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
CHAPTER TWENTY NINE
Time. Jimmy brought his fist down.
Immediately his group jumped through the ceiling panels to the floor below, screaming, trying to gain the psychological advantage. Jimmy tucked as he hit the floor, executing a quick shoulder roll, coming up, weapon ready. He fired at the guards he'd seen along the communications station. Probably the sergeant of the guard and the charge of quarters.
Adam and Thomas, who were screaming at the Science Campers--"HEADS DOWN! HEADS DOWN!"--landed behind the startled hostages. They firedsimultaneously, stunning the guards who were standing along the walls. The guards, their weapons at port arms, were caught flatfooted. The two boys, still screaming--"KEEP YOUR HEADS DOWN!"-- vaulted over prone Science Campers, and turned to cover Jimmy and Soran.
Soran, meanwhile, landed immediately behind two guards who were holding their weapons on two Science Campers. This was the most dangerous assignment. While waiting in the crawl space, the boys had determined that the two Science Campers were probably being used as a deterrent to the others.
Any problems from the Science Campers would result in the immediatedeaths of these two. Landing catlike, Soran calmly reached behind eachguard. Surprised, they started turning, when Soran did something Jimmyhadn't seen him do before. Barehanded, he pinched both guards on the neck and they dropped, unconscious.
"Get their weapons," Jimmy screamed. Instantly, several of the Science Campers grabbed weapons that until recently had been turned on them. "Adam, Soran, see if they have communicators or tricorders--any equipment that we could use! Thomas--Go!" Thomas quickly nodded, heading out the door. Taking a moment to check for sounds on the other side of the stairwell door, he took a deep breath, then raced down the stairs. He had to go recover the Resolute.
"You!" Jimmy pointed at a Science Camper who had grabbed one of theweapons. "What's your name?"
"Nelson," the boy answered, still dazed by the sudden change in theirfortunes.
"Okay, Nelson. You're in charge of this group. Get all of their names, check them for injuries--the whole nine yards. Let's get them all out of here." Jimmy was giving orders even as he was taking out hiscommunicator. "Rover Leader to Groundhog."
"Groundhog," Amavia's voice. "I'm in position. And I just I want to go on record to say that I *don't* like my call sign."
"Acknowledged," Jimmy returned smiling. "On our way."
At the moment, Ames and Garcia came in from the higher floor. Ames looked green, like he'd been sick or something. Uh-oh, Jimmy thought. I don't like the looks of this. No time now, though. Later, Jimmypromised, putting off the inevitable.
"Nelson, is everyone capable of walking? Any wounded or injured?" Jimmy asked
"We're all okay. Hey, what's going on? How'd you guys--?" Nelson began.
"--Later. We've got a long night ahead of us," Jimmy interrupted, heading out the door. "Let's go," he called over his shoulder. They were soon joined by T'Shal and Molson who were waiting on the landing below. Mission accomplished.
The Science Campers quickly made their way to the front of the building, hugging the outside shadows. As she promised, Amavia was in position, the ground transport under cover of the moonless night. As soon as she saw them, Amavia ran towards Jimmy.
Jimmy and his team of commandos were quickly herding the ex-hostages towards the getaway vehicle. Amavia fought a desperate urge to hug him and hold him to her. As the Science Campers were boarding the ground transport, she felt, rather than heard, the Resolute land a few meters away.
Jimmy was talking quickly. Adam and T'Shal were nodding their heads inagreement. Some of the ex-hostages were standing near looking dazed.Thomas rushed over to where they were standing; Amavia joined them.
"I think this changes everything," Jimmy insisted. "If we take out the power plant, the whole city will go on alert. We'll never get to the others in time. A change of plan is in order."
"I don't think it's a good idea to change plans in the middle of a mission," protested Molson.
"A good leader is flexible," Jimmy retorted. "No, with the added firepower, we can effectively take out *both* hostage locations at the same time. Interested?" At the others' nods, some enthusiastic, others somewhat more reluctantly, Jimmy continued. "Okay, here's what we do: Soran and at least one other remain here and set up the plasma grenades to blow up the main power generators. Can do Soran?"
"Of course," Soran replied dryly.
"Next, Thomas here, flies me and the first group to the school gymnasium, then he takes the second group to the warehouse. Once we're all in place, both groups go in and get the hostages out. As soon as the hostages are free, Soran here pulls the plug on the city. As soon as the lights go out, we all head back to the base camp. This is for keeps, people, the use of deadly force is authorized. Oh, and the handy-dandy NVGs we found here are our ace in the hole."
"NVGs?" Amavia asked.
"Night vision goggles," Jimmy explained. "They beat having to continuously scan with a tricorder to see what lies ahead in the dark--really turns the night into day!" He handed her a pair to examine. "As soon as Thomas drops off the second group, he flies back here to pick up Soran and his partner."
"What about transportation for the other hostages?" Molson, the nay-sayer, Jimmy thought resentfully.
"Okay, you've got me," Jimmy admitted. "Any suggestions?"
"I know where there's another ground vehicle," Amavia volunteered. She felt herself blushing at Jimmy's admiring smile. "When I was driving here, I passed a civilian passenger carrier, parked not too far from here. I think I can find it again."
"Okay, Amavia!" Adam slapped her on her shoulders.
"All right, then. We need at least six more volunteers--people who've fired weapons before, preferably, or least have some idea of how to defend themselves. We don't need more hostages at this point!" Jimmy turned to Adam, "See if you can find us some help. Oh, and, Adam, see if any of them can drive one of these things."
"Right, boss," Adam acknowledged as he started running to the parkedvehicle.
"Amavia, you'll have to go with them," Jimmy looked at her regretfully, wanting more than anything to keep her with him. He'd been deathly worried about her; now he was sending her on another dangerous mission, and again, he wouldn't be able to protect her. "Find the second transport; divide the passengers equally among them. That'll give us more room per vehicle for more passengers," Jimmy explained. "Then, one goes to the school gymnasium, the other to the warehouse."
Turning, Jimmy addressed the young Vulcan, "Soran, download thelocations of each position, as well as the base camp, to the onboard computer. Amavia, you'll have to do the same when you get the next vehicle. We can't afford anyone getting lost. Each group's escape will depend on these transports arriving in the proverbial nick of time." He checked his chronometer. 0432 hours--God! It would be daylight soon! They *had* to get moving.
Adam, followed by a group of ex-hostages, rejoined them.
"Okay. Amavia, any questions?" She shook her head, no. God, Jimmy wanted to hold her. Holding her eyes with his, he asked instead, "Do we have driver for the second vehicle?"
A voice answered from the dark. "Yeah, I can drive one of these things. Name's Van Doran."
"Thanks, Van Doran," Jimmy replied. "Best speed to the warehousedistrict. The hostages will be depending on you."
"Got it," Van Doran acknowledged.
"Okay, Amavia, head on out. You know what to do. We'll see you at the gymnasium." Before Jimmy could turn back to his briefing, Amavia grabbed him by the lapels, and in front of everybody, kissed him passionately.
"You take care of yourself, Jimmy Kirk," she whispered. Not waiting for a reply, Amavia hurried to the waiting vehicle.
Blushing furiously, and feeling extremely embarrassed, yet pleased,Jimmy turned to face the others and continued his briefing as if being kissed by beautiful older women was an everyday occurrence. Feeling their amused looks, Jimmy straightened to his full height, and looking them each in the eye, he dared them to say anything. They each studiously found something more interesting to look at.
Mission briefing complete, the young commandos headed towards the Resolute. There were now two teams, one each led by Jimmy and Adam. Jimmy's team included T'Shal, Garcia, and three ex-hostages. They'd introduced themselves as Bill, Janine, and Olsen. Janine held a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and was quite familiar with small arms. The other two had fired weapons before and were anxious for a little pay back.
Adam's team had Ames, Molson, and three additional Science Campers. Nelson, who'd asked to be included, turned over responsibility of the vehicle passengers to Amavia and Van Doran.
T'Pei, who'd been captured shortly after their escape from Science Camp that morning so long ago also joined Adam. T'Pei explained that she hadn't been summarily executed because her captors had received orders to capture as many Science Campers as possible for Kodos' ransom plan. Her hot Reigellian blood was more than a match for T'Shal's Andorrian warrior heritage.
The final new team member was a Science Camper by the name of Routledge who claimed to have some hunting experience.
Kodos and his Enlightened Patrol don't stand a chance, Jimmy thought. I hope. #### CHAPTER THIRTY
Adam briefed the newcomers on the systematic exterminations of the colonists. They listened shocked; they'd had no inclination of the atrocities that had been occurring. They hadn't even been apprised of why they were being held prisoner.
Nelson, in turn, revealed some of the scuttlebutt that the soldiers had been passing amongst themselves when they thought their NCOs andofficers weren't listening: Apparently, the Enlightened Patrol's rankswere being decimated by an inordinate number of desertions. Officers and noncoms had orders to shoot to kill anyone caught attempting to go AWOL.
"That's interesting," Jimmy said. "It would certainly explain why the spaceport was so lightly guarded,"agreed Adam. "Rats leaving a sinking ship, and all that."
"Which means that the Federation is closer than Kodos would like the colonists to believe," added Jimmy. "If they knew that rescue was imminent, they might not stand idly by and watch as their neighbors were being systematically slaughtered." Jimmy sighed. "If only there were some means of contacting the starships." Or contacting Dad, he thought, feeling suddenly like a lonely, lost little boy.
"Jimmy, one thing at a time," Adam warned. "Let's concentrate on freeing the remaining hostages, before we start on the next mission, okay?"
Jimmy smiled guiltily. Still, Dad always says a good leader startsplanning the next mission before the current one is finished. I'll just have to think on it, he thought.
"Ames, Garcia," Jimmy turned to the pair, changing the subject, "You two are our *expert* rappellers," he said wryly. "In the time remaining, give everyone a short how-not-to-get-killed lesson. Also, get everyone ready. We should have enough hooks for everybody in the storage lockers--I hope." Oh, for a transporter chamber, Jimmy thought wistfully.
"Yes, sir!" they shouted in unison, immediately turning to the task at hand. I wish they wouldn't *do* that! Jimmy thought to himself, exasperatedly shaking his head.
"Get used to it, kid," Adam whispered sotto voce, correctly reading Jimmy's mind. Jimmy looked at him in private annoyance. Everyone's going weird on me, Jimmy thought. Ames and Garcia began demonstrating the proper way to make the seat harnesses.
"Tight is better, guys!" Ames emphasized. "Don't worry about the future generation right now. If you're killed because your harness is too loose, you still won't father any progeny. That goes for you, too,ladies. If you're comfortable up here, you'll be a bright red spot down there--or green or blue in the case of T'Pei and T'Shal," he added. Once everyone was harnessed, Ames and Garcia personally checked each for tightness. After a few minor adjustments, Ames gave Jimmy a thumbs up. All ready!
"Open hatch," Jimmy ordered.
"Open hatch, aye," Ames.
"Ready the lines." Jimmy called.
"Lines ready, aye." Molson. Then, "We have a green light on the line feed.
"Green light, aye," acknowledged Jimmy. "Thomas prepare for troop aerial disembarkation."
"Ready, aye," Thomas acknowledged, bringing the Resolute to a hover over the school gymnasium. There were no guards on the rooftop. Thedesertions must really be hurting them, Jimmy thought. Good, I'll take a win any way I can get it. "Altimeter," Thomas requested.
"Fifty meters and holding," Adam replied promptly. "Good luck, Rover Leader."
"Thanks, Rover Two," Jimmy replied. "Same to you."
Standing next to the open hatch, Jimmy watched as Garcia hooked the first two rappellers.
"Go!" Jimmy signaled. Two away! The rest followed quickly, with Jimmy and Garcia being the last two out.
Sliding down the long rope, Jimmy suddenly realized that fifty meters was an awfully long way! He braked half-way down. YEOWCH! His left arm was on fire. Can't hold it, he thought, desperately releasing the line and doing his best to control his descent.
T'Shal, waiting at the bottom, saw Jimmy's too rapid drop and, at the last second, jerked Jimmy's line from his end, effectively braking Jimmy's fall. Jimmy landed safely, but just barely.
Jimmy's forehead had broken out in a cold sweat. Whether from fear or excruciating pain he wasn't sure, although he thought it was probably the former. Nodding his thanks at T'Shal, Jimmy looked up and waved the all clear with his good arm to the Resolute.
The APC banked starboard and quickly disappeared into the night sky. Jimmy called his team to him. They'd all assumed defensive positions on the rooftop as soon as they'd landed. The NVGs sitting on the tops of their heads made them all look oddly like insects. Jimmy checked his chronometer: 0502 hours. Daylight in less than an hour, he thought. Crossing the rooftop in quick, silent steps the Science Campers made their way to the skylights. Looking in, they saw about thirty hostages in the center of the gym floor. Some sleeping, others sitting quietly, not talking amongst themselves. Probably not allowed, Jimmy thought. Talking can be construed as conspiracy. Too bad we couldn't bring the rappelling ropes with us. Sure would be a pretty sight, all of us sliding down, like demons out of the night. Oh well.
"Okay, everyone, deadly force is a go. Set your weapons to tightest beam possible, maximum kill delivery." At Bill's gasp of surprise, Jimmy added savagely, "If you can't stomach killing, you shouldn't have volunteered. I made it clear back at the power plant that we weren't playing games! These people have already killed almost five thousand colonists; they're responsible for the deaths of who knows how many others; and they've killed our friends! We don't have time to play *nice* any more. Do I make myself clear?"
Jimmy had become increasingly angry as he spat the words out, thoughnever increasing in volume. Coming up to Bill, standing directly infront of him, his angry eyes barely to the taller boy's chin, Jimmy dared him to contradict him. He just wanted any excuse to belt someone. Jimmy was tired of killing...He'd killed too many already. The dead's accusing eyes continued to haunt him wherever he went. He knew they'd follow him for the rest of his life.
But, still, Jimmy knew that he had to kill again tonight--so that others might live. It offered little comfort.
Bill, caught off-guard by Jimmy's vehemence, backed off. This littlekid, according to T'Shal, was personally responsible for saving all of their lives, and watching him in action these past few minutes, observing the deference the others paid him, Bill was convinced that if he pushed too far, this *kid* could just as soon turn that particle weapon on *him*. Janine and Olson watched Bill sympathetically, but did not offer assistance. They were the newcomers; the others had been working together now for more than forty-eight hours. Before they offered advise or criticism, Janine thought, they'd have to prove themselves in battle. Like Bill, she'd been taken aback by Jimmy's "maximum kill" order, but knew that she'd follow his lead. She, too, had been observing him. He reminded her of her martial arts instructor--deadly, like a cobra.
"Let's get in position," Jimmy said, breaking the tension. "I need someone to cover us from up here--a sharpshooter. Any volunteers?"
Bill diffidently raised his arm. "I'm qualified as an expert, Jimmy. I always hit what I aim at."
"Are you sure?" Jimmy challenged.
"I can do it, Jimmy," Bill promised. "Just give me a chance."
"You've got it," Jimmy nodded. "The rest of you, look at the gym's layout. There are only two doors that have been used so far. If you look carefully at the east door, you can see that it's chained from the inside. The north door has been used several times by soldiers coming in and out. It probably leads to their sleeping quarters. The south door has only been used twice. Each time, an officer has stepped out and given an order to one of the guards. Conclusion, that door probably leads to the company headquarters. So--" Jimmy smiled, "--we pay a little visit to the company commander, then take out the guards in the gym."
Jimmy paused, dividing the tasks in his mind. He hadn't realized just how much he'd come to rely on Adam's recommendations. "Janine, Garcia, when we burst into the gym, I want you two to sprint with all your might and go on through the north doors. Fire at anything that moves. Keep them busy, while we work on the guards in the gym. As soon as the gym's clear, we'll go in and give you a hand."
"What happens if you don't clear the gym?" Janine asked diffidently.
"Then, I guess we rescued you from one prison, in exchange for another," Jimmy quipped. "Let's go get ready." At that moment, his communicator signaled.
"Rover Leader, Rover Two, over." Adam was reporting in.
"Rover Two, this is Rover Leader, go ahead." Jimmy responded instantly.
"We're at the warehouse, currently moving into position."
"Copy, Rover Two. We'll be in position in another two minutes."
"Roger. Rover Two out."
"Let's do it," Jimmy said. They all turned to go. T'Shal made quick work of the old-fashioned tumbler lock on the rooftop door. Jimmy leading, they all quietly took the steps leading down into the school's athletic department. Mentally picturing the building layout in his head, Jimmy turned right at the bottom of the stairs, the others following. Garcia brought up the rear, covering them.
Coming to a door marked Athletic Director, Jimmy stood to the right, weapon ready, then signaled T'Shal to open the door. As the door opened inward, Jimmy burst through, firing his weapon at anything that moved on the right, T'Shal firing at anything on the left.
In a few seconds, the pervasive smell of burnt human flesh seemed to envelope Jimmy's nostrils. Gagging, Jimmy couldn't take it any longer. Right there, in the middle of the Athletic Director's office, he threw up.
A decently brought up boy, with dreams of glory going as far back as he could remember, Jimmy had never imagined that glory would include frying his fellow man in anger. Too many dead, he thought desperately, too much blood on my hands. He heard his name over the roaring in his ears.
"T'Jimmy!" T'Shal. "We must continue!"
Jimmy nodded. Too much at stake. Keep going. Don't think. They'retargets, not people. The enemy. Pulling himself together, he followed.The others were depending on him--can't go psycho now!
Janine and Garcia were already waiting at the south entrance. As soon as they opened the doors, Jimmy, T'Shal, and Olsen would go throughshooting. Jimmy to the left; T'Shal right; Olsen giving covering fire.Garcia and Janine would then do their imitation of the fifty meter dash and hopefully make it to the other side.
Taking a deep breath, Jimmy called, "Go!"
Everything happened quickly--faster than his mind could assimilate atonce, yet seemingly in slow motion. He and T'Shal burst through the doors, screaming at the tops of their lungs: "GET DOWN! GET DOWN!" Jimmy rolling left; T'Shal rolling right; Olsen following, firing at any soldier who came into his sights.
Garcia and Janine took off, running for their lives, shooting from the hip, vaulting over prone Science Campers and fallen soldiers. Jimmy saw soldiers falling from the corner of his eyes--deadly beams coming from the roof: Bill, Death from Above!
Jimmy dove for cover behind the gym's stadium seats. Taking a crouching position there, he sighted and fired, taking just enough time to see if the target was terminated. Then, noting that T'Shal and Olsen had the gym under control--with a little help from the deadly fusillade Bill was laying down--Jimmy sprang to his feet and followed Garcia and Janine, who'd already gone through the north doors.
As he ran, Jimmy felt the deadly heat displaced by a particle beam that was too close, the burnt ozone heavy in his nostrils. Jimmy leapt, somersaulting in mid-air, firing before hitting the floor. Target terminated. His senses returned to real-time: screaming, shouting, weapons firing, burnt flesh, blood everywhere. Suddenly, everything stopped. No more targets.
Not taking time to think, Jimmy turned and ran through the north doors. T'Shal and Olsen followed, shouting at the stunned Science Campers, "TAKE COVER!"
T'Shal burst through into what looked like pandemonium. Garcia andJanine, from behind any piece of furniture that would afford cover, were desperately firing at anything that moved. Jimmy was doing his gymnast stunt--leaping high, then somehow flipping and firing in mid-air, and amazingly, still hitting something. (A true warrior, thought T'Shal proudly.) T'Shal and Olsen joined the fray.
Olsen suddenly cried out somewhere to T'Shal's left. He went down, clutching his sides. The doors burst open behind them. Bringing his weapon to bear, T'Shal almost fired, catching himself in time when he realized that it was the former prisoners who'd armed themselves with the dead soldiers' discarded weapons.
Suddenly, soldiers started reacting in surprise. Some turned and started firing towards what appeared to Jimmy at their own troops. Realizing that someone was shooting at them from behind, the remaining soldiers began to panic, firing in desperation. Who? wondered Jimmy. Then, catching sight of their erstwhile rooftop sharpshooter, Jimmy shouted his approval: "*Bill*! Way to *go*!" Somehow, Bill had made his way down and around, setting up a crossfire.
It was all over in a few more minutes. ####
CHAPTER THIRTY ONE
Two soldiers threw down their weapons. "We surrender. Please, don'tshoot," one of the soldiers cried out desperately.
"Hands out in front of you where we can see them! Come out slowly," Jimmy barked.
Slowly, two men, hands out, carefully emerged from where they'd been hiding in an adjacent hallway. From their dress, both were in their under-shorts and tee-shirt, it was obvious that they'd been off duty when the shooting started.
"Please, don't shoot. We give up."
"On your stomachs," Jimmy called out in clipped tones. "Arms, legs, and fingers--spread 'em!"
Dad's admonition to never search a standing prisoner rang loudly in his head: "Always make them lie down on their stomachs, son. It gives you the psychological advantage, because you're in an elevated position; plus it's easier to control them that way."
Thanks, Dad, Jimmy thought, as he approached the two men, steadilykeeping his weapon on them. "Garcia, search them."
Garcia nodded and began padding them down. "They're clean," Garcia reported.
"Watch them," Jimmy ordered. Turning to Janine, he said, "Check on any wounded. Get a headcount of all the Campers." Taking out his communicator, Jimmy called Thomas. "Resolute, this is Rover Leader, over."
Thomas' quick response indicated he'd been waiting for the call, "Rover Leader, this is Resolute, over."
"Mission accomplished," Jimmy succinctly reported. "Status on Rover Two."
"Rover Two reports green."
"Acknowledged, Resolute," Jimmy let out a relieved sigh. Until that moment, he hadn't realized how worried he'd been about the others. "Commence Operation Lights out!"
"Acknowledged, Rover Leader. We're a go for Operation Lights out. Resolute out."
"Okay, people, let's get out of here--" Jimmy was interrupted by a bloodcurdling, inhuman scream. Turning, Jimmy ran to where he'd left Garcia and the prisoners.
For the second time that night, Jimmy almost vomited. As long as he lived, Jimmy would remember the horror that faced him as he rounded the corner to where Garcia was guarding the two soldiers.
Blood...gore...the smell of human feces...Jimmy's senses were beingassailed. He felt dizzy. Human intestines being held desperately in by bloody hands, tendrils spilling out, dripping onto the polished floor. Someone behind him screamed, then was suddenly cut-off by the sounds of retching.
The soldier's eyes were glazed over, thankfully, on the threshold of death. The other soldier's head--my God, Jimmy's mind reeled, it's almost completely severed!--was attached only by a thin patch of skin on the back of his neck.
Jimmy looked at Garcia, stunned, unable to comprehend what his five senses were reporting. Garcia looked at him--at all of them--his eyes wild, a triumphant gleam staring madly out.
"They tried to escape," Garcia explained smugly.
"Garcia, give me your weapon," Jimmy said calmly, holding out his hand. "The knife, too. We're taking you back to the camp. You need some rest."
"Oh, no," Garcia said shaking his head. "There's still a lot of themleft. They have to pay...they have to pay for what they did to Julie."Garcia looked at Jimmy. "You understand, Jimmy, you saw what they did to Julie; you know what kind of monsters they are. They deserve to die, in agony. I'm going to make sure that they do."
Jimmy had been walking slowly up to Garcia while he spoke. "Come onGarcia, I hate them, too, for what they did to Julie, to the others. But you know she wouldn't want us to kill like this in her memory. She was a nice girl, Garcia, gentle. Don't besmirch her memory by committing murder in her name...Please, give me the weapons."
Garcia immediately pointed his weapon at Jimmy's midriff. "Don't think I won't use it, Jimmy. Stay back, or I'll shoot you where you stand." Jimmy stopped, not wanting to provoke Garcia into killing him, something he was sure Garcia would do. "No body better move," Garcia warned. "I'll kill him. I swear--"
At that moment, everything went black. Soran must've pulled the plug on the city: Operation Lights Out! Without thinking, Jimmy dived right, rolling quickly, jumping to his feet. Reaching up to his head, he pulled his NVGs down, activating them in one smooth motion. Bringing his weapon up to bear, he quickly searched for Garcia. Gone! But where? Gotta find him--he's a danger to himself and others this way.
"T'Shal, with me. Janine, Bill get these people outside! The transport should be waiting by now! As soon as you've got everyone aboard, start for the campsite! Don't worry about us. Go! You're all in danger!" Not waiting for acknowledgment, Jimmy called out, "Come on, T'Shal!" ####
Uncertain which way to go, Jimmy trusted his instincts: he went up. Garcia was acting crazed, almost like an animal. In Jimmy's limited hunting experience, he'd seen that cornered animals tended to seek the high ground. So, he headed towards the roof.
The NVGs really *did* turn nighttime into day, Jimmy thought; he could see everything clearly, albeit strangely. T'Shal, who generated an exceptionally high body heat, appeared red, instead of Andorrian blue. While Jimmy saw that he, himself, appeared greenish/yellow. His left hand which was throbbing painfully (diving and rolling on the floor hadn't helped, he thought) was glowing a sickly pink.
Approaching the closed door leading to the rooftop, Jimmy held up his hand. Proceed cautiously. Opening the door quietly, he carefully scanned the open roof, looking for telltale signs of body heat. Nothing in sight. Slowly bending at the knees, Jimmy slid down the door frame crouching low. Indicating to T'Shal to search in the opposite direction, Jimmy, hugging the wall next to him, began creeping towards the right.
Take it easy, Jimmy-boy. Garcia's weapon is set to kill. He's gone space happy. You've got to capture him and render him unconscious. He needs help. But he's extremely dangerous. Remember that.
Suddenly feeling something extremely cold, extremely hard on the temple over his left eye, Jimmy froze in place. Closing his eyes and taking a calming breath, Jimmy turned his head gingerly. Looking up, he saw the face of death grinning maniacally back at him. Swallowing nervously, Jimmy's face slowly coalesced into his most heartfelt smile. Behind the NVGs, however, his eyes were painfully aware that he had but moments to live.
"Garcia," Jimmy exclaimed loudly, with enforced affability. "I've beenlooking all over for you, guy! We're ready to go back to camp. Come on, buddy, or we'll miss our transportation." All the while that he was talking, Jimmy had been sliding up to a standing position, his back hugging the wall. Through the NVGs, Jimmy saw that Garcia's eyes looked confused momentarily. Then as if a fog had lifted, his eyes became flint hard.
"I know you," Garcia growled. "You're one of them. One of them whokilled Julie. You were in the room with her. I saw you."
Jimmy shook his head. "You're right, Garcia, I was in the room with Julie. But remember, you and Ames put me, Julie, and the others in there." Jimmy spoke softly, soothingly. "Remember, Garcia? *You* put us in there; we didn't want to go into the room, but you gave us no
"No!" Garcia denied. "No, you went in there to kill her. I saw you with the other soldiers! You killed her!"
"No, Garcia," Jimmy said quietly. "You're wrong, and you know it. You,Ames, Molson, and Shoji--*you* brought us all in there and locked us in. When the storm troopers arrived, we were trapped. We couldn't get away, Garcia, because *you* locked us in there without any way to defend ourselves. You know I'm telling the truth, Garcia."
"I did it?" Garcia asked, confused. "It was *my* fault?" Garcia's face grew inordinately sad when the full import of what Jimmy had just told him began to sink in. "*My* fault?"
"No, Garcia," Jimmy quickly amended. "It *wasn't* your fault. You had no way of knowing that those soldiers would come in."
"*I* did it," Garcia continued, not listening to Jimmy. "*My* fault."
Frightened, Jimmy began talking faster, "No, Garcia. *Look* at me," he pleaded. "It *wasn't* your fault...You couldn't have known." Then, to Jimmy's surprised horror, Garcia started slowly raising his weapon, pointing it at him. I'm gonna die, Jimmy thought. His peripheral vision caught a slight, reddish blur to his left. T'Shal! Jimmy had to keep Garcia occupied.
"Garcia, it's not our fault. Julie was a nice girl who didn't deserve to die. It's the fault of Kodos and his evil proclamations. None of us had anything to do with it. Come on, please give me your weapon. Let's go back to the camp. Please." Jimmy slowly reached his hand out.
Garcia's resolve suddenly stiffened. "Don't move. And tell your blue-skinned antennaed friend that if he takes one more step, I'll burn a hole through you."
"I shall move no closer," T'Shal called from behind and to their right. "Please, do not hurt T'Jimmy'K'hara. He has done nothing but good for you. For all of us. He is a true warrior and deserves to die a warrior's death some day. Not the useless death which you offer him. Please, if you must kill someone in your quest for vengeance, then take me instead."
"What are you *saying*, T'Shal?" Jimmy's voice rose an octave, ending in a most unheroic squeak. "Don't listen to him, Garcia. You're not going to kill anyone. We're all your friends, here. Please, Garcia, think of Julie. Think of how she'd feel if she found out you'd killed her friends--your friends. Please, hand me your weapon."
"No," Garcia said shaking his head. "I don't deserve to have friends; I don't deserve to live. I killed her." While speaking, Garcia slowly took out a hand-held weapon. Where did he get that? Jimmy asked himself startled. Seeing the shocked confusion in Jimmy's eyes, Garcia smiled that secret smile, which of late had started sending shivers down Jimmy's spine.
"I took it from the two soldiers we captured. I lied when I said that they didn't have any weapons. I think they'd intended to kill one of us, but I killed them first." He laughed at his own cleverness. Garciaabruptly stopped, his eyes assuming an inward look, his voice soundingas if from far away. "You're a nice kid, Jimmy. I have a little brother just like you. Tell him...tell him that I don't *really* think he's a squirt."
Hearing Sam's teasing nickname for him, Jimmy's tumbling emotionsreached overload.
"NOOO-OO-O! GARCIA!" Jimmy screamed, diving to stop the unstoppable. He was too late. The space that Garcia's mass had been occupying was empty. Garcia had turned the weapon on himself and self-disintegrated. Jimmy landed on his stomach, hard, biting his tongue as he struck. He slid across the rooftop gravel for a few feet, feeling slide burns on his hands and chin, the taste of blood in his mouth.
"No," Jimmy whispered. Then louder, "No." Jimmy lay where he fell for a few minutes longer. Valiantly trying to keep his emotions, already in turmoil, in check. I won't cry, he promised, squeezing his eyes shut. I won't. Get up, Jimmy-boy, daylight's coming. All hell's gonna be breaking soon. Get your butt in gear, Jimmy-boy. You've got work to do!
Slowly, carefully, Jimmy placed his hands palms down on the graveled roof, and pushed up to a kneeling position. From there, he painfully stood to a reasonable semblance of an upright posture.
Looking down at the spot where Garcia had stood, Jimmy saw the hand weapon Garcia had used on himself. Bending down, Jimmy reached for it, and picked it up. Without a word, he hauled back and threw it, sailing over the roof into the breaking dawn.
Jimmy felt, then saw a shadow descending. Looking up, he saw the Resolute. She landed lightly, gracefully on the roof, a lady disembarking onto port. The combat ramp came down instantly; Jimmy and T'Shal didn't wait for Soran to wave them in. They were already running towards the Resolute's open, inviting arms. #### CHAPTER THIRTY TWO
Thomas banked the Resolute in the direction of the Science Campers' base. Jimmy quickly made his way to the front, taking the co-pilot's station. Flipping switches on the comm-console, he finally found a transmission from the colonial government:
****************************************** "The invasion has begun! Our pristine home is being defiled by agents of the Federation. We have no recourse except to speed up the purging of the nonproductive from our ranks. Therefore, as you face your finalmoments, be at peace to know that your deaths are necessary so that other more productive members of our society have a chance to live. Your glorious sacrifice will not be forgotten! Signed Kodos, Governor of Tarsus Four."******************************************
Jimmy slammed his good hand on the console. No more! He quickly switched channels to the Science Camper frequency. "Rover Leader to Rover Two, over."
"Rover Leader, Rover Two. Go ahead." Adam's voice responded almostinstantaneously. Jimmy knew that Adam must have been waiting next to the comms console, waiting for his call.
"Give heading and distance from city," Jimmy requested. There was amomentary pause while Adam checked the information.
"Rover Leader, we're on a two-eight-zero heading, approximate distance from city, one-five-six klicks."
"Copy, Rover Two. Request rendezvous with you at your present location. Have Groundhog Two continue towards home base."
"Copy, Rover Leader. Rover Two, Out."
"Groundhog One, Rover Leader, over."
"Rover Leader, Groundhog One," Amavia promptly replied. "Copied transmission with Rover Two. We are at heading two-six-three, approximate distance from city one-four-seven klicks. Will drop off Rover Team One for rendezvous."
Amavia was way ahead of him. Jimmy's eyes softened momentarily, picturing her sitting behind the controls of the large ground transport, probably pushing a stray strand of dark, chocolate brown hair behind her ear in that cute, nervous habit of hers.
"Acknowledged, Groundhog One. Rover Leader out." ####
Thomas pushed the Resolute to maximum speed and reached the firstrendezvous--with Jimmy's Rover Team One--in less than ten minutes. Jimmy was startled and angry when he saw that Amavia had elected to join them, abandoning her post as the designated driver of the ground vehicle.
"Amy, how could you just *leave* your post without permission?" Jimmyquestioned her in low angry tones once they were all on board the APC."Everyone has to pull his weight if we're all to survive. You said so yourself!"
"I *am* pulling my weight," Amavia replied, raising her chin, her green eyes calmly holding his. "I'm *part* of this team; I only volunteered to drive the vehicle because no one else on the team could. Well, one of the ex-hostages knew how operate it. The location of the camp is safely programmed into the onboard computer. What do they need *me* for?" she asked reasonably. "Besides, I didn't abandon my post; I returned to it."
Jimmy knew that arguing was useless. This wasn't Starfleet and he wasn't Captain James T. Kirk; he was just an Iowa farm kid whom the others had agreed to follow, at least until the Federation arrived. He shook his head in exasperation, mirroring the look his Mom always gave him when she was particularly irritated with him, but just like Mom, Jimmy couldn't remain angry; Amavia was just too beautiful.
On a sudden impulse, Jimmy looked around to see if any of the otherswere watching them. No one was paying them the least attention. Swallowing nervously, his heart suddenly racing, Jimmy took a quick calming breath to gather his courage, and tentatively stepped closer to Amavia. Placing his hands on her waist, Jimmy stood slightly on his tiptoes and kissed her gently, hesitantly--shyly tasting her mouth with his tongue.
Amavia felt her desire instantly ignite, an out-of-control wildfire coursing through her veins; her knees felt suddenly too weak to hold her. She leaned back against the bulkhead for support, trying to control her breathing. She'd *never* responded to a kiss this passionately before. Bringing her hand up in sudden confusion, Amavia pushed Jimmy away in perplexed self-defense.
"I-I'd better get ready," Amavia breathed, refusing to look Jimmy in the eye. Jimmy watched her, helplessly bewildered. The rollercoaster ride that his emotions seemed to be on lately had just performed aloop-de-loop.
Jimmy had never been in love before, wasn't even sure how he wassupposed to feel. The strange, yet pleasant new sensations he was experiencing whenever he thought of Amavia had his mind in a whirl. Had he done something wrong? The jumble of mixed signals Jimmy was receiving from Amavia didn't help his confusion any.
Jimmy suddenly wished he could talk to Sam. Sam had always listened to his questions about any subject he'd ever brought up, which had been a considerable amount, in light of Jimmy's insatiable curiosity. Funny, now that he thought about it, Jimmy couldn't remember ever discussing girls--he'd never even thought about them before, at least, not like this. Fine mess you've gotten yourself into, Jimmy-boy.
"Approaching second rendezvous point." Thomas' voice interrupted Jimmy's chaotic thoughts, bringing him back to the task at hand. ####
Martha looked around with satisfaction. The home base was as ready as it was going to get. Stobel had successfully programmed the replicator to reproduce additional bandages, disinfectants, and amazingly, some of the herbal paste he'd concocted from local flora.
Martha had observed first hand the paste's healing qualities when Stobel had used it initially on Amavia, and later on Jimmy; whatever that stuff was, without additional medical supplies, it was going to be their primary topical salve. Stobel also replicated additional Garg Plants in order to supplement those already on hand. Martha and one other base camper prepared a hardy soup in order to feed the expected influx of Science Campers. Stobel, meanwhile, gave a hands-on, combat first-aid training class to the remaining base campers. Two young men, Yoon and Rahael, whose area of interest respectively lay in astrophysics and astronomy, each demonstrated a knack for the first aid procedures. Impressed, Stobel made them both leaders of the newly trained combat medical teams, and with their assistance, set up a triage station. Yoon's team would determine whether an injury waslife-threatening or not. If yes, the casualty would be sent to Stobel;if not, then Rahael's team would render whatever first aid was deemed necessary.
When the first ground vehicle filled with ex-hostages arrived, Stobel and Yoon personally ground guided it to a safe parking area. Van Doran, who drove the group from the warehouse, explained that Adam and his team left the vehicle in order to rendezvous with the Resolute.
"All I know is that Rover Leader, I think that's that kid, Jimmy, called for an emergency rendezvous with Rover Team Two--that was Adam's team--and for us to continue on here to the base camp." Van Doran shook his apologetically. "I'm sorry, I wish I knew more, but since our rescue from the power plant, I really haven't had a chance to catch my breath. It's been pretty much, Go-Go-Go!"
Stobel nodded in understanding. "Yes, Jimmy Kirk has proven himself to be quite a--" Stobel paused, raising his eyebrow, then continuing dryly, "--forceful personality since the start of this emergency." Then quickly changing the topic, asked, "Do you have any injuries? We've set up a first-aid station."
Van Doran looked impressed. "Geez, you guys think of just abouteverything, don't you? Yeah, we have a couple of injuries. They're still onboard. We didn't want to move them until a doctor could have a chance to check them over." Stobel nodded and followed him into the transport.
Martha, meanwhile, trying her best not think about Thomas, concentrated on her duties. The first group was mostly exhausted and hungry, although she'd heard that they had two serious injuries. An ex-hostage, identifying herself as Caitlin, volunteered to help run the serving line. Gratefully, Martha accepted her assistance. Soon one other, C.R. (Don't *call* me Christopher Robin!), a six-foot five giant, still smarting over being held hostage, also began to help. Within an hour of the first group's arrival, the second transport arrived. This group had more serious injuries. One, Olsen, had been recruited at the power station to help free the hostages being held at the gymnasium. Stobel took one look at him, and turned the other casualties over to Yoon's team to care for.
"Hey, who do I give this to?" Martha looked up from the serving line. A tired-looking young man was addressing her, holding up a black carryall. At her questioning look, he explained. "The girl, Amavia, handed this to me; said it was a medical bag--" Martha immediately snatched it from his hands, and not waiting for further explanation, ran to find Stobel, "--said you'd know what to do with it," he finished lamely, shrugging his shoulders.
"Any questions?" Jimmy asked after the mission briefing. "Recovery. How do we get out?" Molson asked.
"As soon as Team Two's set off the plasma grenades, and we've causedenough mayhem to ensure the colonists have an even chance of escaping, we beat feet to the rendezvous point. Wait for pick-up." Jimmy's voice took on a solemn timbre. "If the Resolute's a no show at the appointed time, then, wait until nightfall and make the best possible speed back to camp, using all means of escape and evasion." Jimmy looked at Molson apologetically, then at all of them, sighing sadly. "I'm sorry, that's the best I can offer. If anyone wants to back out, now's the time. No one will think any less of you. I mean, we're not soldiers, just a bunch of school kids."
"That's where you're wrong, Jimmy," Adam countered quietly. "RememberKodos' words: 'We're soldiers in a cause.' Well, we didn't choose thecause; it chose us. I, for one, am sticking it out to the end. I don't care what the odds are."
"The odds of our survival," Soran dutifully pointed out, "are one million--six hundred fifty-eight thousand--four hundred thirty-two point five-six to one." The others looked at him. Oh, yeah?
"With odds like that," Bill quipped, "how can we lose? I'm in!"
"Me, too," chimed Janine.
"Count me in!" Amavia added.
The others agreed.
"The K'hara clan will be singing songs of this glorious day in our honor, T'Jimmy'K'hara, for many generations to come!" T'Shal said looking warrior proud at Jimmy.
Jimmy nodded, not trusting himself to speak, basking momentarily in their faith and camaraderie. Then swallowing, he managed, "Okay, then; let's do it!" ####
CHAPTER THIRTY THREE
Jimmy led his team through the back streets and alley ways of Spencer's Landing. Full daylight revealed the utter chaos that had gripped the city the previous night as a result of the blackout. A riot had obviously ensued. Store fronts had been smashed, their contents strewn all over the city's formerly clean streets. Buildings had been burnt out, their gutted interiors an accusing testament to the horrors brought on by the recent days. Soldiers were everywhere: on street corners, marching in single columns, patrolling in open air ground vehicles. The Resolute had dropped off Team Two about two kilometers north of the stadium. Adam and his team were making their way there now. Thomas had then selected a relatively deserted elevated landing ramp to set down the APC. Normally used for commercial deliveries, the LZ looked like it had been abandoned for the duration.
With Garcia gone, Ames was now paired with Molson on the point. Jimmyremembered the sudden grief that had gripped Ames when informed of his friend's death. He'd moved off to a corner in the APC, his back to everyone. Finally, when Ames had stood and rejoined them, Jimmy couldn't help but notice the telltale signs of redness in his eyes; a poignant sadness mixed with feelings of guilt(?) evident. Ames hadn't spoken a single word about Garcia.
Ames still moved with the calm, sure way he always had, but there wassomething missing. The almost psychic link he'd shared withGarcia--knowing what he was doing before he did it--was gone. He had to look at Molson to verify that his new partner was performing his job correctly. Ames felt lost somehow--the fun and excitement were gone. The mission had lost its luster--now he just wanted to get the whole thing over with and go home.
I wonder what Mom's fixing for dinner tonight, Ames thought, a wave of homesickness washing over him. Hey, Danny, he thought to himself warningly, now's not the time. Those soldiers mean business...You knew it would happen...sooner or later Carlos was gonna snap...you should've seen it coming. Uh-oh!
Soldiers. A column of five coming their way! Ames immediately gave thedanger signal.
Jimmy, following with T'Shal, saw it and passed it on to the rest. Bill and Amavia were following about ten meters further back; Thomas and Janine were bringing up the rear. Jimmy tried not to think about Amavia. He'd deliberately teamed her with someone else in order not to become distracted about her safety. Dad's warning about non-fraternization with subordinates kept resounding in his ears. "Jimmy, only a fool will become intimately involved with a member of his crew. It's okay to make friends, but anything beyond that is completely unprofessional. The lives of your crew depend on you and the decisions you make. If the life of one crewman becomes more important to you than the safety of your entire ship, then you've compromised not only your command, but the faith and trust your crew have placed in you."
No, Jimmy had enough on his mind; he couldn't afford to worry about Amavia, too. Each pair of team members was responsible for watching one another's back. Jimmy would just have to trust her partner to do his job properly.
The Science Campers had each ducked under whatever cover was immediately available until the column of soldiers passed. The patrol seemed to be providing more of a presence--a scare tactic undoubtedly--than any true search for dissidents. Once they'd moved a sufficient distance, Ames gave the all clear, and the Campers proceeded to their target.
Amavia felt the palms of her hands sweating. Now that she was actuallyhere, creeping through these frightening back streets, it dawned onher that this was her first real patrol. With the exception of theraid on the armory when she helped Jimmy with the plasma grenades, each of the other times, she'd been relegated to relative safety.
First, while escaping with Adam and Jimmy, she'd been injured, so naturally, they'd hidden her in that clump of bushes (turned out to be Garg's Plants, she remembered ruefully); next, she'd assisted Thomas in downloading the data dump from the Tarsus One's MDU onto the Resolute's smaller CPU; finally, she'd volunteered to drive that vehicle when they'd initially rescued the hostages.
When Amavia thought about it, this was the first real mission that she'd taken an active part in. The enormity of what she'd let herself in for crept up slowly, a cold hand clutching her intestines. Being a commando hadn't exactly been one of her life's dreams. Unlike Jimmy and some of the others, Amavia had never even wanted to join Starfleet. Likable and popular throughout her school years, she'd been on the cheerleading squad, elected class president four years running, and had served as president of the science club.
When she turned sixteen and her parents finally allowed her to start dating, the boys had just naturally lined up. Amavia had never wanted for anything her entire life. Her parents, whom she admitted had shamelessly spoiled her, loved and trusted her unconditionally; indeed, Amavia had never given them cause to worry. Catching sight of the back of Jimmy's head, Amavia once again, felt that surge of heat and accompanying confusion.
Amavia couldn't believe that she had actually fallen for Jimmy: He was younger than her younger brother, John. Geez! Amavia mentally kicked herself, if we hadn't been surrounded by all the others in the Resolute, I think I would've actually taken my clothes off right then and there when he *kissed* me. I'm probably the first girl he's ever kissed--a first crush--and here I am responding like a sex-starved harlot, and I've never even *had* sex before. If that isn't the yardstick with which to measure our age differences, Amavia concluded sadly, I don't know what is. Things could never work between us. Jimmy seems so much bigger than life, but he's still just a little boy--he has too much growing up left to do. I'd *love* to be his first; I'd love for *him* to be mine, but it can never be. What am I going to do? What am I going to say to him?
Her thoughts a jumble, Amavia followed Bill, concentrating on watchinghis signals, trying to erase all other thoughts from her consciousness.
Bringing up the rear, Thomas thought back on the past few days. He couldn't believe that so little time had actually passed. Finally, his chance to make up for his fatal mistake in judgment was here. Although the others seemed to have forgiven him his error, Thomas hadn't forgiven himself.
Watching Jimmy closely these past few days, listening to his razor sharp thought processes as he analyzed the fluid situation with lightning speed, observing the others' growing respect and loyalty (in the case of T'Shal, undying loyalty), Thomas could only feel shame for his own arrogant assumptions of personal superiority.
Thinking back on his high school years, star athlete in both Americanfootball and soccer, straight-A student, captain of the debate team,Thomas couldn't think of a single instance where he hadn't been the guy in the charge, the one others always looked to for leadership. Hethought of Martha. Childhood sweethearts since the first grade, theyplanned to marry upon his graduation from Starfleet Academy. Thomas wasn't sure anymore if he was even Starfleet material. That kid, Thomas thought ruefully, he's not just Starfleet material-- he's the stuff that heroes are made of. Even if I graduated from the Academy ahead of him by a couple of years, I have a feeling I'd wind up working for him eventually. Smiling, he remembered how Jimmy had handled Martha. Boy! I've gotta hand it to the kid, I'd never have had the nerve to say that to her: 'Let's face it, Martha. As a soldier, you stink.' Talk about gumption. Of course, Thomas added wryly, catching sight of Amavia up ahead, I think the kid's got his hands full there. Shaking his head, Thomas dodged around an outdoor recycler, looked tosee if it was all clear ahead, then waved Janine forward. ####
CHAPTER THIRTY FOUR
Despite the increased patrols, Team One arrived at the stadium complex quickly. Jimmy checked his chronometer: 0800 hours! He didn't even want to think about how many more colonists had been murdered since dawn. Signaling his team to remain covered, Jimmy called Adam.
"Rover One, Rover Leader. Request status."
"Rover Leader, Rover One. We are at the north entrance. Proceeding with mission."
"Copy, Rover One. Rover Leader out."
Jimmy signaled Thomas and Janine forward. Thomas assumed a prone position, covering the team's left flank; Janine took a kneeling position to cover their right. Jimmy, checking the immediate area to ensure no Enlightened Patrol soldiers would happen by at the wrong moment, took a tight grip on his weapon, then dashed across the open tarmac to the stadium's south entrance.
Jimmy tried the door. Locked. Not bothering with subtlety, he set his weapon to cutting beam width and melted the electronics. Then, one by one, Jimmy waved each team member through the stadium's south entrance. This was an extremely hazardous moment for each, because the stadium complex was surrounded by a wide-open concrete tarmac used by the exceptionally large stadium crowds as a public parking ramp. As such, if discovered, the Science Campers would have no cover.
Once inside the complex, the team split into pairs. Each pair was to take up sniper positions on the west side of the structure where they'd have a clear shot of the guards scattered throughout the stadium. To minimize the chances of all of them being killed or captured, they would set up on different levels and sections.
As Jimmy moved quietly to his position, at a low crouch, he was aware of the tangible horror that pervaded the stadium, punctuated by the wailing of a small child, here and there, crying in hunger or in fear. Kodos' morning broadcast was being played over the stadium loudspeakers, a grim reminder of their impending doom.
Jimmy gasped when he caught his first sight of the hundreds of colonists who had been literally corralled, like livestock, imprisoned on the stadium's playing field. So many people! And they're *all* dead, Jimmy thought, unless we do something fast. Jimmy and T'Shal assumed their places nearest the playing field. Their immediate targets: Kodos' most fanatical troops who comprised the Firing Squads. Ames and Molson had the highest position--the VIP level. Bill and Amavia were two levels below that, in boxes that had been reserved for the media during sporting events. Thomas and Janine were next--two levels above Jimmy, in normal stadium seating. Glancing at his chronometer, Jimmy impatiently counted off the minutes: Come on, Adam! he urged. What's keeping you? Where's the big bang?
The deafening explosions that rumbled through the stadium provided the answer. A large portion of the complex's east stadium seating began collapsing inward--a giant's foot suddenly squashing it. Into the ensuing bedlam of screaming colonists scurrying for cover, of guards threatening their helpless charges by uselessly ordering them to remain where they were, Jimmy and T'Shal started methodically picking off Kodos' elite troops with deadly accuracy. Adam's team added to the violent confusion with more plasma charges exploding at random moments from deep within the stadium's underground network. As the dust and debris began to settle, Jimmy could make out the open spaces of the outside concrete tarmac. Now! Jimmy thought to himself, silently urging the colonists to make a break--start running now! Not caring about his safety, Jimmy suddenly stood, screaming at the top of his lungs, targeting and firing at any guard who happened to come into his sights. Through the corner of his eye, he caught sight of T'Shal, then Thomas and Janine following suit. Soon, all of Team One were firing from exposed positions. The Science Campers' reckless actions had the desired effect on the crowds: Suddenly, no longer helpless victims docilely awaiting execution, they turned en masse against their hated oppressors. Hunted individually as prey, the lone fox suddenly transformed itself into a pack of savage hounds surrounding and viciously pouncing on their terrified former jailers. The soldiers either stood their ground and fired into the unarmed crowds, eventually succumbing to the overwhelmingly shear numbers, the Science Campers' deadly fusillade, or both--or, the soldiers deserted, too frightened of the consequences they'd have to face for the atrocities of the past few days. Through the confusion, Jimmy suddenly caught sight of a young woman running, a small child in her arms. She was being targeted by energy beams from two directions. She'd be killed in another second!
Not stopping to think, Jimmy vaulted over the guard rail, landing on the field, two meters below, at a full run. Catching up to the woman, Jimmy grabbed her and began steering her to cover. Feeling a two-close high energy beam slice the air near them, Jimmy wheeled and fired in the direction he instinctively knew it'd originated from. A soldier suddenly fell from an elevated tower two levels up. Turning to follow the young woman, Jimmy--too late--saw to his horror a particle beam strike her between the shoulder blades.
The woman screamed, falling forward. "NO-OO!" Jimmy cried, running towards her. T'Shal, who'd tried to cover Jimmy's rescue attempt of the young woman, now appeared on her left. Gently lifting her, T'Shal carried her to safety.
"Mommy! Momm-mmeee!" screamed the small child, a boy, Jimmy saw, about four or five years old. "Momm-mmeee!"
Jimmy picked him up and hurried after T'Shal.
"Mommy! Mommy! You hurt Mommy! You hurt Mommy!" the small child cried. He began pounding Jimmy with his tiny fists, kicking out in heartbroken, revenged filled hatred. "You hurt Mommy! I hate you!"
Reaching the relative safety afforded by the entrance tunnel, Jimmy swiftly, but compassionately, bent over, and, turning the boy so that his back was to him, a trick Sam used to pull on him when he was small, hugged the boy tightly to him, willing him to cry normally in grief. "Shh-hh," Jimmy comforted the boy. "We didn't hurt your Mommy. The soldiers did. I promise, we would never hurt you or your Mommy. Please believe me. I only want to help." While Jimmy was sing-songing this litany, he could feel the boy's struggles slowly begin to abate. Then he felt the little body being racked in sobs.
"Mommy! They hurt her! They hurt my Mommy!"
"Kevin--" a whispery thin voice stopped the boy in mid cry. "Kevin, come to Mommy." Kevin ran to his mother, kneeling next to her, taking her head tenderly in his arms, bending down and kissing her on the forehead. She smiled, weakly reaching her hand to caress his cheek.
"My baby. You'll have to be a very brave boy, Kevin," she whispered, struggling to get the words out, desperate need urging her on. T'Shal shook his head at Jimmy. She wasn't going to make it. "Mommy has to go away, Kevin."
"Noo-o, I don't want you to go away, Mommy," Kevin protested.
"I know, sweetie, but it's something I must do," she smiled at her little boy. "Promise me you'll be a good boy, Kevin. Go with these two men; do what they tell you to do. Promise Mommy, Kevin."
"I promise," Kevin said in a small voice.
"Sir?" It took Jimmy a moment to realize that she meant him.
"Yes, ma'am?" Jimmy asked quietly, kneeling down so that she could see him.
"You're not much older than my Kevin, are you?" she asked smiling. "You're very brave for what you've done. Thank you."
"I'm sorry. I wish we could've done more," Jimmy apologized, ashamed that she was thanking him when she was dying before his eyes.
"Don't be sorry...you've given my son his life. I'm very grateful. Please, promise me...we have family on Earth...in Ireland. My son's name is...Kevin Thomas Riley...he's four years old. My name is... Siobhan Kathleen Riley. Please, take care...of my baby."
"I promise, ma'am. I promise to personally see him to your family." This was a vow Jimmy intended to keep.
"Thank you. I-I don't even know your name--?"
"Jimmy, Ma'am, Jimmy Kirk."
"Thank you, Jimmy Kirk. Kevin...remember Mommy loves you. Never forget..." she breathed quietly and died.
"T'Jimmy, we must go," T'Shal urged. Jimmy nodded his head.
"Kevin," Jimmy got down on his knees and took the boy in his arms; strong memories suddenly flooded Jimmy of another four-year-old boy, crying for a father, who always seemed to leave too soon after arriving for visits that were never long enough, being held in the comforting arms of his older brother.
"Let's go, Kevin. I promise, I won't let anything happen to you." Jimmy stood, picking up the small, grief-stricken boy, another burden on Jimmy's already overloaded young shoulders.
CHAPTER THIRTY FIVE
Adam tossed the final charges at Routledge. "Set 'em, then get outta here! Nelson, T'Pei, give him a hand! Head back to the rendezvous once you bring the house down! I'm going topside to give Team One a hand! Soran, with me!"
Adam didn't wait for acknowledgement; like Jimmy, he'd grown used to having his orders obeyed. Of course, his ignoring Jimmy's orders to evacuate was an entirely different matter. No way was he leaving without ensuring Jimmy and the others were safe. Especially Jimmy-- someone had to watch out for that kid.
Taking the stairs two at a time, Adam raced up the final remaining standing section of the east side of the stadium. Pour on the speed, Donlevy, he urged, Routledge is just as likely to set the charges early or incorrectly. Nice guy, lots of spirit, but about as bright as a dead power pack; and, paraphrasing Jimmy--as a commando, Routledge stinks. The others will take care of his mistakes, Adam assured himself. Feeling caught up in the urgent matter at hand, Adam hadn't even noticed that the ones he'd left behind were all new members of the team. He'd automatically called on Soran to back him up. T'Pei noticed. A Rigellian with a long tradition of intra-family conspiracies and rivalries, not to mention years-long civil wars, T'Pei understood the concept of trust--of never having had it and of gaining it only to lose it again. She felt that Adam had never truly given his trust to them. She understood why it would be difficult to embrace a newcomer too quickly--he may be a spy sent to destroy them from within--like her uncle, Stellon. However, even though she'd pledged her life to follow Adam's commands, T'Pei knew that she would be unable to return to the rendezvous knowing that he and Soran had gone upstairs to face personal danger.
Checking Routledge's handiwork, T'Pei made the necessary corrections that were becoming automatic. Why did Adam hand the charges to Routledge? she asked herself, annoyed. He knows that Routledge doesn't know his positives from his negatives--how did he ever win a Science Camp award anyway? Unless, of course, Adam knew that Nelson and I would catch the errors. A way to keep us occupied, probably...There, done!
Turning to Nelson and Routledge, T'Pei gave that strange thumbs up sign that she had seen the Humans use repeatedly. Nelson and Routledge nodded, then began heading out.
"You two go on ahead. I'm going topside to lend a hand!" T'Pei yelled, waving them on.
"But we have our orders--head to the rendezvous!" Routledge protested.
"I'm not asking you to come with me," T'Pei retorted. "But I'm not leaving without knowing the fate of the others!"
"I agree," Nelson said, "I'm going with you."
Routledge looked at them both as if they were crazy. Then shaking his head in obviously frustrated resignation, he followed. This vacation is really starting to suck, he thought.
Reaching the open stadium seats, Adam caught sight of Jimmy on the field turning and firing at a sniper. Spying movement to the sniper's right, Adam quickly sighted his weapon and fired. A miss! The soldier ducked behind a row of stadium seats, and before Adam could react, the trooper fired his weapon, the deadly beam slicing through the back of the woman whom Jimmy had been helping escape.
In sudden a fury, Adam rapidly fired his weapon, the multiple bursts effectively showering the soldier's hidden position with a deadly firestorm. The soldier, his hiding place no longer safe, risked exposure and ran for safety at a half-crouch. Coldly leading his target, Adam took a deep breath, slowly let it out, then fired. His deadly beam cut through the soldier, burning a hole in the concrete wall behind him. Adam turned and ran to where he'd last seen Jimmy and T'Shal escape. Soran followed.
CHAPTER THIRTY SIX
"Bill, look out!" Amavia warned. Bill dived right to avoid being hit, but was too late. Amavia screamed, running to his side, "Bill-ll-l! Nooo-oo-o! Bill!" Bill's chest was a charred, smoking ruin. He was already dead. "Bill," Amavia whispered, her voice breaking. "I'm so sorry."
Then noticing the telltale smell of burnt ozone, Amavia knew that she was next unless she did something--fast. Jimmy, where *are* you? I *need* you, she cried to herself, feeling terribly alone and abandoned. I'm no *good* at this sort of thing.
The litany repeating itself in her head, Amavia kept crawling on all fours to reach the relative safety of the stadium tunnel. An intense heat beam burned a jagged hole directly above her head. Amavia screamed, curling into a fetal position; they'd have her range in another second.
Amavia was too terrified to take evasive action. I shouldn't've come, she berated herself. Jimmy was trying to protect me, but I just *had* to show him that I could do it. I *showed* him all right. I showed everyone. I'm nothing but a big coward.
Her tears of helpless fright were coming steadily now. Amavia didn't want to die. She had too much to live for. She wanted to go home!
Suddenly, over the furious volley of deadly beams, Amavia heard someone calling her name. Jimmy? No--Adam! Amavia risked a look. There, by the tunnel entrance leading to the east wing. Adam and Soran were running towards her, desperately firing their weapons as they approached her.
"Run! Get up! Run!" Adam was franticly urging her to get away while he and Soran provided protective fire. Amavia's mind knew that she had to get up, but her body refused to obey her. She was frozen in place, too frightened to stay, too terrified to run.
Come *on*, Amy, Amavia begged herself, let's go! They're trying to *help* you. You've got to get up!
Amavia felt disassociated, separated from her body. She saw a pathetic creature crawling infinitely slowly towards the stadium tunnel. She saw her friends valiantly providing covering fire to assist this despicably, spineless coward.
Suddenly, Amavia saw Adam and Soran come under deadly counterfire, barely able to avoid being hit. Get up! Get up! Amavia angrily spurred her other self. You've *got* to help them. Jimmy expects it of you; *I* expect it of you! You can't let them down. Amavia's senses all returned at once. She heard the panicked cries of the prisoners still running for safety. She heard the Enlightened Patrol soldiers shouting and firing their deadly weapons. She heard the death screams of those caught by the killer particle beams in mid-stride, safety almost within reach. Amavia saw Bill lying there, near her feet, a blackened hole where his chest used to be.
Slowly, determinedly, Amavia took a tighter grip on her weapon. Taking deep, calming breaths the way Jimmy had taught her, Amavia began to adjust her weapon to the maximum force setting. Remembering the careful lessons that T'Shal had given them earlier, she went through the steps until she felt the weapon practically start humming with pent-up energy. The indicator light went from red to green. She was ready. Taking a deep breath, Amavia counted to three, rolled left and came up firing.
"Adam, Soran!" Amavia called. "To me! I'll *cover* you!" Not taking time to see if they'd heard her, Amavia concentrated on returning fire in any direction she spied a particle emission. Soon, she felt rather than saw that her friends had joined her. Together, they continued to sight and shoot until they couldn't find any more targets at which to fire. Taking a moment to rest in the unexpected lull, the three Science Campers suddenly heard what sounded like a low rumbling begin to reverberate throughout the stadium. What was that? It sounded like humming. No, it sounded like--what?
Adam looked at Amavia and Soran, confused. He concentrated on what he was hearing, then realized it wasn't humming, it was chanting. Someone--no it sounded like *everyone*--was chanting. What were they saying? Sounded like...Kodos! That was it! The crowds were all calling out *Kodos*--crying for his blood!
Adam risked a look over the protective wall he and the others had taken refuge behind. The crowds were all pointing upwards towards the VIP enclosed viewing areas. Adam looked up, too, and there, much to his shock, he saw the man whose evil vision had brought so many to annihilation: Kodos!
Adam stood, unmindful of the danger, pointing upwards. "There--it *is* him! It's *Kodos*!" Amavia and Soran followed his pointing finger. Kodos! The name sent chills of unreasoning terror coursing through Amavia's veins. "We can't let him escape! Come on!" Not waiting for a response, Amavia began running up the stadium stairs. Adam and Soran, after a moment's startled hesitation, ran after her.
T'Pei, Nelson, and Routledge emerged from the lower basement in time to hear the chanting roar begin. Kodos...Kodos...Kodos! The steady repetition increased in hysteria until the entire stadium was ringing with the name that had come to represent death.
Nelson saw that the crowd was pointing upwards. "Look! Up in the VIP section. I think I see someone up there!" Nelson started running towards the stadium stairs. "Come on--it's Kodos!" T'Pei and Routledge were right behind him. As they reached the lower steps, the last of the plasma charges went off, momentarily throwing them off their feet.
CHAPTER THIRTY SEVEN
Jimmy, with Kevin in tow, followed by T'Shal had been hurrying through the maze of corridors that comprised the stadium complex's interior. They suddenly felt the rumble from the last set of explosives by Team Two. Time for the Science Campers to begin their retreat, Jimmy thought satisfied; however, he and T'Shal had one final mission before they joined their friends.
Jimmy knew from the morning's broadcast that Kodos, himself, was probably somewhere around here. Kodos' speech had sounded desperate, a last ditch effort to ensure the success of his mad scheme. Kodos would want to witness the fruition of his plans--the cold-blooded murder of countless colonists whom he considered *nonproductive*.
Jimmy had devised a contingency plan with T'Shal regarding Kodos. Once the final explosives had been set, his orders were that the Science Campers withdraw from the stadium and head towards the rendezvous to await pick-up. Jimmy had not informed the others, not even Adam, that he and T'Shal were going to search for Kodos and try to personally bring him to justice. Jimmy knew that he would never be able to rest until he ensured that Kodos paid for his heinous crimes.
Jimmy looked down at Kevin, his grip on the small boy firm but gentle. He hadn't counted on having someone like Kevin along. Jimmy didn't want to put the boy in unnecessary danger, but he just didn't happen to have a babysitter with him. Besides, he'd promised Kevin's mother that he would take care of him.
Oh, right, Jimmy-boy, bringing a four-year-old along on a search and destroy mission is your idea of *taking care* of him? Excellent choice in strategy. There was no helping it, though, Jimmy sighed resignedly to himself. The stakes were just too high. Jimmy would just have to watch out for the boy.
As they ran through the deserted corridors, Jimmy heard what seemed like a strange rumbling. Because he was inside a stadium, the sound reminded him of a large sports crowd chanting the name of their team. He slowed to a walk and concentrated on what he was hearing. "T'Shal, wait!" Jimmy called. T'Shal turned to see what had caught his attention.
"What is it?" T'Shal asked.
"I'm not sure," Jimmy replied shaking his head in perplexion. "Listen. What do you hear?" All three listened carefully for a few seconds. Finally, an unexpected quarter piped up.
"It sounds like their saying *Kodos*, over and over," Kevin said. "KodosKodosKodos!"
"He is correct, T'Jimmy! The crowds outside are shouting Kodos' name!" T'Shal agreed.
"That means the monster's here someplace! Come on! We've got him!" Jimmy urged the others on.
Running up the interior stairwell, Jimmy finally had to pick up Kevin. The boy was much too small to keep up with their pace. Unfortunately, like when he first picked up Amavia, and realized that she was heavier than she looked, Jimmy suddenly discovered the same thing about Kevin.
"T'Shal! Wait!" Jimmy called. "I can't keep up and carry Kevin, as well." Jimmy's breaths were coming in short, gulping gasps. "I've gotta catch my breath. Sorry."
"Do not worry, T'Jimmy I shall carry the child-warrior," T'Shal offered. Before Jimmy could offer his thanks, however, the *child- warrior* made his feelings immediately and unmistakably known. "No! Mommy said to stay with Jimmy," Kevin protested, hugging Jimmy tighter. "But I'll be here, Kevin," Jimmy tried explaining as quietly, and as reasonably as possible. "T'Shal is only going to carry you. I'll be up front protecting you."
"No! I won't go with anyone but you." Kevin, nose to nose, looked accusingly at Jimmy, his little face scrunched in a scowl. "You promised Mommy you'd take *care* of me. You *promised*." Nodding in surrender, Jimmy agreed. "You're right, Kevin. I did promise." And remembering his long-ago childhood conversations with Sam, he added to himself, "...and a promise *is* a promise."
Thomas and Janine had heard the chanting, and signaling Ames and Molson two levels above on the VIP level, they proceeded up the outside stadium stairs to join them. Ames waited, crouched near the fire door that led into the VIP corridors. Molson had already tried to open it, but, to no one's surprise, they found the door locked. When Thomas and Janine joined them, Ames set his weapon to narrow cutting beam, and made short work of the sophisticated locking mechanism. "Let's go," Thomas muttered. Taking a quick look through the door into the neutrally carpeted corridor, Thomas hurried inside, running towards the VIP private booths. Kodos had to be here somewhere. Like Jimmy, Thomas deduced that Kodos had probably decided to personally assure the execution of the final group of so-called nonproductive colonists.
As the four youngsters rounded a corner, they caught the sounds of someone moving just as quickly towards them, from an adjacent corridor. Taking defensive positions, the four Science Campers waited, their weapons, set at maximum kill force, pointed in the direction from where they'd heard the unknown enemy approach.
"Bang-Bang. You're dead." The voice from behind them gave a derisive snort. "I swear, haven't I *taught* you guys any better?" Jimmy! Thomas whirled in relief. "I thought I told you that if you're gonna take a step, you gotta step carefully," Jimmy tsk-tsked, adjusting his hold on Kevin. "T'Shal and I could hear you from four floors away."
"But, we heard you on the other corridor," Thomas protested. "How did you--?"
"You heard T'Shal," Jimmy explained. "We heard what we thought was either a herd of buffalo," he said looking at them askance, "or very careless, very frightened Enlightened troops deserting their rapidly sinking ship." He paused looking each in the eye. "Of course, it never occurred to us that it could be you four since I seem to remember certain standing orders about disengaging the enemy and heading towards the rendezvous?"
The others had the grace to look slightly abashed. Janine spoke first. "You didn't really think that we'd just leave without making sure you were okay, first, did you? Besides, when we heard them chanting for Kodos' head, we had to try to catch him."
"I guess your orders were too vague for us understand." Jimmy whirled around to find Amavia, holding her weapon casually, rifle butt resting on her right hip, Adam and Soran standing beside her looking smug. "A leader has to be clear and concise to avoid being misinterpreted." Jimmy gave her an *I might have known* look.
"Doesn't *anyone* obey orders anymore?" Jimmy asked no one in particular. "We have not disobeyed your orders," T'Pei interjected, as she, Nelson and Routledge, joined them at a jog. "We have merely delayed their execution."
Jimmy, holding Kevin with his right arm, threw up his left in frustration. "That's it. You're *all* fired," he quipped. Chuckling, Adam said, "Face it, Jimmy, you've been outgunned and outmaneuvered. You're the one who taught us about changing the rules." Pausing for effect, he looked his young leader in the eye and asked, "So, *Captain* Kirk, sir, do we go and get Kodos, or do we discuss the philosophy of command?"
"Well, since it looks like I can't stop you, anyway, let's go get him. Before he figures out his time in this reality is over." Looking at Kevin, nose to nose, as Kevin had done earlier, Jimmy gave him a smile that could melt the polar ice cap. "What do *you* think, Kevin? Do we go catch the bad guy?"
"Yeah, we go catch the bad guy!" Kevin happily replied, hugging Jimmy's neck.
CHAPTER THIRTY EIGHT
"Okay, Kevin, I'm going to have ask you to be a good soldier and obey orders," Jimmy said, kneeling at eye level with the younger boy. "I have to leave you here--"
"NO!" Kevin protested, crossing his arms in open rebellion and angrily stamping his foot. "You *promised* you wouldn't leave me!"
"Kevin," Jimmy explained patiently, "sometimes people have to do things that may look like they're going back on their word, but it's really for your own good. Where I'm going, Kevin, is no place for a little boy. I'm keeping my word to your mother to protect you. Do you understand?"
Kevin screwed his diminutive face shut, refusing to acknowledge Jimmy's explanation, his tiny body a mute symbol of hurt and angry defiance. Jimmy looked up helplessly at Amavia, standing patiently behind Kevin. She and Routledge had volunteered to guard the boy while the others attempted to capture Kodos. Amavia knew the boy's safety was just one more burden that Jimmy had to contend with. Knowing that if she and Kevin were both relatively out of harm's way would ease Jimmy's mind, Amavia unhesitatingly proffered to baby-sit.
"I'll take care of him, Jimmy, I promise," Amavia said gently. "The others are waiting. Go on; we'll be all right." Amavia smiled bravely, wondering if she'd ever see him again. If we ever get out of this, she vowed silently, I don't care about our age differences, I'm going to--
Amavia's thoughts were abruptly interrupted by Jimmy who swept her in his arms, kissing her deeply, passionately, as if for the last time. Then his face lighting up with that swashbuckler, devil-may-care smile, he turned to go. "I'll be back; you can count on it." Looking at Kevin, his eyes softened going from green to hazel, "That goes for the both of you." When Jimmy left, Kevin ran to the farthest corner from the door. Turning his back to the wall, he slid down along it to the floor, hugging his knees in and forlornly putting his head down. Amavia could hear his heartbroken, muffled cries, "He *promised*," repeated over again. Amavia walked over and sat down beside him. She put her arm consolingly around his shoulders, but Kevin wasn't having any sympathy. He stiffened and turned his back to her.
"Kevin, you can be angry and hurt over Jimmy leaving you with me, or you can try to understand his side." Amavia paused, trying to gauge whether the small boy was listening. "You see, Jimmy's promised not just to take care of you, but of all of us. He's promised to stop Kodos from hurting any more people. Can you understand that?"
Kevin turned angry eyes to her, not understanding. "But he gave Mommy his *word*! He *promised* her, and he *lied*!" Kevin stood up, gesticulating with his tiny fists. "I HATE HIM!"
Routledge couldn't stand it any longer. "Hey, listen, you little brat, that's enough of that nonsense. If you don't like what's happened, tough luck. None of us likes what's happened. You think you're the only one's who's suffered? Well, you're not. So stop being a little pain, and just shut up, okay!"
Kevin, who had never having been spoken to in such a manner in his life, stood open-mouthed. Then, his little face screwed up, Kevin let out a broken-hearted wail, releasing the pent-up feelings of abandonment he'd been holding in since his mother's death; feelings exacerbated by what he believed was Jimmy's false promise to protect him--feelings that had just been pushed over the edge by this *mean* man who was yelling at him. Amavia ran to Kevin, pulling him in to her in a tight hug.
She glared photon torpedoes at Routledge. "How *dare* you speak to him like that?" she spat. "He's just a little boy! His mother was killed in front of him!" Looking at Routledge with outraged disbelief she added, "Don't you have *any* feelings? Don't you *see* how attached he's become to Jimmy?"
Routledge just shook his head in bitter disgust. "All I see is a spoiled baby who doesn't appreciate what we're doing for him."
"If that's how you feel, why did you ask for this detail?" Amavia countered. "I don't remember Jimmy asking for volunteers."
"Ama-bia, I'm sorry," Kevin whispered.
"Don't be," Amavia comforted. "It's not your fault you're frightened. We're *all* frightened." Placing her arm around him, Amavia steered Kevin to an empty lounge chair. Sitting down, she pulled him onto her lap, and cradled him to her, crooning an old lullaby that her mother used to hum. Routledge watched Amavia consoling Kevin, and felt only disgust at the turn of events. Why *had* he volunteered for this detail? he asked himself. Because he wasn't an idiot, that's why. He had no intention of getting himself killed anytime soon! Hell, he didn't even belong on Tarsus IV! He'd *cheated* for chrisakes! Stole the science paper from that geeky guy in his physics class and turned it in as his own. When he won, Routledge threatened the geek with a few rearranged facial bones if he so much as opened his wimpy mouth.
What a laugh! I thought I was going on a summer vacation! What did I get? A whole school full of geeks, excited over some stupid science project, I could've cared less about. I thought there'd at least be some babes available, but they were either already involved with someone, or looked like pooches. Except Amavia. But she obviously has the hots for that kid, Kirk. Can you believe that? A fine looking babe like her, and she wants to do it with some little kid. Well, maybe I can change her mind, Routledge thought lecherously. Unbidden, an image of Jimmy jumping into the executive suite at the power plant to rescue the Science Campers sprang to his mind. Jimmy firing his weapon faster than Routledge thought humanly possible, taking out almost half a dozen soldiers by himself. Jimmy going after that crazy nut, Janine had told him, who'd decapitated one prisoner and gutted the other.
Routledge mused on what it would be like to have that much pent-up fury turned on him. He decided he didn't want to find out.
Kevin finally fell asleep. Relieved, Amavia gently lay him down on the soft lounge chair. Putting her finger to her lips, she walked over to Routledge. "Look, I have to answer the basic call right now. I think I saw some restrooms just down the hall. Watch him until I return, okay?" Routledge nodded, and Amavia, checking the hallway carefully both ways, abruptly turned and ran several doors down. Once Amavia left, Routledge took a good long look at the second lounge chair. It sure looked inviting. He couldn't remember when he'd slept last. Jimmy had been driving them relentlessly for several hours now, and he knew that he hadn't slept even before the raid on the power plant. Well, can't hurt to just sit down, can it? Convincing himself that he intended to sit down for a few minutes and nothing else, Routledge sank into the deep luxury of the lounge chair. He fell instantly asleep.
"Momm-mmee...Momm-mmee..." Kevin called restlessly in his sleep. "No. Don't hurt my mommy. NO!" Kevin was instantly awake. "Mommy!" he cried. Kevin looked around. He was alone in the room with that *mean* man. Ama-bia was gone! She'd *left* him! Springing from the lounge chair Amavia laid him down on, Kevin ran for the door. Not bothering to check to see if it was safe to do so, Kevin ran down the corridor as fast as his pint-sized legs could take him. Jimmy! He had to find Jimmy!
CHAPTER THIRY NINE
Running down the corridor, hurrying to catch up with the others, Jimmy's mind recalled all the different times he'd seen his father say good-bye, kissing his mother as if for the last time, vowing to return from whatever adventure he was going on. Until now, Jimmy had never realized that each time his Dad said good-bye, it could very easily have been *for* the last time. Maybe that's why Mom's always angry when I mention Starfleet, he mused; she doesn't want me to have to say good-bye like that to *my* sons in the future.
Recalling little Kevin's accusing glare, Jimmy remembered the many times he'd refused to come out of his room to say good-bye when his Dad's leave was over. Recollecting the angry look of betrayal on Kevin's face and his own helpless reaction to it, he wondered how often his Dad had felt this way when he'd seen the same look on *Jimmy's* face.
Suddenly, Jimmy wanted this whole mess to be over. He wanted to see his father again and tell him how much he loved him. And Mom, he added guiltily, I wasn't exactly a model son when I left home for Tarsus. I promise, Mom, Dad, if I get out of this thing alive, I'll tell you guys how much I love you--every day of the year if I have to. Jimmy passed several doors lying askew from having been unceremoniously kicked open. Not bothering to stop, he glanced in the rooms, occasionally catching sight of the smoking, still remains of some luckless member of the Enlightened Patrol. After a few moments, Jimmy reached the end of the long corridor. Adam and the Science Campers were lined up against the corridor walls, in what appeared to be a practiced maneuver. Ames and Molson were each standing on either side of the fire doors leading to the rooftop stairwell.
Jimmy came up to Adam. "Report," he gasped. He'd run full out to catch up.
"Hit all the rooms. No Kodos," Adam explained succinctly. "Only one place left." His eyes looked up through the ceiling. Jimmy nodded. Of course, the VIP rooftop landing pad. Ames and Molson looked at Adam and Jimmy. Jimmy gave Adam the go-ahead.
"Do it," Adam snapped.
Kevin's gone! An ice-cold hand gripped Amavia's insides. Grabbing the sleeping Routledge by the collar, she shook him awake. "You bastard! Wake up! Where is he? Where's Kevin?"
Routledge was instantly awake. "What are you talking about?" Routledge saw a look of pure contempt in Amavia's sea-green eyes. He added whining, "He was just here a moment ago."
"He's gone! You were supposed to watch him! You snake!" Amavia released Routledge in revulsion, not wanting to touch him another moment. In stiff anger, she moved to grab her weapon.
Routledge gave her a leering grin. "Hey, forget the brat; let's me and you--"
In savage fury, Amavia spun on her left heel, and swinging her weapon with all the strength she could muster, she slammed the rifle butt into Routledge's solar plexus. "You, bastard. If anything happens to Kevin, I'll kill you." Not waiting for a reply, Amavia ran out into the corridor.
Routledge stood holding his mid-section, gasping for air, her threat sinking in. That Kirk kid, he thought dazedly, if *he* comes after me, there won't be enough left to send home. I've gotta get out--now! Fear driving him, Routledge stumbled out of the room.
With the appearance of long-practice, Ames and Molson both pushed through the stairwell doors, weapons ready, covering all angles. The others immediately ran past them, bounding up the short flight of stairs leading to the roof. Reaching the rooftop exit, Jimmy halted only long enough to check to see if the others had caught up. Using hand signals to indicate that every other person should split left or right, Jimmy took a deep breath, then shoved the door open.
Little Kevin felt terribly frightened. He didn't want to think about the ugly monsters he'd seen gaping at him, eyes wide and open-mouthed in their final death screams, lurking inside some of the rooms he'd passed. Eventually, Kevin had refused to look inside the rooms anymore, instead standing outside each door, covering his eyes protectively with his hands, calling Jimmy's name. When he didn't receive a reply, Kevin then hurried to the next door.
"Jimmy," Kevin sobbed, "where *are* you?"
Finally, Kevin arrived at the last door in the corridor. It looks awful heavy, he thought. Tentatively pushing at the lock-bar, he put his weight behind it. Slowly, the door began to open outwards. Frightened, Kevin chanced a peek. Stairs! He could hear sounds coming from above--Jimmy! He heard Jimmy's voice! Kevin began running upstairs.
The Science Campers came out charging, screaming at the top of their lungs. Jimmy immediately saw that the Tarsus One was on final pre- flight for take-off. He could hear the anti-gravs reaching GO-status. Bringing his weapon up smoothly, he sighted automatically and fired. He would not allow Kodos to escape.
Taking whatever cover was available, the Science Campers all began firing on the governor's private transport. To Jimmy's shock he saw that their particle beams were being diffused somehow. He could actually *see* the energy as it was harmlessly dissipated. What the--?
Jimmy turned to Adam signaling a conference. Adam quickly joined him. "It's got shielding! That means it's warp capable. Our fire is ineffective this way--we've got to concentrate all weapons on the same spot. Pass the word...aim at starboard amidships--that's where the micro-warp core should be located!" Adam nodded and immediately began passing the word.
Too late, Jimmy saw that the Tarsus One was lifting off! Jimmy continued to fire his weapon, concentrating his shot group (as his grandfather used to say) on the same spot. Within seconds the rest of the Science Campers directed their massed fires at the same target.
The expert pilot immediately banked, but instead of taking off, he turned and began a deadly strafing run, narrowly missing Jimmy by a slim margin. Jimmy heard a scream to his far left--*Thomas*, writhing in agony! He'd been hit, his upper body enveloped in flames. Janine, joined by Adam and T'Shal, was frantically trying to put out the spreading inferno threatening to engulf Thomas' torso.
In raging fury, Jimmy stood up, not caring about his safety any more. He was going to get that bastard even if he died trying.
Kodos, you're mine.
Jimmy sighted his target amidships, squeezed and held his firing button, unmindful about burning out his power pack. The others followed suit. This was it: If Kodos wanted to escape, he had to cross their line of final protective fires. They would not let him go without a fight.
Suddenly, to Jimmy's horror, he heard a small voice calling him!
Amavia, panicked, ran down the hallway. She quickly entered each room she came to, calling Kevin's name. She had to hurry; where *was* he?
"Kevin!" Amavia called desperately. She searched through the room she was in, carefully avoiding looking directly at the ghastly remains of a dead Enlightened Patrol soldier. Holding her weapon ready, she walked slowly to a closet in the back of the room. Standing to one side, she quickly jerked the door open. Empty.
Amavia repeated this in each room she entered. She felt an urgent fear that she was wasting time--Kevin's in danger!--but she levelheadedly knew that she couldn't afford to miss him. Amavia kept calling out his name in hopes of reassuring him, but she knew that Kevin might just be too frightened to reply to her calls. Therefore, she had to search each room.
After a seeming eternity, Amavia arrived at the fire door leading to the roof. Her sense of urgency returned.
Oh, my God, no! she pleaded silently. Please, Kevin, not the roof. Hearing the unmistakable sounds of a raging battle, Amavia started racing up the stairs.
Oh, God, please let me be on time!
At the sound of his name, Jimmy spun around, fear gripping his insides. Kevin! How? Forgetting Kodos, Jimmy began running towards the boy, intending to sweep him up in his arms, and carry him back into the relative safety of the stairwell. Before he was halfway there, Amavia burst through onto the roof, running after the boy.
"Kevin!" Amavia screamed, frightened for the boy; feelings of intense guilt assaulting her for letting him get away from her. "Kevin, please! Come back!" Seeing the transport suddenly bank, preparing for another scorching run, Amavia raced after the boy. Too late, she saw that the Tarsus One had launched a deadly barrage of energy bursts across the roof, heading straight towards Kevin.
Not stopping to think, not thinking to stop, Amavia went airborne, diving over the final meters that separated her from the little boy. Grabbing Kevin, Amavia, again experiencing that strange sense of disassociation, tucked Kevin safely, closely to her, then returning to real-time, felt the jarring impact of the roof as she and Kevin landed--hard! Simultaneously, she felt as if she'd been slammed from behind by a flying tackle.
All sensation stopped. Amavia felt herself floating, separating from her body. She could see Jimmy running towards her and Kevin, the rest of the Science Campers firing even more furiously than before, screaming epithets at the hated enemy. She saw Jimmy sliding the last few feet to where she and Kevin lay. This is so odd, she thought. How can I be up here, when I'm down there?
Next, Amavia turned in time for the biggest explosion she had ever witnessed. The shock wave that instantaneously followed knocked several Science Campers off their feet. She *saw* the wall of energy, an intangible force with the power to topple buildings, as it mushroomed in an eye-blink, sending super-heated debris climbing at an immeasurable speed. Reaching the apex of its trajectory, the liquid- hot metal just as suddenly began its lethal downward slope. "Get down!" Someone yelled, somewhat extraneously she thought. Everyone's already fallen down.
Fire. It was raining fire. The Science Campers were scrambling for whatever cover they could find. The fallout from the Tarsus One was spewing out in all four compass directions. From her vantage point above everybody, Amavia could see people down in the playing field falling over themselves to get out of the way of the flying fragments. She saw a piece of burning shrapnel strike down a running figure, the super-heated metal embedded in his spine. Amavia's heightened senses identified the fallen person--Routledge.
A strange sight startled her. Curiously sparkling man-shaped lights abruptly appeared literally out of thin air. Every where she turned, groups of three and four shimmering lights began to suddenly materialize. In a few seconds she saw the lights begin to solidify into men and women in uniform. Starfleet! They wore Starfleet uniforms! The Federation had arrived. They were saved.
Amavia sadly remembered. I'm not. She looked down to where she could see Jimmy holding her, despondently, little Kevin standing crouched over Jimmy's back, tightly hugging his neck, crying inconsolably. The others were standing sadly, helplessly by. Please, she thought, I've got to say good-bye to him. I can't just leave him, not like this. Jimmy's so young. Please, let me go to him one last time. Amavia felt rather than heard a soft, warm voice urging her to go. There was little time left.
Amavia felt her consciousness slowly return. She heard someone crying brokenheartedly nearby--Kevin. She grimaced at a sudden a sharp pain. She hurt everywhere.
Hurry, an inner voice whispered. Amavia forced her eyes to open; she was met by Jimmy's grief-stricken hazel ones. Raising her hand, she gently stroked his cheek, wiping the tears that were coursing down unabated.
"My Jimmy," Amavia whispered. She closed her eyes momentarily, her body swept by pain. Swallowing, her throat parched, she determinedly attempted to talk again. "Jimmy," she whispered dryly, painfully, "promise me...promise me--" she took his hand in hers. Jimmy brought it tenderly up to his lips. She smiled, her sea-green eyes taking on a far away look, her time almost up.
Abruptly, her eyes focused and held his in a steady gaze. Amavia said, her voice stronger, "--that you won't...mourn for me." She stopped suddenly. After a few moments, Amavia spoke again, smiling tenderly, an inner glow radiating from her eyes. "--promise. I'm the lucky one...I was your first love. No other girl will ever be able to say that."
Jimmy nodded, and choking, whispered, "I promise," believing it was promise he'd never be able to keep. Amavia gave him one final smile, then gently, peacefully went to sleep. When the Starfleet security officers materialized on the rooftop, they found a group of heartbroken Science Campers, too numbed and shattered by the events of the past few days to offer much by way of explanation. Janine, holding the severely injured Thomas, her recent partner in the day's whirlwind events, detected the transporter glimmer. Gasping in excitement, she pointed in their direction. "Adam! The Federation!"
Adam and the others snapped back to awareness. "We have an injured man over here!" he called out, waving the Starfleet personnel over to where Thomas lay. Adam hurried over to one of the men. "Excuse me, sir," he asked politely, urgently. "Do you know a Commander Kirk?"
"Yeah, he's my immediate superior." Then, his eyes lighting up with excitement, the young security officer asked, "Why? Have you seen his kid? The commander has been beside himself with worry." Adam nodded, pointing at Jimmy with his chin.
"That *kid*," Adam explained, enunciating each word clearly and carefully, "saved all of our lives. That *kid* is a real hero." Then relenting when he saw the young officer's embarrassment, Adam tried to explain, "I'm sorry. It's just that--never mind. Can you contact his Dad? He looks like he really needs him right now."
The Starfleet officer quickly nodded his head and opened his communicator. Adam walked over to Jimmy and crouched down to his level. Gently, he began to extricate the younger boy from Amavia. "Jimmy, you have to let her go. Please, Jimmy, it's time to go." Adam placed his arm protectively around his friend. Someone had to watch out for Jimmy.
CHAPTER FORTY ONE
The sudden explosions detected by ship's sensors, as the Enterprise entered standard orbit around Tarsus IV, galvanized Captain April into action. To hell with the Federation's admonitions to take it slowly! April immediately gave the order to begin sending security teams to the coordinates.
In the fifteen minutes it took to form the landing parties and initiate transportation, one final massive explosion shook the area surrounding the stadium. Science Officer Mason reported what appeared to be a micro warpcore containment breach.
The battle was over before the first of the Enterprise's landing parties arrived.
The security teams from the USS Eisenhower and Enterprise quickly set to mopping up any remaining Enlightened Patrol soldiers. Within a few days, Starfleet personnel either killed or captured the last remnants of the hungry and exhausted, largely demoralized troops of Kodos' elite corps.
The security crews from both ships were faced with the added complication of trying to keep their prisoners from being torn apart by the surviving colonists. Indeed, some of the Starfleet personnel, outraged from the atrocities perpetrated by Kodos' Enlightened Patrol on the hapless civilian population, were almost tempted to turn the prisoners over to the locals.
The captains from both ships formed provincial governments headed by members of their sociopolitical departments. Captain Wesley took charge of the settlements on the western hemisphere; Captain April of Spencer's Landing, the sole settlement on the eastern hemisphere.
Now, the Enterprise had received orders to ferry the surviving Science Campers back to Earth. From there, the Federation would make the necessary arrangements to return the Campers to their respective home worlds. The Eisenhower would remain behind to oversee recovery operations and the establishment of a planetary provincial government by the surviving colonists.
Sitting in his cabin, April completed his personal log. "I know that as long as I live, I will never forget the horrors that my crew and I uncovered that first day at the stadium, as well as the days that followed."
April shook his head disgustedly when he recalled Life Sciences' report on the deadly plant blight which had been the catalyst of the planet's disaster. "Ship's xenobotanists and xenoagribiologists have determined that the blight was caused by a severe biochemical reaction of a normally harmless indigenous bio-organism, which provides necessary soil nutrients, to the deadly combination of Terran plants, Terran fertilizer *and* Terran pesticides."
People will never learn, April sighed to himself; even after generations of ecological studies, they still insist on forcing their environment to conform to their needs. "Life Sciences is extremely excited by the potential of the native plant that the Science Campers have dubbed *Garg's Plant*. It'll require further studies, but the plant's hardiness and natural immunity to the blight appear to make it the colony's best hope for survival."
April sat back remembering the tense days in transit, his rescue mission overshadowed by his concern for both his godson *and* his chief of security, who also happened to be his best friend. He thought George Kirk would explode at any given moment, eaten with guilt and fear over the unknown fate of his boy.
April grinned suddenly, proudly. That Jimmy! If I have to kidnap him, or declare Winona as mentally incompetent, or call in every favor owed me, that young man is going to be in next year's Academy freshman class! He shook his head again, still not quite believing the results of the rescue mission. *Some* rescue, April amended ruefully.
"But they didn't *prove* it was Kodos, did they?" Thomas insisted, his voice muffled by the bandages covering the severe burns on his face. Martha, standing quietly by his side, holding his uninjured right hand, looked up at Jimmy helplessly. Thomas wouldn't let Kodos go, as if he were becoming obsessed by him.
"No, when we hit the Tarsus One's impulse drive, the resulting explosion was so powerful," Jimmy explained, "that it incinerated all of the occupants' remains almost totally, rendering them virtually unidentifiable. Even the DNA molecules were so corrupted that the codes couldn't be one hundred percent verified." Jimmy paused, shrugging, "Who else *could* it've been? Maybe we'll never really know." Jimmy smiled sadly, the pain still too fresh in his mind. "You just concentrate on getting well, Thomas. I hear that magic herb concoction that Stobel cooked up has the Starfleet doctors stumped. Aunt Sarah told me she's never seen such quick recovery rates on trauma patients."
Jimmy looked questioningly across at Martha, who shook her head regretfully. The DNA damage to Thomas' upper body was too severe. Even Stobel's miracle cure wouldn't be able to help him. Thomas wouldn't be entering the Academy after all. "*Aunt* Sarah?" Thomas asked teasing. "Just how many family members do you *have* on this bucket?"
"Just three," Jimmy grinned embarrassed. "My Dad, Uncle Bob and Aunt Sarah. Uncle Bob and Aunt Sarah--Captain April and Doctor April-- aren't really my aunt and uncle; they're my godparents." Jimmy shrugged over the last part, "I guess I love them like an aunt and uncle."
"And for that, we're exceedingly grateful," Dr. April said from the doorway, Stobel standing next to her. Her voice assuming a no-nonsense tone, she continued, "Let me look at your left arm, young man; I've seen you favoring it for a couple of days. And don't give me that *who me* routine. We *both* know about that little bout of appendicitis, don't we?" Dr. April clucked professionally while she examined his arm. "Just as I thought," she said addressing Stobel, who was taking the opportunity to study Human space-medicine under her while he was onboard, "a hairline fracture." Shaking her head in disgust, she turned to the reluctant patient, "Come on--up here! Under the protolaser! And no argument, or I'll inform you-know-who!" Jimmy knew Dr. April meant his mother. Shaking his head, Jimmy followed instructions. Mom and Aunt Sarah always stuck together on everything, Jimmy groused to himself. "Stobel," Dr. April fell into her teacher/lecturer mode, "this is how Human doctors speak to patients who exhibit no medical reason for a serious condition we call *hardus headus* (Jimmy rolled his eyes upward, Oh, brother!), yet suffer from all of its physiological disorders, such as, acute appendicitis that goes unreported or a hairline fracture that's largely ignored. *Hardus headus* is unfortunately on the increase, especially among Starfleet types, who don't think they need doctors, or among certain Iowa farm boys who don't have the sense God gave them, and stay home where they belong with a mother who loves them." "No respect," Jimmy said ruefully to Thomas.
Dr. April reached up and ruffled Jimmy's hair, kissing him on the cheek. "Twenty minutes. No less!" she called over her shoulder, smiling affectionately, heading out the door. "Come on, Stobel, we have some *real* patients waiting."
Thomas grinned, then growing serious, he added tentatively, "Jimmy, I'm so sorry about Amavia. Martha told me," he swallowed. "If I hadn't made that stupid deal with Kodos," Thomas said with self-loathing, "none of this would've happened. It's all my fault."
From his position under the protolaser, Jimmy looked helplessly at Martha. "Thomas, that's crazy. Of course, it isn't your fault," Jimmy denied. "Sure, I blamed you at first, but that was stupid of me. You made an error in judgment by trusting Kodos, but you admitted your mistake, and more than made up for it. Heck, your flying skills saved the day!"
Jimmy remembered the commando raids the ragtag group of Science Campers had executed. What were we thinking? he asked himself. Looking at Thomas, lying there, badly burned, maybe disfigured for life, Jimmy thought of all they'd sacrificed, all they'd been willing to sacrifice.
"In my book, Thomas, you and the rest of the crew of the Resolute, all who volunteered to help save the others, are the *real* heroes. I know I'd be proud to serve with you again." Jimmy saw Thomas squeeze Martha's hand.
"Thanks, Jimmy, that means a lot to me," Thomas managed. Martha smiled her sincere thanks at Jimmy.
"Jimmy!" A small, thirty-five-pound bundle of human energy burst into sickbay, unmindful of the ward nurse's startled protests. "Jimmy! Uncle Captain Bob found my grandparents. He says they'll be waiting for me when we get back to Earth! Isn't that *great*?"
"You bet it is," Jimmy smiled fondly at the smaller boy, grinning at Kevin's innocent mangling of Captain April's title. "Here come up here with me," Jimmy said, pulling Kevin up to sit beside him. "Now, tell all about it...."
Entering the rec-room an hour later with little Kevin in tow, Jimmy made his way to the wall replicators. He'd promised Kevin ice cream and instruction in three-D chess. They were supposed to meet Soran, who'd agreed to a rematch against Jimmy.
As he weaved his way through the many occupied tables, Jimmy nodded and greeted several of the Science Campers. Halfway to the replicators, Jimmy heard what at first sounded like one person clapping; this quickly gained in volume, until the entire room had exploded into spontaneous applause. Soon everyone was on their feet, chanting his name, growing louder and more excited: JIMmy, JIMmy, JIMmy...Ames and Molson were holding their fists up in the air, cheering; Janine, Nelson and T'Pei followed suit. Everyone started crowding around Jimmy; he and Kevin were suddenly lifted and carried triumphantly around the rec-room amidst the acclamation. Jimmy spotted Soran, sitting, arms crossed, at a corner table, single sardonic eyebrow raised. Feeling silly, Jimmy could almost detect Soran thinking, "Humans!" ####
"There you are!" Adam called, bounding into the observation lounge, followed closely by T'Shal. "You are one impossible person to keep track of." Adam stopped in front of Jimmy, his hands on his hips. "Well?"
"Well, what?" Jimmy lowered the book he'd been reading and looked up at them curiously, sighing. Couldn't he find *any* peace and quiet? It had taken him almost an hour to extricate himself from that embarrassing scene in the rec-room. "I don't know what you're talking about."
"I'm talking about the coolest personal tour of the bridge stations that's going to be taking place at exactly thirteen-thirty hours. That's ten minutes from now! Come on, Jimmy, Lieutenant Commander Decker and Lieutenant Pike, the senior helmsman and navigator, are going to personally instruct all interested parties on helm and navigation operations." While explaining, Adam had been demonstrating his enthusiasm by pacing and waving his arms in an exaggerated manner in front of Jimmy; T'Shal stood at rest, waiting for Jimmy's orders. "And, because our return trip to Earth will take a few weeks, since we're not at maximum warp, Captain April is going to let interested Science Campers volunteer to pull supervised shifts in the departments we're actually interested in. Isn't that the greatest?"
"Yeah, Adam, it's really great," Jimmy replied unenthusiastically. In fact, Captain April had asked Jimmy's opinion on how to keep the Science Campers occupied on the voyage, and Jimmy had suggested the supervised shifts. This way the youngsters would have something to take their minds off the recent horrors they'd lived through, and the Enterprise's crew would be able to make full use of the Campers' considerable skills.
A win/win situation, Jimmy had told Captain April, giving him one of his copyrighted smiles. Unfortunately, Jimmy's heart wasn't it, and the smile didn't quite reach his pain-filled, hazel eyes.
"Adam, T'Shal, I appreciate you both coming by; really I do," Jimmy began, head and eyes down, his inner struggle for control evident in his strained voice.
"But, you'd rather be alone for a while longer," Adam finished. He gazed at Jimmy, a boy whom he'd grown to deeply respect and admire, with deep compassion. "Amavia *was* pretty spectacular, Jimmy. You take all the time you need. Just remember, I'm here if you need someone to talk to."
"Breath-taking, aren't they, son?" Jimmy looked up from where he'd been gazing at the passing star field. Dad. Jimmy nodded sadly. If he wasn't careful, the tears would start, and he knew that he would never be able to control the flood once it broke through.
"I'm very proud of you, Jimmy," Commander Kirk began diffidently. "That was a *hell* of thing you did." He paused, embarrassed. The crew of the Enterprise was still reeling under the atrocities they'd witnessed on the planet. Moreover, they'd been awed by the stories that quickly began trickling in on the leadership and heroism of Commander Kirk's son. At first dismissed as rumors, the stories were soon confirmed through eyewitness accounts from the Science Campers who were found still at their base camp, and by the rescued colonists who survived the battle at the stadium. "Doesn't sound like very much, does it?" Kirk went up to his youngest son and gently placed his hand on Jimmy's shoulder. Then, urgently needing to just touch his boy, Kirk moved his hand to Jimmy's hair, straightening out a stray lock that always seemed to fall over his eyes, traced his fingertips along Jimmy's cheek to his jaw-line. He saw Jimmy's pain-filled eyes, valiantly struggling to hold back the tears just below the surface. Go easy, George, Kirk said to himself. The boy's still grieving over what happened on the planet. Adam *said* Amavia was special. My baby boy, Kirk thought, his throat catching, remembering the first time he'd ever held Jimmy, marveling at his baby perfection; it'd been love at first sight. Suddenly overcome by emotion, Kirk pulled Jimmy to him in a tight embrace, his chin resting on top of his son's head, his eyes filling, close to losing control.
"I should've been there for you, Jimmy," Kirk whispered brokenly, "I'm so sorry; can you ever forgive me?"
"Forgive you? But you didn't do anything wrong, Dad," Jimmy protested, his voice breaking. He knew he wouldn't be able to hold his raging emotions in much longer. "All you've ever done is show me and Sam and Mom how much you love us. And all I've ever done is hurt you, because you kept leaving." Pausing, Jimmy looked his father in the eye, "I swore while I was down there, that if I got out of it alive, I would tell you how much--how much I love you, Dad. If it hadn't been for you, I would never had made it."
"But I wasn't there for you, when you needed me the most," Kirk protested, racked with guilt.
"But you were, Dad! Everything you've ever taught me or tried to teach me about leadership, survival, and honor--everything you ever said, just kept running through my mind." Jimmy looked at his father with deep affection. "Dad, if it hadn't been for you, I wouldn't be alive right now; none of us would be. I did what you've always told me to do--to trust my instincts."
Kirk felt the tears come dangerously close to spilling, his chest swelling twice its normal size. My baby boy, he thought awed. No, Kirk sadly amended, not a baby anymore; forced to grow up before his time. Kirk studied Jimmy, seeing Winona's eyes and fair features on the outside, but the inner strength that just seemed to emanate from within--is that *really* me, he asked himself? Did I help mold that essence into what I see today?
"I'm proud that you're my Dad," Jimmy said, his voice breaking.
The dam burst at that moment. Jimmy allowed himself to be taken into his Dad's protective arms and tightly held, a small boy once more. Father and son both let the tears fall unchecked, neither caring, the shared moment intensified in its poignancy.
Later, as they both sat staring at the passing star field, Jimmy asked quietly, "Dad?"
"Did Adam tell you about Amavia?"
Kirk paused before answering. "Yes, son he did. I know there isn't a thing I can say to make the hurt go away, because it never will. But trust me," Kirk said, reaching his hand out to place it tenderly on his son's smooth, tanned cheek, "it will become less painful as time goes by."
"Thanks, Dad," Jimmy replied quietly, lowering his eyes and head. Then, looking up he asked, "Dad, will you promise me something?"
"Of course," Kirk replied quizzically.
"Will you promise not to bring up any mention of Starfleet Academy to Mom for about, say, six months? After what's happened here, I don't want Mom to worry about me going to the Academy next year." Then, grinning impishly, Jimmy added, "Besides, once she figures out I'm okay, she'll just go back to her normal, abusive Genghis Mom routine. She'll be *hell* to live with for a year!"
"Don't you worry about *that*, son," Kirk assured Jimmy, chuckling. "I was afraid of your Mom long before *you* were ever born!"
Jimmy gave a short laugh. "Aw, Dad, you've never been afraid of anything in your entire life!"
Kirk looked at his son, remembering the days of consuming fear gnawing at him from inside, believing he'd never see his boy again. Then, giving his son a devilish smile rivaling Jimmy's in its brilliance, said, "Oh yeah? Why do you think I keep accepting deep-space assignments?"
End of Part 3 of 3