's scream to his left. Okay, I'll be sick later, he thought, grabbing Shorty's energy weapon.
Running towards the sounds of Amavia's voice, Jimmy's hands quickly went over the unfamiliar weapon. Exasperated, he realized that he had no idea how to fire the thing. Then, with the sudden appearance of a storm trooper blocking his path, sighting his weapon on Jimmy, a weapon that the soldier obviously knew how to use, Jimmy realized that he had no time for lessons.
Therefore, he changed the rules.
Fear, intensified with teenaged, death-defying recklessness, plunged him into action. Screaming like a wild savage, Jimmy charged the startled soldier, swinging the weapon like a club.
Jimmy struck the storm trooper squarely on the side of the head. Again, he felt, as well as heard, the sickening crunch bone makes when it meets with a violent force and implodes into the soft flesh underneath. The soldier was dead before he hit the ground.
I'm definitely going to be sick later, Jimmy thought.
This time, though, Jimmy didn't freeze over the body of his fresh kill. He had to get to Amavia. His mind seemed to be operating on a different plane, coolly calculating his every move, supplying him with options, then instantaneously discarding useless ones. Jimmy looked around, trying to spot Amavia, and for the first time, noticed the bedlam that had erupted around him.
Soran and Stobel, who had obviously recovered, were calmly dispensing with the soldiers nearest them. They were using a deadly technique that Jimmy knew Vulcan children learned before they entered the Vulcan equivalent of kindergarten.
As Jimmy turned away, out of the corner of his eye, he fleetingly caught sight of Soran coolly grabbing a storm trooper by the head, and twisting viciously, break his neck, then calmly moving on to the next.
Jimmy winced. Pacifists. Yeah, right.
He heard Adam yelling over the noise. "Everybody! To the woods!Quickly!" Adam's voice faded over the sounds of battle.
Yes, battle, thought Jimmy, but completely one-sided. The soldiers were armed and trained in combat; the Science Campers were not. Jimmy knew that they had to get away before they lost the element of surprise.
"Let me go!" That was Amavia's voice!
Jimmy looked over in the direction he'd heard her. There! By the main building where the storm troopers had parked their ground vehicles. Flinging the useless rifle away, Jimmy started running, a race against time. He had to get to Amavia before the soldier who was dragging her succeeded in getting her into the vehicle. Jimmy had a powerful feeling in his guts that if Amavia was put in that ground car, none of them would ever see her again.
Therefore, he ran. Faster than he'd ever run before. He did not think about what he'd do when he reached them. He did not think about Amavia's fate should he fail. He would not fail.
Jimmy felt his lungs bursting. His legs burning with fatigue. Only twenty-five meters to go. His vision started going red. He was gasping for air.
Jimmy saw Amavia and her captor as through a holovid that had been put on quarter speed--each of their movements exaggerated, amplified. In seemingly slow motion, the soldier turned around, grabbed Amavia by the hair with one hand, brought his weapon up to her head with the other.
Jimmy went airborne. He launched himself at warp speed, and in mid-air, executed a somersault, crashing into the storm trooper's mid-section, booted feet first. All three went down in a pile of weapons, arms and legs. The soldier recovered first, training his charged weapon on Jimmy. Jimmy rolled quickly, scissoring his legs, kicking the soldier's legs out from under him.
Amavia joined the fray. Anger at having been frightened and manhandledby this brute multiplying her strength. She grabbed the soldier's neck from behind in a classic wrestler's neck-lock. Jimmy quickly took advantage of the suddenly off-balanced soldier, and again leaping high in the air, kicked out towards the soldier's head, landing the heel of his boot dead center on the soldier's left temple.
The storm trooper went down, stunned; Amavia gracefully pirouetting out of the way. Still in her bathing suit, she had the appearance of a ballerina performing an aerial on stage.
Then, with the suddenness of someone turning up the volume on an entertainment holovid, the world seemed to snap back into real-time. The sounds of the ongoing battle reached Jimmy through his dazed senses. Reaching down and grabbing the soldier's discarded weapon, he turned to Amavia.
"Run! To the woods--quickly!" Jimmy gasped. Then as an afterthought,"Recover any weapons you see along the way--but don't go looking forthem." The last was muttered to himself, because Amavia was alreadyracing towards the woods' edge.
Jimmy looked around and saw T'Shal fighting off four storm troopers. He's toying with them, Jimmy thought. He almost felt sorry for the soldiers. Jimmy caught sight of Thomas and Martha, running towards the woods, narrowly avoiding being hit by high energy beams. Set to kill, Jimmy noticed. Okay, two can play at this game. I think.
Let's see...this setting does not kill...this setting does...Dad's Rule Number One: Never kill unnecessarily...Dad's Rule Number Two: Discard Rule Number One. Oh, all right, Dad, Jimmy thought irritatedly, Rule Number One it is...heavy stun is three quarters turn this way...even though I'm sure that these goons never had Dads who told them killing was wrong. I bet they used to torture small animals for fun when they were kids.
While the subliminal commentary was running through his head, Jimmy had been diving and rolling underneath a picnic table, taking up a marksman's classic prone position. He had to provide covering fire for the Campers who were determinedly wending their way to the relative safety of the trees.
Here goes nothing, Jimmy thought. Let's see if the weapons training Dad gave me sank in. Picking one of the four soldiers who were being pummeled by T'Shal, Jimmy established his sight picture and took careful aim.
Then, remembering his Dad's endless hours of patient instruction, Jimmy took a deep breath and released it partially, feeling his shoulders relax. Carefully, he gently placed his finger on the firing button, feeling the initial give of the firing mechanism as it stopped abruptly.
Concentrating on the soldier, shutting out all other sights and sounds, Jimmy pressed down firmly, completing the firing sequence. He actually *felt* the energy beam as it virtually exploded out of the weapon's particle emitter.
Wow! The civilian grade energy weapons his Dad had let him practice with had never had a kick like this!
This was Great!
His confidence growing, Jimmy quickly changed positions and began firing at will. Targets of opportunity, as Dad would say, Jimmy thought sardonically. What would Mom say about her *Baby* now? Aww, who am I kidding, he amended. Mom would've eaten all of these soldiers alive, if she'd caught them so much as looking cross-eyed at me. Dad always says I take after Mom...I guess I finally see what he means... we both go for the jugular.
Unbelievably, the tide was actually turning in favor of the ScienceCampers. The soldiers, not expecting any resistance from a group of school kids, were not psychologically prepared for the sudden fury of the youngsters' attack. Jimmy noticed that there were energy beams emitting from the cover of the woods. Hey, we're firing back! All right! Science Campers Rule!
More of the soldiers were scurrying for cover. He saw several take off towards the protection of the buildings. Oh no, you don't, Jimmy thought, as one of the original four goons who had killed Julie suddenly ran past him. He grimly reset the weapon to kill. This one's for Julie, Jimmy thought, coolly pressing the firing button.
The storm trooper momentarily glowed, frozen in position, then winkedout of existence.
Okay, Jimmy-boy, time to beat a hasty retreat!
Setting the weapon on low stun/wide dispersal, Jimmy took a deep breath, quickly rolled out from under the picnic table, and began jogging slowly backwards towards the wood-line, firing at anything that moved. As a result, he almost stumbled over one of the fallen storm troopers.
Great, Jimmy thought disgustedly, death by clumsiness. Sam would die laughing.
A shiny, metallic object caught Jimmy's eye--the tricorder the goons had used earlier to scan them. What luck! He bent down and picked it up in a smooth motion. Then, realizing he was the last Science Camper still in the open, he turned and ran full tilt towards the woods.
The piercing whine of energy beams set on kill abruptly spurred him on. Yea-owch! Jimmy thought (or did he yell--he wasn't sure), automatically kicking into a zigzag pattern. That was close!
Too close. Jimmy could even detect the characteristic smell of burnt ozone typical of high energy emitting weapons. He remembered Dad's demonstration of this little known detail with a Starfleet-issue number four hand laser, the deadliest in the fleet's arsenal. Even if the weapon was being used with electronic dampers that masked its high-pitched sound, the burnt ozone smell could not be hidden.
"Remember this particular smell--" Dad repeatedly admonished, "--it could save your life. Many a young security officer under my command is dead today because he or she ignored this warning."
Underbrush. Trees. Sunlight filtering through a green canopy. He'd made it!
I can't believe it! I'm still alive!
The smell of burnt ozone, coupled with that of wood burning told Jimmy he wasn't out of trouble yet.
At least I didn't say out of the *woods*, Jimmy thought facetiously. Okay, I deserve to die for that one. Forgive me my trespasses. What trespasses, he admonished himself. I'm too young to have trespasses. He refused to think about the three men he'd just killed.
Focus, Jimmy-boy, focus! The first order of business is survival. And that means escape and evasion procedures. Rendezvous or attempt to make contact with any friendlies in the area. Make no attempt to engage the enemy--who is obviously superior in numbers--in direct combat. Do everything possible to delay, disrupt, or destroy enemy plans and activities through covert means.
Very good, Jimmy-boy. Dad would be proud of you. Yeah, well, Mom always says I take after Dad--you know, boys with toys--rescuing damsels in distress--looking for evil wizards to slay. Well, you've got the toys and you've saved the damsel. All you've got to do now is slay the evil wizard.
Things are looking up!
"Jimmy, over here!" It was Adam. Amavia was with him, and Jimmy disappointedly saw, Adam had his arm around her waist. Making his way towards them, Jimmy immediately saw that she was hurt.
"What happened?" Jimmy asked worriedly. "The last I saw, you were making your way safely to the tree line."
"Thanks to you," Amavia replied gratefully, giving him a sisterly kisson the cheek. Jimmy didn't feel at all like her brother. "Unfortunately, thanks to Eric and Shoji, I don't have any shoes on, and--" she showed Jimmy the deep gash in her left insole, "--I'm suddenly walking wounded."
The cut had been hastily bandaged with what Jimmy saw was part of Adam's left sleeve. Jimmy felt a deep abiding anger at Thomas Layton again, holding him responsible for their current predicament.
"If I get my hands on Layton," Jimmy began, but was interrupted by Adam.
"Jimmy, there's no time for that. We're still in danger. Come on, help me with Amavia. She can't put any weight on her left foot."
"I'm sorry, guys," Amavia said apologetically. "I guess I'm not exactly dressed for a camping trip. I hear camouflage is the *in* color this season."
The two boys formed a seat with their arms and gently lifted Amavia between them. Their differing heights immediately posed a problem. Jimmy was barely five-five in his stocking feet; Adam was three inches over six. This forced Adam to stoop uncomfortably low, a position he could not maintain for more than a few minutes at a time; therefore, their progress was greatly hampered.
After their seemingly hundredth rest stop, Jimmy exasperatedlyvolunteered to carry Amavia piggy-back.
"It can't be any slower," he suggested, "and we can take turns spelling each other."
"This is ridiculous," Amavia protested. "I can take care of myself. Look, why don't you fashion some crutches for me, or some kind of walking stick, and I'll make it on my own."
"And what happens when you injure your other foot?" Adam asked pointedly. "And look at your legs where you've been scratched by the underbrush. You'll never make it!" He paused. "I like Jimmy's idea. I think we'll be able to make better headway if we take turns carrying you." At her stubborn look, he hastily added, "At least until we can find temporary shelter and come up with a better plan."
Jimmy handed Adam his captured weapon and tricorder to carry. "Here, we can use the tricorder to scan for any of the others," then added sarcastically, "or any of the friendly natives of this socially progressive colony world."
Smiling, Jimmy then turned to Amavia, bowing deeply from the waist. "My dear Lady Amavia, your carriage eagerly awaits."
"Thank you, Sir James," Amavia primly replied. Giggling, she gingerly climbed on Jimmy's back. Taking a few moments to adjust her (surprisingly) heavy weight, Jimmy sucked in a few breaths, mentally preparing himself for the journey. Be careful what you ask for, he grimaced. He looked at Adam giving him a nod. "Ready."
Using the tricorder to scan ahead, Adam led the way. He had seen the fleeting look of dismay in Jimmy's eyes when Amavia had first climbed on. Aware of Jimmy's schoolboy crush on the older girl, he grinned to himself. Reality always has a way of splashing cold water on romantic notions, he thought.
Adam saw much to admire in the younger boy--it had been Jimmy's natural leadership abilities that had gotten them this far. Some of the others, Thomas Layton for one, might have a problem looking beyond Jimmy's age, but not him. Jimmy's cold-start treatise had thoroughly impressed Adam when he'd first read it; Jimmy's engaging personality had done the rest. The kid will go far, Adam thought.
Contact! Fifty meters and thirty-degrees to the right. Adam abruptly signaled with his left arm. Jimmy promptly helped Amavia down, taking care that she didn't land on her injured left foot. Leading her quietly to the relatively thick covering of a low-lying, red and yellow leafed hedgerow, Jimmy, ignored her silent protests, and urged her to stay put. Ensuring that she wasn't visible, Jimmy softly made his way back to Adam, taking back his weapon.
The tricorder reading indicated Humans--no way to discern if they were friendly or hostile--on a seven-zero heading. That course would intersect their bearings approximately one hundred meters further ahead. Jimmy and Adam looked at each other. There was no way around it. The boys had to risk finding out if those were Science Campers or soldiers.
As stealthily as possible, Jimmy and Adam closed in on the rendezvouspoint, hoping to beat the others to it. They made it with minutes tospare. Both boys took up hiding positions, their weapons ready. If this was a scouting patrol, they intended to let it go by, not wanting to risk capture or injury.
Jimmy felt a trickle of perspiration slowly make its way down his temple into his right eye. Blinking impatiently, he wiped it away with the back of his hand. Jimmy's heart was pounding in his ears, beating at a furious rate. He was having trouble controlling his rapid breathing.
Easy, Jimmy-boy. Remember what Dad taught you. Slow it down. Breathe in. Breathe out. In. Out. That's it. Control your breathing, don't let it control you.
There! Jimmy could hear the sounds of several people beating through the underbrush. He sighted through his rifle. Wait for it...don't jump the gun. Shoot only if shot at. Abruptly, Jimmy spotted Thomas and Martha, then Ames, Garcia, and Molton. Remembering how these traitors had led Kodos' men to them, seeing Julie's atoms disintegrated before his very eyes, Jimmy almost fired in anger.
"Hold it." Jimmy's curt voice stopped them in their tracks. Signaling to Adam to continue covering him, Jimmy emerged from his hiding place. Martha's initial surprised look of welcome was quickly dimmed by hisangry demeanor. "Hi, Martha. I'm glad *you're* safe." Turning to Thomas, his voice hardened. "Hello, Layton. I see you and three of your toughs made it safely."
Thomas simply nodded. There was little he could say about his mistake in judgement. He'd been wrong, and they had all paid the price. Now, he had to live with himself.
"All right, Thomas. You and I have a score to settle later. Right now, though, we have to round up any surviving Science Campers, and do our best to evade capture. Hopefully, the Federation will arrive before any more of us gets killed." Looking over his shoulder, Jimmy called out, "Come on, Adam, let's go get Amavia before she starts worrying."
"It's too late for that," a chagrined voice said from behind him. Amavia emerged, hopping on one foot, balancing herself with a good- sized staff she'd managed to find. Jimmy shook his head in annoyance. Women, he thought exasperatedly. I'll *never* understand them.
"Adam, Thomas, the rest of you. Listen up. We need to continue toproceed with caution. With more of us now, it's going to be harder toremain quiet, but we have to. Layton, we could hear you guys a good fifty meters before we ever saw you. You've got to learn to look where you step, and then step carefully." Noticing Garcia's pointed look at the tricorder he was carrying, Jimmy nodded his head in agreement, forestalling argument. "Yeah, I know. A tricorder makes the point moot, since the enemy can easily locate us with one, but we don't have to telegraph our positions unnecessarily. Are we agreed?" The others nodded reluctantly. "I'm delighted. All right, I've got the point. Molton, you follow and pass on any of my signals to the rest. Garcia, Ames, your job is to carry Amavia between the two of you. She's hurt her left foot pretty seriously and can't put any weight on it. I recommend you take turns carrying her piggy-back. Martha, Thomas, and Adam will bring up the rear. Maintain a five meter interval from the person in front of you. Except Garcia and Ames. One of you always has to guard the other while he's carrying Amavia. Everybody understand your jobs?"
Satisfied by their assenting nods, he shrugged and said, "Then let's go. And try to make as little noise as possible!" Jimmy took his position at the head of the column. The youngsters continued on their trek to freedom. ####
The small group continued in this manner throughout the morning,stopping suddenly whenever Jimmy signaled danger. While the othersremained frozen in place, Jimmy, Adam, and Molton investigated. Within a few hours, the group of Science Camp survivors had grown to twenty. Several suffered from minor injuries; all suffered from thirst and increasing hunger.
Jimmy tactically deployed those with weapons throughout the column. He grimly pushed the others, refusing to allow more than a few minutes rest. Their survival depended on putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the Science Camp compound.
A plan was growing in Jimmy's mind. He knew from the tourist holovids that he'd watched that Tarsus IV's capital city, Spencer's Landing, lay directly east from Science Camp along the coast. Spencer's Landing was the largest settlement on the planet with a population of well over ten thousand inhabitants. It was located in the central continent, a relatively temperate region of Tarsus IV, in the eastern hemisphere. Except for the irregularly scattered government-controlled farms and small fishing communities, the central continent was largely unsettled.
Other, smaller settlements were located on the other side of the world on the western hemisphere. Passion's Pride lay hidden in the lush, rain forests of the southern continent, while Sierra Nostras, settled by a hardy group of colonists in the northern continent, was known for its rugged, mountainous regions.
Now, at the head of the column, leading the small group of survivors to what he hoped was safety, Jimmy did not feel any personal satisfaction in having been proven right. The responsibility for the others' lives lay heavily on his young shoulders, and he wished for the thousandth time that he could hand it off to someone else. But he knew he couldn't renege his position of leadership: His Dad would expect him to handle it.
Jimmy called another rest stop. He asked Adam and a few others to join him for a short council. Soran, Stobel, and T'Shal had thankfully survived and joined them soon after Thomas' group had. Toby stumbled onto the group shortly thereafter. Jimmy was grateful for their presence. When the others had gathered round him, Jimmy knelt down and began to scratch out a rough map on the dirt.
"Okay. If I remember the local geography correctly, we should be arriving at a small valley soon. A narrow river cuts through it, in roughly a north-south direction." Jimmy scratched a snaking line, oriented to the planet's magnetic north. "It's overlooked by some fairly high cliffs along the western shore that run for several miles like this." He drew a series of perpendicular lines representing the cliffs on the western edge of the original squiggly line. He paused looking at each of them determinedly in the eyes.
"Our last best hope, guys, is to go over those cliffs, and make our way west, across the continent." Jimmy emphasized these words with a bold, single line ending in an arrow that pointed away from the cliffs in a westerly direction. Pointing at the vast expanse covered by the arrow, Jimmy added, "Further west, this terrain is extremely rough, but it's dotted with numerous caves and hidden grottoes where we should be able to find shelter."
"Uh, Jimmy." It was Adam, his voice was tinged with uncertainty. "We have a lot of kids who've never done any climbing, myself included, and a few who are in no shape to even attempt it."
"Yeah, I know."
Jimmy stood up slowly and looked at each one in turn, his voice assuming a hard edge that would brook no arguments. "That's why each of you are gonna be in the hot seat with me. You're all going to come up with a solution that's going to get us over those cliffs."
Jimmy relented for a second, a tired, but optimistic smile brightening his worried countenance. "Come on, you're all Science Campers. You're all supposedly the Federation's *best and brightest*--right? Well, I'm simply asking for your best ideas and brightest solutions to our current problem."
Jimmy took a deep breath, thinking furiously. "Soran, you're in charge of brainstorming the problem. We'll need to go and scout ahead while the rest of the company rests. T'Shal, I need you to increase the security around our perimeter--lookouts, signals--that sort of thing."
T'Shal acknowledged his understanding with a dangerous gleam in hissapphire eyes. "Oh, T'Shal," Jimmy continued, "more importantly, I need you to analyze the energy weapons we've confiscated. Most of us have been learning to shoot as we go, but we still don't know the weapon's true potential. I'll be honest with you; I don't recognize the design. It's not like any Starfleet issue my Dad's ever showed me."
At Soran and T'Shal's assenting nods, Jimmy turned to Garg and Molson. "I need you two to organize a foraging party of the immediate area." At their confused looks he explained. "Foraging, as in looking for food and water. We know there's a river ahead of us within another hour's travel, so the immediate water problem is solved; however, we're going to need to take water with us when we push on. So your mission is to find some means with which to carry it."
"Our most pressing problem is food," Jimmy continued. "Scout the local flora and fauna. Humans and Andorians can eat both meat and vegetation. However, Vulcans and Tellarites are strictly vegetarians, so you have to find something that all of us can eat. Do your best." Handing Garg the tricorder, he explained, "Use it to scan whatever you find for chemical composition."
Then snapping his fingers, Jimmy added, "Oh, T'Shal, Toby," Toby and the Andorian looked up quickly. "See what you can do about fashioning some spears, or some other type of handheld weapons. We need to conserve the power cells in the energy weapons for extreme emergencies."
Jimmy paused, rubbing his hands together. "Any questions? All right, you guys have your missions. Let's do it." He watched them turn to their various tasks.
"Soran, Adam, Thomas let's go scout ahead. I want to see exactly what we're facing." ####
So here he was, watching as the others were being ruthlessly rounded up by Kodos' mercenaries. Jimmy counted eight storm troopers in all, but they were heavily armed. He was mostly disgusted with himself. He'd led the Science Campers into a perfect ambush--and hadn't suspected a thing. Come on, Jimmy-boy, he berated himself. I mean, this valley practically screamed, *Danger: Ambush Ahead*!
Well, Jimmy thought, I got us into this mess, and by golly I'm going to get us out. Let's see, how did T'Shal's instructions go? To set the weapon at the tightest beam possible, with a maximum kill delivery... go left three klicks...pause for a count of five...let the weapon's energy field build up...four, five...now, turn right and press the firing button three times.
The energy weapon began to hum in his hands. Jimmy could feel the power growing within the metaphasic flux matrix. A green indicator light began to blink. Ready to fire. Whatever he hit was toast.
Jimmy low-crawled to the cliff's edge. He carefully peered over, quickly assessing the situation. The soldiers were separating the captured youngsters into Humans and nonhumans; the humans were further divided into male and female.
All right, Jimmy-boy, if you don't want to wave bye-bye to your friends, you'd better do something now! Jimmy assumed the marksman prone position again. He carefully gripped the weapon, trying to become an extension of it, easing the rifle butt securely into the pocket formed between his shoulder and his firing arm. Jimmy selected his first target. The big guy standing next to Adam. Get rid of him, Jimmy thought, and watch the fun begin.
Zooming in with the electronic telescopic sight, Jimmy carefully placed the crosshairs on his target's torso. He fired. The narrow, high-intensity beam sliced through the soldier, literally causing his chest to mushroom outward in a crimson shower. He was dead instantly. Before, the others could react, Jimmy acquired a second target and fired. Two down. The Science Campers erupted into action.
T'Shal quickly chopped out with his right hand, squarely hitting the guard nearest him in the throat. He immediately followed with a left hook to the chin, and a side kick into the solar plexus. The guard's battle armor semi-protected him from the kick, but he was nevertheless doubled over, gagging from the blow to his larynx.
T'Shal's sapphire-blue eyes burned with a warrior's fire. Sounding out the battle cry his people had first roared in the ancient wars of unification on Andorr, T'Shal grabbed the guard from behind, and with a savage twist, broke his neck, almost separating the head from the body. He turned snarling, looking for the next enemy.
Ames and Garcia, acting in tandem, were methodically punching the daylights out of one particular guard. First, Ames struck out with a right cross, then Garcia let him have it with a left hook. Finally, for the coups de grace, the two timed their last punch to the split second, and slugged him simultaneously. He went down, thankfully unconscious.
Jimmy, meanwhile, was targeting enemy soldiers and mechanically pressing the firing button. They weren't sentient living beings anymore, just target silhouettes that kept popping up at random intervals. Suddenly, a movement to his left and below caught the corner of his eye. There! One of them was trying to escape!
Jimmy edged dangerously close to the cliff's rim, trying to follow the soldier's route. His awkward position precluded him from tracking the soldier with his weapon. Jimmy couldn't allow him to make it back to the capital and return with reinforcements. He had to stop the soldier at all costs, but how?
Jimmy heard a noise above him on the plateau. The soldier was above him! How'd he do that? There must be a path up to the top! Well, Jimmy-boy, you don't have access to the bunny slope, so you get to do it the hard way.
Jimmy expertly scanned the cliff side above him, looking for handholds. There and there. Too high for me, he thought. Fingering his weapon, Jimmy rolled his eyes upward in disgust. Of course, dummy! Use your weapon! Sighting the weapon along the cliff wall, Jimmy fired in rapid sequence.
Presto! Change-o! Instant handholds! Slinging the weapon quickly over and around his shoulder, Jimmy reached for the nearest handhold, and immediately fell back--YEOWCH! That hurt! The weapon's energy had melted the rock into slag. It was the equivalent of putting his hand in molten lava. Clutching his hand to him, Jimmy examined it closely.
Okay, maybe, it's more like putting your hand on a too-warm stove. Not comfortable, but not well-done either...closer to medium rare. Okay, concentrate, Jimmy-boy. Deep breath. Think cool thoughts. The heat does not burn...The heat does not burn. Let's go!
Quickly, before he changed his mind, Jimmy reached for the handhold again, and began to climb. Reach. Feel for handhold. Feel for foothold. Pull up. Repeat. Moving with the dexterity and confidence of an experienced climber, Jimmy ascended the cliff's face in near record time.
Half a meter to the top. Stay focused, Jimmy-boy. "Don't do dumb things," he could hear his Dad say. "Dumb mistakes will get you dead--fast."
The edge. Reaching with the finger tips of his right hand, Jimmy felt along the brim for something solid to hold on to. There! He could feel a rock just within reach of his hand. Carefully feeling around it, he determined it was half buried. Pulling with all the strength he could muster, Jimmy tried to ascertain if the rock would hold his weight.
Well, only one way to find out. Let's just hope it's not a dumb mistake. Taking a firm grip on the rock with his right hand, Jimmy released his left hand and reached up with it. Then, tensing in anticipation, he pushed up with the toes of his left foot and pulled with his right hand. For a dizzying second he hung suspended from the precipice. Don't look down, he thought desperately.
Pulling with his right arm, Jimmy could feel his biceps nearing the breaking point. Reaching with his left hand, he felt franticly for a second handhold. There! Something solid! Got it! Holding on with both hands, Jimmy took several deep, gulping breaths. Okay, here goes nothing. Alley Oop! he thought, swinging his left leg over the top. Whatever that means. Success! Jimmy quickly rolled away from the edge, gasping.
No time...Gotta go...Stop that soldier...Where...? Over that rise. Jimmy could hear the distinct sounds of anti-gravity engines powering up. No! Not this close, Jimmy angrily denied. Staggering to his feet, he began to run. Can't let him warn Kodos...bring back reinforcements... I've--got--to--reach--him!
Jimmy could hear the engines reaching GO status. Please, just a few seconds more. He dragged himself over the rise, unslinging his weapon, and aiming even as he fell forward. Not bothering to sight accurately, Jimmy fired, using what his grandfather called Kentucky windage, or shooting from the hip.
Still set on maximum kill force, the narrow beam discharged from the weapon's emitter, cleanly slicing through the unshielded craft, hitting the anti-grav generator.
The back ramp dropped down at combat boarding speed. The storm trooper suddenly sprang out, executing a diving roll as he burst forth. This time, taking a moment to sight carefully, Jimmy led the soldier by a few yards. One thousand one...one thousand two...wait for it...fire!
The narrow beam shot out with deadly accuracy, hitting the enemy soldier squarely in the chest. The lethal beam cut through the soldier's torso, slicing him in half.
Scratch one armored storm trooper.
Jimmy quickly ran back to the edge of the cliff to check on the status of the battle below. Adam looked up and raised his weapon in a victory salute. Jimmy waved back, clenching his fist in acknowledgement.
Score: Science Campers two; Kodos Dodos zero.
Don't mess with the Federation's Best and Brightest, Jimmy thought darkly.
Jimmy took a long, deep breath of cleansing fresh air, glad to be alive. He found the hidden path leading from the plateau to the valley below. Its location was obvious once you knew where to look; however, Jimmy was certain that the Science Campers would never have found it unassisted. Noting its treacherously steep angle, Jimmy carefully followed the descending path. Slipping on occasion, forced to slide on his rump, Jimmy was somewhat the worse for wear when he finally arrived at the bottom.
Gingerly picking himself up, Jimmy dusted off the seat of his pants, noticing the friction burns on his hands and arms. Great, I escape serious injury in two battles, and I end up getting hurt sliding down on my rear end. I can hear Sam laughing all the way from Earth.
Jimmy looked around the place where he'd emerged. Hidden by the high cliff walls, the path could not be seen from the river's edge. If you didn't know where to look, you'd never know that the shadow cast by the cliff's outcropping was not just an irregularity on the cliff wall, but was instead an indention leading twenty feet further into the cliff, and then snaking steeply upwards like a clinging vine.
Hurrying towards the others, Jimmy waved at Adam, calling a quickmeeting. He reported the disabled transport, and the path leading up the cliff. "Soran, Stobel, I'd like you to go up and check it--see if it's fixable. Take Toby with you--uh, where is he?" He turned to Adam, questioning. The look on Adam's face stopped Jimmy cold. "Three Campers are dead, Jimmy," Adam quietly reported. "Garg, Shoji, and," he paused, "Toby." At the younger boy's stricken look, Adam reached out and gripped Jimmy's shoulder comfortingly. "I'm sorry, Jimmy. There was nothing you could have done. If it's any comfort, I'm sure they would rather have died fighting for their freedom, rather than being sheep, meekly accepting whatever fate Kodos dreamt up."
"It's my fault. I led you all into that ambush. A five year old childcould have seen it coming." Jimmy looked at them. "I failed them. Ifailed all of you." Jimmy had liked all three boys, but Toby had held a special place in his heart.
Jimmy thought of the shy boy who'd proven to be a brilliantnano-electronics engineer, quickly designing and developing innovativeand practical equipment Jimmy's team gratefully used to trace the complex nano-components of the buildings' circuitry. Toby had just started to shine, to grow in confidence, when all their days of innocence had suddenly come abruptly to an end.
Jimmy couldn't face the others. Shaking his head, he turned away in shocked dismay. Adam watched the despondent boy as he walked slowly towards the tree line, his normally proud, straight back slumped over. Jimmy looked lost as he leaned back against a large tree, then slid down its trunk. He drew up his knees, hugging them close to his chest, and put his head down within the circle of his arms.
Adam's heart went to out him. He waved at the others, "Continue getting ready for the journey ahead." Then, heading towards Jimmy, Adam thought over what he could say to him. The kid's sense of personal responsibility is working overtime, Adam thought. He's taking the loss of Toby and the other two pretty hard, as a personal failing. Adam knew that Jimmy's response was the mark of a compassionate leader, one who would not see losses as statistically acceptable; however, Adam couldn't allow Jimmy to let it handicap him.
Adam sat down quietly next to Jimmy. As he watched the younger boygrieve silently, Adam noted Jimmy's vulnerable demeanor. There was something bright and shining about Jimmy, something optimistic, something hopeful. Jimmy's inner spirit radiated outwards, manifested in his outer countenance by that traffic stopping smile of his. Wherever this special quality came from, it's what made him the flame that the others followed willingly. Adam wouldn't allow Jimmy to douse that blaze.
"Jimmy, you can sit there and flog yourself in endless recriminations,or you can get up and finish what you've started. I, for one, am no more qualified to lead the others to safety, than I was qualified to climb that cliff face with you. And I don't think the others are ready to let Tom Layton take back command either."
Adam paused, not sure if he was getting through. "Jimmy, if you quit on us, we'll be forced to continue with our slim chances cut even further. We'll be forced to continue, Jimmy, knowing that we'll probably fail. We're stronger with you, Jimmy, than we are without you. Please, you can't abandon us now."
Jimmy slowly looked up, unselfconsciously wiping his eyes. Their normal hazel color grief darkened to brown. Adam could see the tear trails cut through Jimmy's tanned, dirt-smudged face.
"Hey, you've made a clean spot," Adam teased gently. "I can even see a few freckles there across your nose. I didn't know the stuff came off."
Jimmy chuckled, wiping his nose inelegantly with his left sleeve. "Mybrother Sam teases me like that all the time," he said sniffling. Then, smiling he continued, "Sam says that I think dirt is a natural condiment. Mom just threatens to toss me into an acid bath to beat the dirt once and for all."
Adam laughed quietly. "I never had a brother, Jimmy, or a sister for that matter. What's it like? Do you fight all the time? Compete for the top bunk--that sort of thing?"
Smiling, Jimmy shook his head no, then on reflection, nodded yes. "Sam's the best friend I have. I can't imagine what it would've been like growing up without him to look out for me."
At Adam's questioning glance, Jimmy explained. "Mom's a scientist and her research keeps her busy pretty much full time. She's a xenoagribiologist, so she works at home on the farm researching methods to improve world food production. But between her research, lecture tours, and teaching part-time, she has little time left over."
Jimmy paused thinking about his mother--picturing her hazel eyes smiling proudly when he'd informed her about winning the Science Camp award.
"And Dad...well, he's gone a lot. He loves being in space. Says he feels more alive knowing that there are an infinite number of ways of being killed when out there, but knowing that he's managed to find an infinite number of ways of beating death."
Jimmy smiled, a twinge of sadness fleetingly washing through him. "It's funny, 'cause the farm's been in Dad's family for five generations, but he could hardly wait to leave it and join Starfleet. If it wasn't for Mom's research, the farm wouldn't be in operation. But I guess I know how he feels. Mom says that when she married Dad she knew he was a Starfleet officer, and therefore, she would never ask him to resign. She told me once that it would be the same as clipping a bird's wing to prevent it from flying, or trying to keep a wave from rolling back into the sea."
Jimmy shrugged, smiling ruefully. "The first would be unfair to thebird, the second impossible to do. Anyway, even when he's home, heisn't; he's somewhere light years away on his starship." He paused momentarily, staring into space. "I guess I miss him just about all the time. Anyway, I sure wish he were here right now."
Jimmy carefully studied the slow progress of a native twelve-leggedinsect as it struggled on its daily battle for survival in its micro-world.
"That left Sam with the job of being the third parent." Seeing Adam's eyebrows go up, Jimmy quickly added, "Oh, he was far from being a saint, mind you. There have been times he's taken a certain perverse pleasure in teasing me unmercifully and calling me *Squirt*--a name I consider an automatic declaration of war--so *don't* try it."
This last was delivered with a threatening scowl, jabbing his fingerstraight at Adam's nose. "But it was Sam who spent endless hours withme, listening to me talk about everything, I guess. It was Sam who read to me at night, because both Mom and Dad were gone or busy. It was Sam who taught me how to play chess and baseball--even though he hates athletics." Jimmy looked seriously at Adam. "I got lucky, Adam. I have an older brother who also happens to be my best friend."
"Yeah, you *are* lucky. But you know something? I think Sam's lucky,too. And what do you want to bet that he's already aware of the fact?"
Jimmy smiled, feeling sad because he missed his family, yet feeling somewhat better nevertheless. "Thanks, Adam. You remind me a lot of Sam."
"My pleasure...*Squirt*," Adam replied, grinning wickedly, and ducking to avoid Jimmy's playfully delivered right cross.
"If you tell anyone--" Jimmy started threateningly.
"Anyone in particular?" Adam asked innocently. "Like say...Amavia?" Adam ducked again, laughing.
"Jimmy! Adam!" Both boys turned to where a small group of Campers wasstanding. T'Shal was pointing his weapon at something. Or someone, Jimmy amended. Jimmy and Adam jogged over and immediately saw that the campers had a prisoner. He was bleeding profusely from several places, none serious. Jimmy saw that the soldier was glaring defiantly at hiscaptors.
"You kids don't stand a chance! Kodos' Enlightened Patrol knows you're here, and it's only a matter of a few hours before they arrive and round up the lot of you. It'll go better for you if you surrender peacefully."
"Sure it will," Jimmy agreed sarcastically. "Just like it went better for Julie, or Mike, or the three Science Campers you just killed. How about the sixty of us you took earlier today? I suppose they're all better off, too." Jimmy knelt down, eye level with the fallen soldier. "They were my friends. I was responsible for them. They trusted me." Jimmy spoke quietly, intensely. "Now they're dead. You killed them. The question is: What are we going to do with *you*?"
The soldier's demeanor had slowly changed from disdain to obvious concern as he watched Jimmy. Surely this *kid* wasn't in charge here? Yet, there was something in Jimmy's eyes--as the boy spoke, the soldier watched, fascinated as Jimmy's eyes changed color, from an openly friendly hazel, to a hot angry green, to a dark cold brown.
"What...what do you mean?" the soldier worriedly asked, looking up at the half-circle of grim, cold faces.
"We don't have enough food for all of us, much less a prisoner." Jimmy smiled apologetically at the soldier. "I'm sure you understand about food shortages, don't you--uh--what's your name?"
"Well, you understand, don't you, Karnow? I mean with the current emergency and all. But don't worry. You have my word that it'll be quick and painless." Jimmy smiled reassuringly. "Right, T'Shal?" His voice rising meaningfully, Jimmy glanced sideways at the Andorian.
"My friend, T'Shal, here has sworn blood vengeance against Kodos and his followers," Jimmy explained, shrugging helplessly. "You know howAndorians are. The slightest thing, and they take offense." Jimmy smiled self-deprecatingly. "What can the rest of us do? He's given his word to the Old Ones of Andorr. If anyone gets in his way, including us, he's blood sworn to kill them, too."
Karnow's panicked eyes started darting back and forth amongst the Science Campers. "What do you mean? You can't turn me over to an Andorian. He'll kill me! I'm your prisoner...you're obligated under Federation law to ensure my safety!...You hear?" He was yelling now. "It's the law!"
Jimmy grabbed Karnow by the collar with his left hand, his hunting knife in his other hand. Jimmy held the cutting edge painfully close to the terrified trooper's left cheek. Seemingly absentmindedly, he gently stroked Karnow's pale, sweat-beaded cheek.
"What Federation law?" Jimmy looked confused. "I thought we were living under Kodos' Enlightened Proclamations: Self-sacrifice for the greater good! Isn't that what you've been enforcing? Isn't that why you've been rounding up innocent colonists?"
Jimmy paused, smiling cruelly. Then, tapping the knife's point between Karnow's eyes for emphasis as he spoke, Jimmy added, "Isn't that why you--" (tap) "--ambushed us here? Why you took sixty of us--" (tap) "--for execution--" (tap) "--this morning?"
Calmly, Jimmy leaned back on his haunches, running the knife's handle up and down the bridge of his nose. "Well?" Jimmy asked, his eyebrowsraised in mock inquiry.
"Okay, we've been rounding up dissidents," Karnow placated. "But we've only been following orders--we're soldiers, remember? That's our job... to obey the orders of our superiors."
Jimmy angrily jumped to his feet.
"Your job does *not* include murdering innocent people! We are allresponsible to a higher moral authority, Karnow. Saying you were only obeying orders is an old excuse that didn't stand up during the Nuremburg trials, nor any of the war crimes trials following the Eugenics Wars. We're the only representatives of the Federation, Karnow, and you're guilty of crimes against humanity. The only humane action we can take is to borrow an example from Kodos, and that's to condemn you to death by euthanasia." Holding Karnow's eyes, Jimmy called out harshly to T'Shal. "Take him. Make it quick and painless."
"Very well, Jimmy," T'Shal whispered, grinning wolfishly.
"No, wait!" Karnow called out desperately. "You can't do this! It's cold-blooded murder!" As his arms were pinned back by, Jimmy saw ironically, Ames and Garcia, Karnow tried pleading again. "Look, I can tell you where your friends are." Seeing Jimmy's obvious interest clouded by disbelief, Karnow continued. "It's true. Your friends...the ones taken this morning into custody. They haven't been executed... they're being held prisoner in the city!"
Jimmy quickly gestured to Ames and Garcia to wait. He stepped closer to Karnow, looking him suspiciously in the eye. "Okay, talk."
"I swear, this is true." Karnow's voice was breaking from terror. "Thereason Kodos wanted them...all of you." Tears were begin to spill unbidden down his cheeks, sobs were violently racking his body. He looked on the verge of collapse, held up only by Ames' and Garcia's firm grip. "Someone in communications managed to transmit a sub-space burst to the Federation informing them of Kodos' Enlightened Proclamations and emergency measures."
Karnow was talking desperately now, almost in hysteria."Counter-intelligence intercepted a Starfleet communique to the reliefvessels enroute. They were warned that under no circumstances were they to approach Tarsus Four; instead, they were to achieve parking orbits no closer than seven light-years away. Starfleet deployed two Federation starships, the USS Eisenhower and Enterprise. That was almost a week ago. CI anticipates that the starships will enter the Tarsus star system within another seven standard days." Karnow raised his eyes and met Jimmy's pleadingly. "Don't you see? We *had* to round you kids up. The Federation is deliberately withholding aid. Thousands of people are dying of starvation or disease. We need those supplies!"
"I don't see what taking *us* into custody has to do with the Federation withholding relief supplies," Jimmy demanded, confused. "What does one have to do with the other?" "That's what I'm trying to tell you," Karnow explained tiredly. "Your friends...all of you...Kodos doesn't want to execute you; he wants to hold you kids hostage. Your friends, even now, are being moved to key locations throughout the capital city. The government has sent a message to the Federation demanding the immediate release of the desperately needed relief supplies in exchange for the Science Camp children. They've also sent a warning that the approach of any Starfleet vessel will result in the deaths of the hostages." Karnow took a deep, gulping breath. "So you see...your friends are still alive. Kodos needs them in order to get those supplies." "A ransom note," Jimmy said disgustedly. "So what happens if thesupplies aren't released?"
Karnow shook his head. "I don't know; your friends will probably be executed."
Jimmy nodded. "Where in the city are the hostages being held?"
Karnow shook his head again. "I don't know. Look, I've told you everything I know. I'm just a grunt--only someone of command grade would have that information." He took in their looks of disbelief. "I *swear* I don't know! What *good* would it do me to *lie* to you!?"
"I believe you. Ames, Garcia." They looked at Jimmy questioningly."Strip him. All clothes, shoes, everything. Then take him to the woods back there and let him go."
"Let him go?" Ames protested. "He and his friends just killed Garg andShoji. They also killed Toby. I didn't know them all that well, but they didn't deserve to die. They weren't even old enough to vote yet, or to even have a drink. And you expect me to let him go?"
"I expect you follow orders," Jimmy began hotly. Then, closing his eyes, he stopped, momentarily taking a deep breath. "Okay, Ames," Jimmy began quietly, shrugging. "Keep him. Hold him prisoner. Torture him if you feel like it. Better yet, why don't you just kill him? I'vekilled...gee, I'm not sure, I've lost count...six, seven men today Ithink." He paused, his voice becoming distant. "The first one made me feel sick--I thought I was gonna lose my breakfast. The second one was still pretty bad...but you know--not as terrible as I thought it should have been. The third, fourth, all the rest--they were like turning off a light switch...just something you do."
Jimmy stopped talking, remembering the deaths of each soldier. Eyes bulging, blood trickling down the side of the mouth, gagging...chests erupting outward in a crimson shower of blood...and don't forget the pilot of the atmospheric fighter, he viciously reminded himself. Jimmy knew he'd remember each violent death for as long as he lived.
"So, Ames," Jimmy continued. "Go ahead. Do what you want. I just hope you can live with yourself afterwards." Jimmy turned and walked away.
Ames watched Jimmy's retreating back. He tried calling to him, several self-serving and defiant words of justification on the tip of his tongue. Finally, Ames dropped his eyes. Bringing himself back to his prisoner, he turned to Garcia. "Come on. We have our orders." ####End of Part 1 of 3