Disclaimer: All Star Trek characters belong to Paramount. The planet Ilyria belongs I believe to D.C. Fontana. I am doing this for fun, not for money.

Personal note: I feel I must explain why I prefer not to post my stories chapter by chapter for there's been too many questions asked. By doing so I mean no disrespect, I'm just preventing myself from doing half a job in the only way I know how. I generally have half a dozen stories started with no way of telling which one I am going to finish first – if ever. To start posting any of them the way they are means to put the readers at risk never to see the conclusion, if my interest for a particular plot dies – such things did happen to me before. In order to avoid this risk I only post when the story is finished. Bear with me, please, I'm just weird that way. I am, however, by no means obliging anyone to read it all at once – if at all. It is simply at your disposal should you want it. And I do appreciate reviews of any nature, as long as they stick to the subject and not to my supposed place of origin. (I am not from Neptune as some had suggested, I only work there.)

Note of gratitude: Thank you for all the PMs and emails, I deeply appreciate your support in dealing with this new experience.

Author's note: This is a novel sized story. Long as it is already, it is only the first part of the trilogy and two similar sized parts are yet to come. It is also necessary to say that in writing this I used some of the background that the novel "Vulcan's Glory" by D.C. Fontana had created, though I did not accept all of its premises. For example, I still make Spock the only Vulcan serving with humans at the time (consequently, no T'Pris affair). Also, concerning the plot, let it not surprise you that I demoted some people in rank – for the sake of the storyline and to make some points. The usual picture will be restored by the canon's timeframe. One more thing, there is no McCoy in this story (well, almost). I missed the good Doctor greatly, but it couldn't be helped. He'll be back in force in Part 2.

Codes: K & GM, S, Sc, Piper and to lesser extent U, Sulu, Pike, N1. General

Summary: Captain Kirk assumes command and takes the Enterprise out on his 1st 5-year mission. But the ship is not the only legacy he has to deal with in the haze of his first assignment, which unsurprisingly does not go according to plan.

HOMERUN

Part 1. The Heritage

By Anna Amuse

Chapter 1.

The Two Captains

Captain James T. Kirk was sitting in a crowded café lounge of Starbase 12 enjoying his meal. It was not often these days that Starfleet personnel could order some fresh, unsynthesized food, for the replicators on most starships provided a very limited number of dishes. The Captain had spent two weeks at the Starbase waiting for his ship to arrive and, having a long voyage ahead of him, was eager to indulge himself for some last hour prime dinner.

He was alone at his table, awaiting his friend and second-in-command to arrive. Occasionally answering to other people's greetings, Jim Kirk was content not to engage them in conversation but simply let them pass. The feeling of excited anticipation was dominant in his mood for he was about to take part for the first time in his life in the change of command ceremony not simply as a witness but as one of the key participants. The Captain of the Enterprise was being promoted to Fleet Captain and he, Kirk, was given the command of his ship.

He was naturally excited, but tried as much as possible to keep it to himself. It was no funny business, being the youngest captain in Starfleet's history. He was only too aware of some people's reaction to such rapid promotion. Even more than that, the Enterprise was one of the Fleet's finest. Chris Pike himself had to fight for her in his days and he had been quite a proved and experienced captain by then. Compared to him, Kirk was but a teenager and he had a pretty good idea as to how Pike must be feeling relinquishing command to some newly promoted officer.

He was not at all surprised, therefore, that a lot of Pike's officers were leaving with him. Almost all members of the senior staff had put in requests for transfer or accepted promotions and new positions. As far as Kirk knew, Pike didn't take anyone to his new assignment, though he didn't understand his reasons. He knew how loyal a crew they had been to their captain, but then again, Christopher Pike was a very private man and his decisions were mostly not open for discussion, nor invited idle speculations.

Kirk had met Pike three years ago, being first officer of the Republic. Both ships were summoned to Canopus II, when the planet was accepted to the Federation, to take part in the ceremonies and official festivities. Kirk remembered being surreptitiously intimidated by the tall silent figure of the famous starship Captain who carried himself with an air of indefinite superiority. Quite probably he was unaware of this particular impression, but it didn't dispose people to him at first sight, nonetheless. The impression was strengthened by the constant presence of Pike's First Officer, a striking woman he called Number One. Kirk vividly remembered being awed by her thumping beauty and forbidding coldness that seemed to be freezing her unnaturally fine features. By then, he was so sure in his own abilities to win over any woman by simply smiling his boyish smile at her that he approached her without a second thought, seeing an intriguing challenge in front of him.

He couldn't exactly recall what he said, but it was something primitive and stupid, like 'what's a girl like you doing in a place like that' line. He expected her to smile, however irritably, but she merely glanced at him and he felt his insides go absolutely numb with burning coldness of her gaze. She didn't even bother to answer. The memory made Kirk smile now, but three years ago it was a serious blow to his ego. He continued to watch her throughout all the days of the celebrations but he never once saw her talking to anyone save captain Pike or the ship's surgeon, and most definitely he never saw her smile.

He discovered later that this insulting behavior was largely due to her heritage and had nothing to do with him personally. Number One came from the planet Ilyria where perfection in every aspect was cultivated in every child from the moment of birth. The profound seriousness was the expected outcome of a lifetime's concentration on perfection in whatever occupation Ilyrians were engaged. Number One did not have time for any sort of pleasant distractions so popular among humans. She could be loyal and devoted to those few who earned her trust and respect, but that wasn't something easily achieved, and most certainly she could not have been won over by some arrogant self-assured young Starfleet Commander, who only tried it for sport.

Kirk shook his head in his own regard, thinking reminiscently of his own naivety and presumptuousness. Boy, he was young back in those days. Three years was hardly a long time but he felt he changed over it considerably and not always for the best. He was still making impression of a vigorous and amicable officer, but the unmistakable burden of responsibility shined clear now in his features. He became more mature and consequently much more serious in his approach, but his appearance was still a poor display of his true character.

He had to admit that he felt apprehensive regarding the forthcoming ceremony. Captain Pike didn't bother to arrange a private meeting with him before the official change of command as per Starfleet or more likely old navy tradition. In Kirk's opinion, this was a clear demonstration of his views concerning his successor and Jim felt a certain measure of unease thinking about it. He was confident in his abilities to command a starship, but he also knew explicitly well that true authority and respect could not be given, they must be earned, and he realized clearly that he would not rest until he would have a chance to prove to his crew that he deserved their loyalty no less than Captain Pike.

The café around him was a beautiful setting, decorated with exquisite living plants from a dozen different planets. The base generally took in about ten different ships a week and its lounges and corridors were usually full of people. Starfleet uniforms were mixed with a variety of civilian and alien costumes and forms, as their owners passed by on their various destinations. Two weeks that Kirk spent at the base induced him with a new habit of watching the representatives of different cultures interact as they engaged themselves in conversations or activities.

He was almost done with his meal, enjoying the real coffee and watching the passing crowd. Suddenly his heart made a minor leap, as he saw the familiar bright glimmer of raven hair some ten feet away. Could this possibly be...?

But of course, there could be no mistake. He recognized the dignified comportment and icy blue eyes at once. It was indeed Number One; she was a hard woman to forget. Kirk held his breath checking his own feelings. He was satisfied realizing that he was mainly curious and even that emotion was not overwhelming. He was quite pleased with himself as if he had just passed some shrewd test and continued to watch with mild interest.

Number One was undoubtedly waiting for someone before departure, for she kept glancing toward the transporters, indicating her intentions quite clearly. She had a small standard issue bag with her and apparently was ready for a long voyage. Kirk's curiosity sprang to life as he mused silently who she might be expecting. He noticed palpable impatience written across her face and felt mildly surprised at this uncharacteristic demonstration of emotion. Could it have been Pike himself she was waiting for, since most obviously she was not staying for the change of command ceremony?

Suddenly, Number One's features softened noticeably and she actually smiled, leaving a deeply amazed Kirk breathless. His amazement, however, went all the scale up to outright astonishment when he saw the person, to whom this most amicable and quite unbelievable smile was addressed.

He saw a rather tall and slim dark-haired Vulcan heading towards Pike's former First Officer. Kirk was surprised to say the least seeing that the Vulcan in question was wearing a Starfleet uniform with lieutenant's stripes. Its sky-blue color suggested he belonged to either medical or science department. He looked surprisingly young for a Vulcan, but then Kirk didn't have that much experience with this race to be certain.

What intrigued him most, however, was the fact that no Vulcan ship was currently docked at the Starbase. He had never heard of a Vulcan officer serving aboard any Starfleet vessel other than the Intrepid, the Lao Tsy or the Alexandria – the three ships manned and operated solely by Vulcans. Yet, Kirk was quite sure that none of them was anywhere near the sector at the moment.

The Vulcan Lieutenant had finally come close enough to greet the lady expecting him. Kirk was not disappointed seeing the usual for this race lack of emotion on his face as he was talking to her. His tone was quiet and polite and although Kirk couldn't hear the words from where he was sitting he recognized the usual way of a report being delivered. Number One nodded every now and then, still smiling slightly as she listened to the Vulcan.

"Is that your final decision, Spock?" Kirk heard her question, spoken considerably louder. "Are you sure I can't make you change your mind?"

The Vulcan shook his head, looking strangely upset, if the word recognizing one of the most human emotions was applying here. Kirk realized his curiosity was triggered by this new development in quite a formidable measure. What he saw next would have knocked him off his feet had he been standing.

Lieutenant raised his hand in Vulcan salute and Kirk as good as heard his words, which were undoubtedly 'live long and prosper.' Number One returned the gesture in the same formal manner and then suddenly cordially offered her hand to the Vulcan. He took it without a split second hesitation, returning the shake firmly.

Kirk couldn't help but gape at the strange couple. He had never seen any Vulcan willingly initiating an unnecessary physical contact. Never. There was no question that they would give a hand if one fell into a swamp or carry a person out of danger zone, but they never deliberately participated in any form of physical contact if they could avoid it. Being touch telepaths surrounded by people who did not shield their emotions, they had to exercise constant caution. Kirk knew that, having spent a considerable time in the company of two Vulcan envoys the Republic had been transporting to a peace conference some four years ago. Noticing the unease that most of the crew were experiencing in their presence and the unwavering curiosity and friendly disposition of the young Lt. Commander Kirk, Captain Sanchez assigned him to be the liaison between him and the diplomats to everyone's satisfaction. Kirk had learnt quite a bit about the Vulcan traits during the two months voyage, though naturally he was still considered an outsider by them. Their telepathic abilities, however, were not a forbidden subject and it was then when he found out in more details than the Academy manual would go into about the nature of their powers.

He was genuinely surprised to see the Vulcan Lieutenant participating in a very much corporeal human ritual of a handshake. The next moment he found out he was in for a major shock as Number One, evidently, felt the formal shake was not enough to express her emotions. She pulled the Vulcan into a tight embrace, her hands gripping his arms, her head resting naturally on his shoulder. The Vulcan stiffened ever so slightly but did not pull back, allowing the prolonged contact, his hands holding the woman's waist uncertainly, as if he was willing but didn't quite know how to respond.

She released him shortly, looking up at him with a warm sincere smile, her eyes watering slightly.

"Take care, Spock," Number One said. "It has been an honor and a pleasure serving with you."

This time a still dazed Kirk heard his answer, as unexpected from a Vulcan as his previous actions.

"The pleasure and the honor have been all mine."

With one last look at him, she turned and joined the queue crooking towards the transporter. The Vulcan watched her, hands clasped behind his back, until it was her turn to be beamed up to some unknown destination. As soon as her figure disappeared in the dematerialization haze, the Vulcan turned to go, too; his face once more was showing its usual impassionate calm. Kirk had soon lost the sight of him in the crowd.

"More coffee, sir?" A loud voice startled him. Kirk looked up to see a young waitress smiling brightly at him, holding a coffee-pot.

"Yes, please," he smiled back.

"I'll have one too," another cheerful voice, a familiar this time, came from behind the girl.

"Gary," Kirk stood up to greet his friend. "At last."

"Sorry, Jim," Gary Mitchell, his long term friend and now his First Officer, took a seat opposite him, smiling apologetically. "I was detained, overseeing the preparations. I have no official powers as yet, but quite a bunch of responsibilities."

"Same as always," Kirk nodded, genuinely pleased to see him. "Tell me it's not going to be this bad."

"Well, it's gonna be pretty brief, that's for sure," Mitchell said slyly. "Don't worry, Jim, nobody's gonna eat you alive. Not even Pike."

"That's a relief," Kirk retorted sardonically. "But I wasn't really worried about that. It's all that pompous ceremonial mess again. You know how I hate it."

"Deal with it," Mitchell advised confidently, taking a sip of his coffee and nodding his thanks to the waitress. "Hell, this stuff is good. What a shame we can't make an acceptable replica aboard. Though from what I've heard your yeoman is an expert."

"My yeoman?"

"You are the Captain, remember? You are entitled to a personal yeoman. She seems cute enough, so don't worry."

"It's a she? That sure is smart."

Mitchell snorted. "Don't frat, Jim. I believe even you can exercise a certain measure of control, can't you?"

"Why, thanks, Gary. That's rich coming from you."

"Hey! I hope you won't ruin my reputation during your very first hour aboard! I haven't yet met all of them pretties to make my choice."

Kirk shook his head, slightly amused. He could remember a dozen conversations like this one, but never had he been feeling so uninterested. Was this indeed aging? Or were the burdens of command occupying his mind so completely, they didn't leave any room for fun?

"How's the crew shaping up?" He asked, getting down to business. "Are we short considerably?"

"Not really," Mitchell replied. "Most senior staff positions are occupied with either remaining or newly transferred personnel. You should meet our Chief Engineer, he's one of those who stays. The guy is a treat, but I won't spoil it for you."

"What about the CMO?"

"That's a problem," Gary acknowledged with a nod. "But not an immediate one. Dr. Piper is staying for another rotation at least so you can take your time choosing someone to replace him. We'll be picking up our Communications Officer from the Potemkin in two days. As for the rest of the Bridge crew, it's settled."

"Good work, Gary," Kirk nodded appreciatively.

"Well, I'm glad you think so. It's been quite a mess with all those transfers and promotions. Pike's exec was not much help, either. I swear to God, Jim, one look from her can freeze a desert. Arrogant as hell. Nice thing she leaves, too."

"She already had," Kirk commented calmly. He never told Gary about his meeting with Number One on Canopus II and he didn't feel this was a good moment to do it. But he couldn't help probing into the matter further. "I saw her beaming up somewhere, all packed and ready."

"I'm glad. You know they say she had a thing for Pike, but personally I don't believe it. She's a damn walking refrigerator, never smiling, never talking about anything but work. She doesn't know how to make friends."

"I wouldn't be so sure, just because she didn't make friends with you," Kirk teased him rather dryly. "She was all smiles here and damn friendly when she said her goodbyes."

Mitchell stared at him in utter disbelief.

"That's impossible. I'm telling you, I've been watching her for two months. She's as friendly as a tricorder. Whom did she say her goodbyes to, anyway? Pike's still up there, so is Dr. Piper. I never saw her talking to anyone else on board, save giving orders."

"Well, that's a bit of a mystery," Kirk admitted. "There was a Lieutenant here, a Vulcan. I think she called him…"

"Spock," Mitchell finished for him, looking somewhat scornful. "Pike's Science Officer."

Kirk raised his eyebrows in surprise.

"I've never heard of a Vulcan serving with humans," he said. Now that he thought of it, he remembered he did see the Enterprise insignia on the Vulcan's uniform, though he was too distracted at the time to pay it any attention.

"Well, he's the only one, as far as I know," Gary said, still frowning. "He's been Pike's third-in-command for many years, from what I heard. I thought he'd be leaving with him."

"He's not?" Jim asked, recalling Number One's question 'Is that your final decision, Spock?'

"He's not, but I think you have to consider transferring him as soon as we can get someone to replace him."

"Why?" Kirk was surprised at Gary's evident disliking of the Vulcan. He had never known his friend to dismiss anyone that easily. "He must be a capable science officer."

"He's capable, all right, but… Well, I don't quite know how to put it… He's strange. He's no better in a way than Number One. Damn computerized icebergs, those two, no wonder she was so friendly with him. But now that Pike's old crew's falling apart I don't think a lot of people will like him. He's cold, arrogant, self-important, if you please. I can't imagine working with him closely."

"But he's a Vulcan, Gary, what did you expect?" Kirk asked, frowning now.

"I didn't expect anything, Jim. I just don't think he's fitting in, that's all."

"I think I want to make this determination myself," Kirk said firmly. "If he wants to stay, he's staying."

Mitchell shrugged, clearly not wishing to start a fight.

"As you wish, Captain," he said. "But don't complain I didn't warn you."

"I appreciate your concern."

"Jim," Mitchell sighed, not buying his formal tone. "I know how you like to treat those under your command. You like to know them, to keep things friendly. But I do warn you don't try to make friends with Spock. You're gonna waste your time and you're gonna be disappointed. If there's anything he's incapable of, it's feelings."

Kirk was silent for a while, contemplating Gary's words. Mitchell was probably right. He had the opportunity to observe the Science Officer in action for some time and he, Kirk, only saw him several minutes ago for a couple of short moments. Yet it didn't feel right to him to dismiss someone without giving them a chance. The Vulcan was, after all, as Gary himself had said, Pike's third-in-command for many years, and whatever opinion of Chris Pike's personal profile Kirk might have had, he never doubted his command talents. If he found Spock valuable enough to keep him with him all those years, there had to be a reason for that.

"We'll see, Gary," he said in a much softer voice to his genuinely concerned friend. "I promise you, I won't be expecting champagne and flowers from him."

Mitchell smiled in acknowledgement and got to his feet.

"It's time for me to beam up," he said, sparing a glance at the chronometer. "I haven't even changed yet and I'm the one to officially greet you aboard in ten minutes."

Kirk shook his head, grinning.

"I feel pretty stupid about all this," he confessed.

"Well, you're the captain, Captain," Mitchell saluted him with a wry smirk. "It's about time."

He left on the run before Kirk could retaliate.

He was nervous. Counting minutes until he was due to beam up to the Enterprise, he remembered his brother's words when Sam and his family came to see him off to his first command mission. 'It's gonna get worse before it gets better, Little Bro.' Sam was a scientist, Kirk mused silently, he had to know better. He wished he could talk to Sam now, getting some relief in his agitated but controlled state. Finally, he decided it was the time and headed towards the transporter.

"This way, sir," the technician operating the transporter nodded politely and pointed at an unoccupied pad meant for senior officers and emergencies. "Destination, please?"

"The Enterprise," Kirk replied in a tight voice.

"Very good, sir. Energizing."

Slowly, the Starbase dissipated before his eyes as the sparkling cocoon of dematerialization surrounded him. He shifted slightly, trying to remember if he was wearing his dress-uniform as obliged by protocol. The nervous thought slipped away as the Enterprise Transporter Room began to appear bit by bit in front of him.

Gary was awaiting him in his dress-uniform as well, looking serious and determined, for which Kirk was grateful. He didn't think he could have held it together if Mitchell so much as smiled at him. He was accompanied by a Lieutenant, wearing command gold. Kirk addressed Mitchell formally.

"Permission to come aboard, sir?"

"Granted, sir," Gary replied just as formally. "Welcome aboard, Captain Kirk."

"Thank you, Commander." He stepped off the pad.

"This is Lieutenant Kelso, sir, our helmsman."

"Captain," Kelso saluted.

Kirk nodded in reply, looking at Mitchell again. The Commander stepped aside, indicating the way.

"Captain Pike and the crew of the Enterprise await you at the hangar deck, sir."

"Very well, let's not keep them waiting," Kirk nodded again.

Mitchell led the way as confidently and importantly as if it were the President himself he was greeting. Lieutenant Kelso fell into stride respectfully after Kirk. Walking along the corridors of this ship that was about to become his, Jim caught himself thinking about just how many of the old navy traditions made it into space. The Fleet organization, their ranks, the chain of command system, this ceremony itself – were all parts of the traditions that had been born when men had sailed the seas not the black vacuum of space.

'All I wish for is a tall ship and a star to steer her by.'

The line sprang into his mind seemingly from nowhere and lingered for a moment, making him smile to himself. Whatever happens aboard this ship under his command he would not be ashamed of it.

The doors of the hangar deck swooshed open and Mitchell, who walked in first, announced loudly. "Captain on deck!"

There was a distinct noise as a lot of feet shifted instantly to attention. In silence that fell directly after that, Kirk entered the deck.

The crew of the Enterprise stood rigidly at attention forming a straight corridor from the doors to a small podium in the centre where the most senior officers including Captain Pike were waiting. Kirk marched confidently along these live walls, looking straight at his predecessor.

Pike appeared to be much as Kirk remembered him, though probably a little paler and thinner. Still incredibly handsome and elegant, he stood at the podium as rigid and formal as everyone else, watching Kirk and his group approach with cool attention. Kelso and Mitchell took their places in the line and Jim came to stand at Pike's side, as he was supposed to. A naval bell rang three times and Pike stepped forward, facing his crew for the last time.

The Vulcan, who was standing right next to Mitchell in his blue dress-uniform, gave his Captain a pad with a respectful nod and returned to his place, staring like everybody else directly in front of him.

"At ease," Pike ordered quietly, his voice ringing with authority.

The crew shifted as one, standing now 'at ease' facing the podium. Pike began to read his orders in an even calm voice.

"To Christopher Pike, Captain of the USS Enterprise. As of this day, stardate 1101.5 you are relieved of command of the USS Enterprise. You are to report to Earth II Colony to assume your new responsibilities as Fleet Captain of the sector. Let it be noted that your service aboard the USS Enterprise had been exemplary and earned the highest commendation of Starfleet Command. Komack, Admiral of Starfleet."

Finishing reading, Pike looked up at his crew, seeing a lot of empty places where his loyal officers used to be. For a moment and for a moment only, his face showed a glimpse of regret he was feeling at the sight.

"Officers and crew," he said in the same formal voice that was now ringing with emotion. "It has been a great honor to serve with you all these years. Your services to the Federation had been numerous, your record is outstanding. May it be that the fortune of the deep space will always be with you and with the USS Enterprise, the finest ship in the Fleet."

He stepped back in absolute silence that greeted his words. Kirk took his place at the podium, taking a similar pad from Mitchell. Painfully aware of the breathtaking effect Pike's words had rendered the audience, he hoped his voice would not be shaking. Looking stern due to the overwhelming tension, he began to read his own orders.

"To Captain James T. Kirk. You are hereby ordered to take command of the USS Enterprise. As of this day, stardate 1101.5 you are named the Officer of the Record of the USS Enterprise with full responsibility for the ship and crew. Your orders are to continue the mission of peaceful exploration of the galaxy. Komack, Admiral of Starfleet."

At least, he sounded even and confident, he thought with a certain measure of relief, which he didn't show. He kept his place, waiting for Pike to join him. Pike returned to the centre of the podium, looking at Kirk directly.

"Records Officer," he called loud enough for everyone to hear. "Log transfer of command codes to Captain James T. Kirk. Authorization Pike alpha four tango."

"Command codes' transfer is complete," the Records Officer reported.

"I relieve you, sir," Kirk said, his voice calm and official.

"I stand relieved."

It was a painful moment for both of them, but they did everything within their power not to let anybody else notice it. Pike offered Kirk his hand and Kirk shook it, the feeling of completion hitting him.

It was his turn to address the crew and although he had played his speech for countless times in his mind it felt no easier. Yet, as he began to speak, his voice grew more confident and powerful with every new word he spoke.

"Officers and crew of the USS Enterprise, I hereby take command of this vessel. I am well aware of this ship's honorable record. I hope that each and every one of you will continue to fulfill his or her obligations to the best of your abilities and together we will continue this glorious tradition of an outstanding service. The great mission lies ahead of us. Our mission is to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before. This is a great honor and the best service in the universe. We will do whatever our duty requires of us with open hearts and commitment. Let the stars lead us on this path of great exploration. I am as certain of you as I am of myself to be the guardians of peace and prosperity of the Federation. It is time we begin our voyage." He made a calculated pause, before adding, "Dismissed."

Slowly, reluctantly, as if waking up from a spell, the crew began to move out of the hangar deck, starting to talk on their way out thus filling the air with general amount of comfortable noise. Mitchell stepped closer to his former and present commanding officers.

"Captain, Captain," he nodded politely to Pike and Kirk in turn. "All is ready for the reception in the wardroom. If you'll follow me, please."

"Go ahead, Commander," Pike answered a bit wearily. "I would like a word with Captain Kirk."

"We'll follow you shortly," Kirk nodded.

"Very well, sir," Mitchell left.

"Excuse me for just one moment, Captain," Pike said to Kirk, moving fast away from him to intercept his former Science Officer. "Mr. Spock!"

The Vulcan, who was nearly at the doors, looked back and walked immediately towards Pike. They met halfway and Kirk, who remained where Pike had left him, watched the interaction curiously. He was well out of earshot, so he could only collect visual data. Pike, who was taller than he, was still considerably shorter than the Vulcan. The latter looked slim next to the muscular Captain, but somehow Kirk didn't think it was wise to trust this impression. The Science Officer walked with certain almost catlike grace, there was something mildly menacing about the smoothness of his movements. With his black hair, black eyes under the straight lines of eyebrows going upward in quite an inhuman fashion, pale skin and most of all with his pointy ears, he bore such a close resemblance to the devil as most humans pictured him, he would have been instantly convicted and burnt had a fluke of fate sent him to the Medieval Earth.

He was listening with utmost attention to something Pike was telling him, shaking his head a couple of times. Then he spoke, evidently answering a question. Pike nodded and dismissed him, turning back to Kirk. He looked somewhat upset and Kirk sensed instantly that this particular sadness had nothing to do with him or the change of command.

"I'm sorry, Captain," Pike said as he returned. "I'm beaming down shortly and we had some… unfinished business."

Kirk nodded politely, watching the Vulcan leave, his shoulders going slightly down as if he, too, was upset by the conversation.

"That was quite a speech," Pike told him, smiling suddenly. "To boldly go… You have a talent for rhetoric."

Kirk shook his head, feeling safe enough to smile.

"They are your crew, Captain. I wasn't trying to impress them… yet."

Pike laughed softly.

"Call me Chris, Kirk. They are not my crew anymore, they are yours and something tells me you have impressed them already. Damn, why do you have to be so young?" He asked abruptly.

Kirk shrugged with a good natured smile.

"Guilty as charged. But so were you, Chris, when you assumed command."

"Nah, I was never that young. Sometimes it seems to me I was born in my forties," he sighed, his gaze becoming misty for a moment. "But that's not what I wanted to talk to you about. First of all, I'm sorry we didn't meet before all this. It's my fault, Jim, I was somewhat… distracted. We were engaged in a couple of personnel fights around here, I guess, I simply had other things on my mind."

"I'm glad to hear it," Kirk confessed, covering the truth in humor. "I have decided you don't want to even think of someone as young as me taking over for you."

"Well, you do look like a teenager," Pike admitted. "But I know your record, Jim. A lot of people say you're just Komack's protégé, that's why you went up so fast. I know different. I am not displeased they chose you to replace me. The Enterprise needs someone like you. Young and romantic you might be, but witnessing Tarsus IV and being at Lira II, you can't be this light-minded, can you?"

Kirk shook his head, looking somber at the reminders. It turned out, Pike knew his background pretty well.

"Anyway, I just wanted to give you a little heads-up on the crew. Indulge me I'm still somewhat attached to them."

"You hardly need to explain, Chris."

"Yes, well. First of all, this Mitchell fellow seems bright enough. That's all very fine, of course, but I'd watch him if I were you. There's something disturbing about this guy, I can't quite tell you what, but I can sense it. I'm sorry, they say he's your friend and I mean no disrespect, it's just an outsider's perspective. Now, about Dr. Piper. I know he'll be leaving when the next rotation comes, but until then, Kirk, take good care of him. Mark is an excellent CMO, he's done a great job taking over for Phil Boyce. I believe you'll find him quite valuable an adviser. Whenever you have personnel problems, consult him. He's been here long enough to know everybody's history. He can be a great asset to you. Down to Engineering. Lieutenant Scott is long overdue for a promotion."

"The guy in the kilt?" Kirk asked as he remembered noticing a rather peculiar variation of a dress-uniform.

"The very same. He has no ambitions whatsoever but he's quite crazy about his engines, knows them upside down. He's your best Chief Engineer if ever there were one. It was as much as I could have done for him, the ball's now in your corner. Trust him, Kirk, he's never been wrong about what this ship can or cannot do."

"I'll try," Kirk nodded. "What about Mr. Spock?"

Pike glanced at him sharply, but Kirk looked at him with innocent attention and he relaxed, seeing no hidden sense in the question.

"Spock," he sighed, "is a good officer. He is logical, pragmatic and damn smart, Kirk. Use him whenever his knowledge might come in handy, but don't try to make friends with him – he won't respond. If you know what's good for you, keep him in the Science Section as long as you can but don't trust him out of your sight. And don't ever worry about his ego when you make command decisions, he doesn't have one to bruise."

Pike's voice, amicable and polite before, became strangely harsh when he talked about Spock; his words seemed to Kirk rather tart if not downright cruel. He tried not to let his surprise show on his face, but he would have been a poor commander had he not noticed the vehemence of feelings behind Pike's words. Something undoubtedly happened between the Captain and the Vulcan and happened only recently for it still hurt like an open wound. 'Don't try to make friends with him – he won't respond,' Pike had said. But down there at the Starbase with Number One, Spock seemed perfectly and even over-responsive for a Vulcan. Kirk nodded politely, keeping his observations to himself. Pike, however, seemed to notice some unease of his. He smiled with some of his former friendliness returned.

"He's a fine officer, Kirk, believe me. Just remember, he's a Vulcan. Don't expect him to be like us."

Kirk nodded again, frowning inwardly. This was the second time he had been warned about Spock and he hadn't even met the man yet! Could he possibly be this formidable a presence?

"I've had my share of dealings with Vulcans, Chris," he said aloud. "I think I can manage. Is there anything else you wish to tell me?"

"Just one thing," Pike looked at him sternly, summoning his best command gaze. "Take good care of my ship, Captain Kirk. And Jim," he smiled at Kirk's serious expression. "I'll be really disappointed if you don't get into a lot of trouble galloping across the galaxy. It's business for the young."

They shook hands, seemingly pleased with each other.

"Well, let's go to this damn reception," Pike sighed turning to go. "I'll introduce you to your senior staff before beaming down."

They left the hangar deck and walked along the empty corridor to the turbolift.

"A piece of advice, Jim," Pike said suddenly, looking sour. "If you know what's good for you, don't let them ever promote you. This is your first command and right now you think you've got forever ahead of you, but I remember my first day if though it was only yesterday. Don't let them honor you with some pompous title because to every one of those there's a ground position attached."

"Why did you accept your promotion, Chris?" Kirk asked quietly.

Pike sighed.

"As some would say, at the time it seemed a logical thing to do," he said wryly. "Never mind. Believe me, Jim, if only I could refuse that damn promotion, we wouldn't be talking now. This ship is the only real life I've known. I haven't quite figured out how to live without it yet."

"I'm sorry you feel that way," Kirk said, not knowing how to comfort him. He had a distinct impression there could be no comforting in this situation, especially not from him.

"Nah, don't be," Pike shook his head. "Just watch your back, Kirk. They'll be waiting for you before you know it."

They entered the turbolift and Pike called for their destination.

"She's a fine ship, Chris," Kirk said in order to lighten his mood.

"She's the best," Pike nodded. "You must be damn good to be worthy of her. She's a class of her own. You should hear Scotty talk about her. Don't ever say anything, even joke about her when he's around, Kirk. No one will guarantee your safety if you do."

Kirk smiled imagining the picture. "I'll remember."

They walked out of the turbolift and almost instantly were at the entrance to the wardroom. The doors swooshed open and some lower Lieutenant shouted upon noticing them.

"Captains on deck!"

This time the announcement was greeted with loud cheers. Kirk and Pike entered, sending trademark captain's smiles around them. The room was crowded with officers in their dress-uniforms, talking, laughing and helping themselves to a variety of dishes and drinks. Kirk spotted Mitchell in the far corner of the room talking to a very attractive blonde girl, wearing dress-gold. His First Officer smiled at him and waved, asking silently for permission to stay where he was. Smiling involuntarily in return, Kirk nodded.

The two Captains exchanged a glance and Pike led Kirk straight to a young dark-haired Lieutenant wearing red dress-tunic and a tartan that Kirk noticed earlier.

"Captain Kirk, this is your Chief Engineer Lieutenant Montgomery Scott," Pike said formally, but his eyes were smiling.

"Pleasure to meet you, Mr. Scott," Kirk shook his hand, feeling instantly he sympathized the man already. "Captain Pike speaks very highly of you."

"Aye, sir, the Captain is very kind," Scott answered with such a strong Scottish accent, it made Kirk smile as he remembered Gary's promise that the man was a treat.

"I suppose our engines are at their top efficiency, Mr. Scott?" He asked more for the sake of conversation than really concerned.

"Aye, sir, they are. Would ye like me to show ye me bairns now, Captain?" He asked enthusiastically.

Kirk looked at Chris for help and Pike explained with a small smile. "That's what he calls his engines, Jim. I told you, he's very protective of them."

"Aye, sir," Scott smiled, going slightly red. "What's nae to protect?"

"I think we can schedule a tour for later, Mr. Scott," Kirk said kindly. "I'd really like to check your Engine Room myself."

"Whenever ye're ready, sir, just give the word."

"Thank you, Mr. Scott. Enjoy the party."

Looking around at the chattering crowd, Kirk wished Gary would disengage himself from his beautiful companion and join him, but that didn't seem very likely. Pike, meanwhile, introduced him to the majority of his Bridge crew and finally led him to the far corner where Kirk noticed the Vulcan talking to an elderly man also in dress-blue.

"Captain Kirk, this is our Chief Medical Officer Dr. Mark Piper," Pike said evenly, but Kirk couldn't help noticing that his eyes were on Spock, who instantly dropped his gaze to the floor.

"Nice to meet you, Captain," Piper said, shaking hands with Kirk and watching him intently. Following his gaze, the Doctor said politely. "This is our Science Officer, Lieutenant Spock."

The Vulcan looked up at his new commander impassively, his facial expression cool and giving nothing away. Kirk raised his hand in Vulcan salute and said with what he knew must have been a terrible accent.

"Mehe nakkhet ur-seveh, Mr. Spock."

He sensed more than saw a sparkle of interest kindling instantly in Spock's dark eyes and knew he'd made a connection. 'We'll see,' Kirk mused silently, unaware of his smile becoming positively radiant.

"Live long and prosper, Captain," Spock returned the greeting in Standard.

"Was that Vulcan, Captain?" Piper asked with genuine curiosity.

"More like a twisted version of it," Kirk confessed. "Wasn't it, Mr. Spock?"

The Vulcan raised an eyebrow slightly.

"Your pronunciation leaves a lot to be desired, sir," he acknowledged honestly. "But it is not often I hear my native tongue from a human, Captain, and I deeply appreciate your trouble."

"It was no trouble, Mr. Spock," Kirk shook his head, amused by his officer's frank assessment of his language skills. It wasn't often either that he heard any critical remarks regarding something he'd done nowadays. "I wouldn't want to disappoint you so I'd better admit right now that it's about all I know in Vulcan."

Spock inclined his head politely.

"That is still more than most people do, sir. And I shall be happy to help you correct your accent should you wish for it."

Once again, Kirk felt curious at his choice of words. 'I shall be happy.' Could have been just an expression, he reflected. Could have been more. At any rate, he felt that the word 'unresponsive' did not apply to this particular Vulcan at all. Then why would both Pike and Gary insist on him keeping his distance?

"I would indeed, Mr. Spock," he said aloud. "At some point in future. Thank you for your offer."

"There you are, Captain," Gary's enthusiastic voice came from behind. "Concluded your introductions?"

"Excuse me, gentlemen," Pike said and walked away with the Doctor as Kirk nodded to Mitchell.

"Come, Jim, I want you to meet someone," Gary took his arm and steered him off.

Kirk followed him somewhat reluctantly, feeling he wasn't quite finished with Spock and it wasn't too polite to leave him like that. Gary, however, paid the Vulcan no attention as if he wasn't there. He was way off his skin, telling Kirk all about the exceptional talents of one Lieutenant Tracy from Life Science department that he was courting. In the haze of his friend's animated chatter and amicable introductions to 'the fair side of the crew' Kirk could somehow feel Spock's gaze following him across the room, though how exactly he could sense it he could not explain.

Some half an hour later, he disengaged himself from Gary and noticed that neither Pike, nor Spock were still there. He knew instantly if inexplicably once again that the Science Officer had gone to see his Captain off. An interesting relationship, to say the least. Quite contradictory to Pike's words and behavior regarding the Vulcan.

Kirk was intrigued and felt pleased about it. He enjoyed a challenge and there it was, lying clearly in front of him. That would be an interesting tour of duty, much more curious in fact than could be expected.