Summary: Captain Kirk is shocked when Spock abruptly takes command under a secret Starfleet protocol and orders the destruction of a Federation starbase. Spock's explanation shocks him even more. . . Follow-up to, "Beaming Down. . .to a Hellmouth?"

Disclaimer: All of these characters remain the property of their owners/creators. . .I'm just borrowing them for a spell. . .

Rating: PG-13, for violence and themes.

Time Frame: Third season of ST: TOS, not long after "The Enterprise Incident." Fourth season BTVS, a few days after the events of "Beer Bad."

Archiving: Be my guest, but e-mail me (eilandesq@aol.com) to let me know. . .I like to know where stuff I write ends up and I might want to see what else you've got.


THE HELLMOUTH PROTOCOL


Captain's Personal Log, Stardate 5139.8:


Starfleet has taken delivery of one Romulan cloaking device, slightly used. My crew and I have been thanked profusely by Fleet Intelligence, and have promised to take under advisement my complaints about the extreme risk faced by all of us in this mission, along with my misgivings about the ethical shortcomings that it entailed. I'm not holding my breath at getting much sympathy from Fleet Intelligence or elsewhere, but I needed to vent.

We are en route to Starbase 48, where we will pass on much needed supplies to the isolated outpost. I have always wondered why Starfleet felt the need to place a base so far from inhabited areas of Federation space, but the computer records are silent on the matter, and I am resigned to it being another case of "Fleet Command knows best." In any event, I am looking forward to seeing an old friend, Commander David Connors, who recently assumed command of Starbase 48.


Jim Kirk hit the button that ended the entry, and stretched to loosen some of the residual muscular soreness that had plagued him since his escape from the Romulan flagship: Romulans were not a joke to deal with, even for someone who had spent a great deal of time in the ship's gym sparring with a Vulcan over the last three years. He shrugged * part of the job. . .but I'll be glad if I never have to go nine rounds with a Romulan Centurion again * . He walked over to his dresser, pulled on a gold uniform top, and left his quarters.

Moments later, he arrived at the bridge, and Spock vacated the center chair without even looking at him. Smiling at Spock's uncanny ability to sense his presence, he sat in the command chair and called out to his helmsman, "What's our status, Mr. Sulu?"

Sulu turned to Kirk and replied, "We're fifteen minutes out from Starbase 48, Captain. We'll drop to impulse in 9.5 minutes. All systems performing at 100% of specs or better."

Kirk nodded, then turned to look at Spock. The recent mission with the Romulans had perhaps been most difficult on the Vulcan: as difficult as the Romulans could be, they retained elements of nobility that even Kirk could not help be impressed by. Spock had the additional pull of historical and ethnic ties with them. . .and then there had been the Romulan Commander. Kirk had been impressed by the woman; clearly, she had more than earned her command of the three ship fleet that had surrounded the Enterprise. She had remained on board for two weeks while arrangements were made to ferry her back to the Neutral Zone, and had adamantly refused to speak to Spock during that time. She had, however, consented to let Kirk try to talk her into staying in Federation space: he knew full well that she would be returning to disgrace, and either exile or death. She had listened to his arguments, nodded politely, and replied, "Captain Kirk, you are-in your own way-an honorable man, and I respect that. . .but my own honor demands that I go back to my people and accept their judgment concerning what has happened. . .for better or for worse." She saw his face fall, then looked at him with understanding and commented, "Captain. . .you risked discovery, torture and death at the hands of your enemies for the sake of your mission. Please understand that my own sense of duty requires that I face my people. . .if I can do that, then I can accept my fate knowing that I have done my duty to them." Kirk had nodded, then left in silence, and his last memory of her was of the proud way that she held herself as the two Centurions led her away to the Romulan shuttle.

Kirk sighed at the waste of it all as the Enterprise dropped out of warp and began to coast at impulse towards the Starbase. For several minutes, the bridge crew watched in silence as Starbase 48 appeared in the viewscreen and rapidly grew into a large, spherical shape with several outstretched projections from its equator. Sulu expertly guided the Enterprise into a position of relative rest to the station, and Kirk nodded with approval and turned to the lovely communications officer, ordering, "Open hailing frequencies, Lieutenant Uhura."

Uhura replied, "Frequency open, Captain." Kirk nodded at her and called out, "This is Captain Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise calling Starbase 48. We have arrived as per our scheduled flight plan and request permission to come aboard."

There was a moment's silence, then Uhura's board chimed, and she called out, "The Starbase is hailing us, Captain. . .it's Commander Connors."

Kirk grinned and replied, "On screen, Lieutenant." Uhura complied, and the face of a dark-haired man in his mid-thirties appeared on the viewscreen. His grin mirrored Kirk's as he commented, "I see the reputation that the Enterprise has for punctuality is not unearned. . .how in the hell are you, Jim?"

As Kirk spoke with Connors, Spock was very carefully pressing a sequence of switches that only he, and a dozen or so officers scattered throughout the Federation, knew. On a ship that lacked one of those officers, this process would have been automatic, but Starfleet Command had decided that, if possible, a living being should have the final say in how the protocol foremost in Spock's thoughts should be enforced. Spock took irrational comfort in the human emotion of blind optimism. . .it had been fifteen years, and nothing had occurred to trigger the Protocol in this sector. Surely, this time would be no different. . .

A certain light began silently flashing in stark crimson. If Spock had been fully human, he would have turned pale; instead, his fingers rapidly played over the controls of the science station, triggering a certain kind of active scan for which the results would instantly be relayed to the main computer. . .

On the screen, Commander Connors paled momentarily, causing Kirk to look at his old friend with concern and ask, "You all right, David? I know things are slow out here, but I hope it isn't just that we've shown up. . .those poker debts you ran up are negotiable, after all. . ."

A white light began flashing on Sulu's board, causing him to pale even more than Connors had. He whirled and exclaimed, "Captain Kirk! The ship's weapons systems are locking onto the Starbase, all by themselves. . .and the firing countdown has begun. . .everything will open up on them in . . .thirty seconds!"

Connors heard Sulu's worried announcement, and he called out, "Jim! What's-"

Kirk ignored the question and called out, "Computer! Shut down all weapons systems. . .override code Kirk gamma gamma epsilon delta!"

Spock almost smiled at the irony of the computer voice, which was an exact copy of the voice of the Enterprise's prior first officer, giving Kirk the grim news: "Code invalid. The Enterprise is currently operating under Starfleet Emergency Protocol H-125. . .all command codes have temporarily been transferred to Commander Spock."

As one, every head on the bridge turned to Spock, and Kirk gave his best friend the courtesy of a full second's pause before snapping, "What's going on, Spock? Stop the attack. . .there are over a hundred people on that base!"

Spock allowed the sadness he was feeling to touch his eyes for a moment, then replied, "I'm sorry Captain, I can't do that." His turned to the screen, where Connors was scrambling to activate the station's limited defenses, and spoke pointedly: "I know what you are."

Connors whirled and stared at the Vulcan, and as the full power phaser and photon torpedo barrage from the Enterprise began, in spite of the valiant efforts of Kirk and Sulu to prevent it, Connors' face changed. . .becoming demonic and transfixing the entire bridge crew until the screen went white and changed to a view of Starbase 48 exploding into white light. The energy wave battered the shields, shaking the ship, then the shaking ceased and there was only a mist of rubble visible: no other sign that a Federation Starbase had been there less than a minute before remained.

Kirk was in complete shock, and had to force himself to look back at Spock, then spent another long moment attempting to stay calm as he spoke to him. After a few more seconds, he managed, "Spock. . .?"

Spock held up his hand to indicate that Kirk should be silent for a moment, then called out, "Computer: transfer command codes back to Captain Kirk. . .authorization Spock omega epsilon gamma Hellmouth." He then hit his intercom button and requested that four security men be sent to the Bridge, after which he opened another channel and intoned, "Mr. Scott, your presence will be required in the main briefing room in five minutes."

"BRIEFING ROOM! We just got hit with an antimatter flux, Spock! I canna leave Engineering at a time like this!" The chief engineer's voice was angry and deeply accented, reflecting the stress that he was under.

Spock calmly replied, "Mr. Scott. . .the level of the antimatter flux was well within the tolerance limits of the shields, and no further ones are likely in the near future. Your staff has been adequately trained by you and your presence is required. Spock out." Spock pressed the button again, cutting off the outraged engineer, and turned to his astounded captain, raising an eyebrow before asking, "Was there something that you wished to ask me, Captain?"

Kirk's emotions were in turmoil: grief over the loss of a friend, shock at the course of events in the last ten minutes. . .and curiosity: what was this damned protocol that had turned the universe upside down? He looked at Spock and asked, "Why did you call the guards. . .and why does Commander Scott need to be at the meeting?"

Spock looked at his captain, inwardly pleased that he had kept his composure in a difficult situation, and replied, "Mr. Scott has knowledge relevant to this situation. I ask that you order Lieutenants Uhura and Sulu, and Ensign Chekov to attend the meeting along with us, with the rest of the bridge crew to remain here until they can be briefed. . .the guards are a precautionary measure."

Kirk's eyes widened and he retorted, 'Spock. . .these are Starfleet officers. . .surely we can trust them not to gossip if they are so ordered."

Spock's face clouded briefly, then he replied, "I dislike such measures, but the protocol in question is quite strict on the matter of security. . .also, Captain, Dr. McCoy should be present at the meeting. . .there are medical aspects to this situation."

Kirk nodded without understanding and motioned to Uhura, who looked a little worse for wear herself as she activated her board and intoned, "Dr. McCoy, report to the main briefing room immediately."

McCoy's terse voice came back almost immediately: "Acknowledged." Kirk winced: McCoy would have heard what happened, at least in outline, and he knew that Spock was in for some verbal abuse. The security guards arrived, and Kirk gave them their marching orders as he motioned to Uhura, Sulu and Chekov to follow Spock and himself into the turbolift. As the doors closed, he had but one thought:

This had better be good, Spock.



* * * * *


The group had convened in the main briefing room, and Spock had ordered the security men outside with orders to stop anyone from entering unless it was a matter that imminently threatened the safety of the ship. All eyes were on him as he began, "This matter is considered by Starfleet Command to be one of the most dangerous secrets known to exist. . .aside from the individuals directly involved in the incident, only the members of the Admiral's Council know of this protocol. If I or one of the other individuals in question had not been here, the Enterprise would have conducted the entire operation via computer control and Starfleet would not have explained until the ship had come in for debriefing. . .am I understood?"

Kirk nodded and replied, "Go ahead, Spock."

Spock slipped a tape into the computer's slot, and the triple viewscreen lit up with the Starfleet symbol for a moment before a familiar face appeared on the screen. Kirk stared at the man for a second or two before whispering, "Chris Pike."

The fortyish man on the screen stared out at his unseen viewers for a moment before beginning, "I am Captain Christopher Pike, in command of the starship Enterprise at the time I am making this recording. If you are watching this, an incident that invoked the Hellmouth Protocol has occurred, and most of you are wondering what the hell is going on. Believe me. . .I am sympathetic. . .when the Enterprise encountered the phenomenon that I am about to describe, I had exactly the same reaction. My crew suffered painful losses due to our encounter. . .I hope that you fare better." He smiled faintly, then began, "On Stardate-"

The recitation of the incident that Spock still remembered vividly after fifteen years took only 21 minutes and 4.56 seconds, including the time needed to show the visual logs taken by Doctor Boyce during the final confrontation with Brennan, Davidson and their allies. No one in the room said a word while the presentation went on, and after it was over Pike looked out at them again and concluded, "Since a member of the original landing party is present among you, I will leave it to him or her to conclude this briefing." He smiled again, adding, "Good luck to you all." The screen went dark, and all eyes turned to Spock. The silence dragged on for several more seconds before Montgomery Scott could restrain himself no more: "That was what was going on down there? I knew that something strange was going on. . .and that Brennan and Davidson were logged as having died in the line of duty. . .but this? Vampires. . . teenaged children as the only thing standing between a world and destruction? It's madness, Spock!"

Spock raised an eyebrow and replied, "If you are commenting on the desirability of such a state of affairs, Mr. Scott, I would have to concur; however, the experiences of the landing party and the sensor logs they brought back with them are conclusive. . .and would be even if a Vulcan-certainly not prone to flights of fancy-had not been among them." The chief engineer frowned and nodded, and Spock continued, "In any event, Starfleet Command took the matter under advisement upon receiving Captain Pike's detailed report on the incident, and chose to place Starbase 48 in this sector to monitor any potential intrusions into our universe from the phenomenon that drew the Enterprise into the 'Hellmouth dimension.' However, to prevent breaches of security, the station personnel were not briefed on the nature of their assignment; instead, the station computer was to perform automatic sensor sweeps of the area around the phenomenon to spot such intrusions. . .and to deal with them with lethal force, if deemed necessary. Unfortunately, this plan seems to have proved inadequate."

McCoy's face was red with anger, and he snapped, "You mean Command left over a hundred men and women at the mercy of a damned computer to protect them from something they had no clue existed? Of all the callous--!"

"Not now, Bones!" The snap of command was back in Kirk's voice, and the doctor halted in mid-diatribe, mumbling to himself as the captain turned to Spock and asked, "Spock. . .I gather you ran some sort of sensor scan as we came in. . .what did you find?"

The Vulcan nodded and replied, "The initial scan was a low-level one, designed specifically to count the number of humanoids on the station and look for the anomalous readings that were found to be characteristic of vampires during the landing party's observations. My first scan detected no humanoid life signs aboard the station, and only a few traces of the vampire readings. The next step, since there are a few other life forms that exhibit very similar readings, was to direct an intense polaron burst at the station: my studies indicated that such a scan should clearly identify vampires as such, and should cause a momentary physical reaction that would not be manifested by other life forms." The others who had been on the bridge remembered Connors' reaction to the scan, and Kirk nodded for Spock to continue. Spock nodded and concluded, "In a way, we were fortunate. . .there were no living humanoids on the station. The Protocol contemplates the destruction of an infested ship or station even if the result is casualties from friendly fire. . .we were not forced to make that decision."

Kirk nodded, looking grim, then asked, "Spock, how in the hell did these creatures get to Starbase 48? From your reports, the civilization on that version of Earth hadn't even fully mastered interplanetary travel. . .it would have taken decades for them to develop that capability and send a ship out to the anomaly, and even assuming that the ship could have survived the conditions of the crossover, it would have had to cover a tenth of a light year to reach Starbase 48. . .there's just no way."

Spock raised an eyebrow, then replied, "Starfleet Command considered two possible scenarios. The first, which was largely speculative, was that the vampires and other creatures associated with the Hellmouth could harness the power source known colloquially as 'magic' to send a ship through, since at least one vampire who knew of the existence of our dimension escaped from the incident with our landing party, and one of the creatures might have seen possibilities." He paused, then continued, "The other possibility is that they received assistance from someone from our dimension: any warp-capable craft could have carried one or more vampires to Starbase 48 if they could somehow avoid the scans. Once aboard, the vampires could have relatively quickly taken over the station, given that no one on board could know of what they were facing." His fingers played across the buttons next to his seat, and a list of ship arrivals appeared on the screens as he explained, "Before the weapons barrage began, I sent a coded override signal to the starbase's computer, instructing it to transmit its arrival logs along with any other activities in the last six months. . .here. The Stormwatch docked at Starbase 48 fifteen standard days ago, and departed precisely eleven days and ten hours later. . .it is the only vessel whose flight plan is not redundantly confirmed that has docked there in the past six months. . .it is almost certainly the source of the infestation."

Kirk nodded and noted tersely, "We'll have to go in after it, Spock. . .the Prime Directive applies, even though the Hellmouth world is an alternate version of Earth. Even if our weapons don't work properly there, a warp-capable craft could vastly change the balance of power there." He looked at Spock and frowned, "The Stormwatch is only a Class 2 scoutship. . .the Enterprise can handle it with no problems; however, Spock, these creatures have had a good look at Federation technology, including some that actually works there. . .how do we deal with that little problem?"

Spock raised an eyebrow and pressed a few more buttons. The picture of a beautiful teenaged girl appeared on the screens: all present could see the intensity in the green eyes and the determined look on her face, frozen in time. "We have an ally in this place, someone who helped Captain Pike and the rest of the landing party deal with the threat of Brennan and Davidson. Her name is Buffy Summers. . .and she is the Slayer."



. . .to be continued


As always, comments are welcomed and desired