Title: A New Day
Author: kodiak bear
Genre: Gen, a little action/adventure, H/C
Word Count: 6700
Warnings: Spoilers for Star Trek XI
Summary: After Jim tells Bones to 'Buckle Up', where'd they go first? This is that mission.
AN: Thanks again to my wonderful betas linzi5 and sffuzzywriter! Encouragement,suggestions, are all theirs and this time I can't even take credit for the title! Remaining mistakes are all mine, I've tweaked and fiddled and probably made more errors in the making.
A New Day
In hindsight, Jim is surprised it takes the galaxy as long as it does to bitch slap him down. You think you're on top, winning every hand, beating the odds...then you take command of a Starship at the precocious age of twenty-five.
The Enterprise arrives on time at the first world on their mission slate, a standard check-in with a colony, and Jim opens with, "Beta Colony, this is Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise. We've got your relief supplies."
The older man's face degenerates into confusion, disbelief, and he says, irritated, "Son, I don't think your father would find it funny, impersonating a Starfleet officer and hailing the government of Beta Colony. Put your Dad on before I have to call Starfleet HQ myself."
And it all goes downhill from there.
Jim doesn't have a problem being an ass to anyone within ten to fifteen years of himself. Any older and he has to deal with a natural inclination to at least attempt faking diplomacy. Pike's fault, really. This whole mess, Jim thinks. While he argues with a politician dead-set on having Jim written up for stealing a starship and imitating an officer, and a whole other long list of wrongs which, Jim thinks, includes the fact that the man is just pissed at being made to look in the mirror and consider time is a fickle friend.
In the end, Jim says, "Governor, I appreciate your vote of confidence." He scowls inwardly and knows his fists are clenched tight against his thighs. He should've stayed in his seat, wouldn't have showed as much emotion. "We'll beam your supplies directly to your colony's storage buildings. If there are any medical cases requiring the services of my ship's medical officer, say so now, otherwise we have important missions waiting."
"Son, I could've been changing your diapers when we started this colony --"
Spock, in a blessed moment of insight, steps forward. He senses correctly, Jim's growing inability to maintain even the slightest facade of patience. "With all due respect, Governor, I fail to see the significance of that fact. Once an individual has achieved the status of adulthood, they are fully capable of performing whatever tasks they are so trained for."
Up against Spock's flat logic and clipped words, the Governor makes a face, grumbles that they are ready for the supplies and he will get back to the Enterprise if there are any medical emergencies requiring assistance.
They don't, thank God, have any, because Jim has had just about enough of Beta Colony. He orders Sulu to set a course for 'anywhere but here' and leaves command to Spock. He needs a drink. Something to affirm he really is an adult and 'fully capable' as Spock put it. Because right now he's thinking if he can't get a measly governor to shut up and accept the aid requested, how is he going to broker treaties, initiate first contacts, or any of those things that starship captains are responsible for.
He finds McCoy, because one thing that McCoy is good for, is sharing the good stuff, and knowing when it's time to do the sharing. He sulks into sickbay and throws himself into a chair across from his friend. One look at his face and McCoy grabs the decanter from under his desk, thunks it down, and pours Jim a small tumbler, pushing it across the desk toward him. "Drink it; you look like you could use one."
Jim tosses it back in one gulp and slams the glass down.
"I'm sure you could break it if you tried a little harder."
"The governor was an --"
"--ass?" McCoy guesses, his eyebrow lifting. When he sees Jim stare at him with what could only be deemed as open suspicion, because some little bird has been telling tales, McCoy gives Jim another look and drawls, "Of course he ratted you out; that's his job, Jim." He pours himself a glass and drinks it down, smiling in satisfaction. Jim was pretty sure he'd have to thank Scotty for recommending the year. "First officers exist to lecture captains on regulations, nitpick their decisions, and worry about their safety and state of mind. Guess what kind of first officer you picked?" McCoy is now laughing at the universe, fate, the poor fool of his unlucky captain sitting across from him. "You, my friend," says McCoy as he pours another, "chose a Vulcan. Known across the galaxy for their tenacity and impeccable knack for being more hard-headed and stubborn than any human I've ever known."
Jim snatches the tumbler and muses on it. "I didn't choose him," he finally replies, cranky. "He chose me."
"You could've said no."
His mind flashes back to the pleased expression on older Spock's face when he recognized Jim in the snow cave on Delta Vega. One might even say joy, if one was someone other than Jim. He drinks and says nothing. He couldn't have said no, not even if he'd wanted to, just for remembering that look alone. But he'd admit to himself, he had been strangely pleased to have Spock volunteer. Not one to dwell on the 'whys' Jim had left it at that and pressed on.
"Right," McCoy says to himself. He takes the glass from Jim and at the disgruntled expression reminds him, "You're always on duty now. Get used to it." He stares sorrowfully at the decanter. "I'm always on duty now."
As if the universe wanted to agree, the red alert blares and Spock comes across the comms. "Captain Kirk to the bridge."
Jim strides from the turbo lift, sees Spock stand from the chair, releasing command to his captain. "Report, Spock," he orders, moving seamlessly to the center of his bridge.
This, he thinks, is where he belongs. Here he has found a sense of being, purpose. It's what steels his spine and causes him to leave some of the youthful anger and trouble making behind. The Academy? That'd just been another challenge. He'd taken up Pike's gauntlet and set out to prove he could do it in three just because Pike had said it'd take four. It'd been a game, like his whole life, always trying to surprise his opponents and win before they ever saw it coming.
But this ship, this complex ship full of people – this was what he'd needed.
"Beta Colony has sent out a general distress signal, Captain. Emergency channels only, automated response. We have been unable to hail them directly."
Spock is concerned and Jim suspects that when Spock is concerned, so should he be.
"Lieutenant," Jim asks, swiveling to get Uhura's attention, "picking up any other signals?" If it had been an attack, though Klingons were unlikely given their recent losses, maybe the enemy was still in the area, transmitting.
Nyota, and what a kick that was, finally knowing her name after three years of trying to chase it down, frowns at her console, pressing a delicate fingertip against her earpiece. She's concentrating, blocking out the rest of her world. He waits only for her to shake her head. "No, Captain," she says, the address coming smoothly off her tongue, but he still hears 'you' in that surprised and accusatory tone. Jim idly wonders how long it'll take before he hears 'captain' whenever she's actually saying it. He grins, enjoying the memories and she glares at him, suspicious of the mountains of which his mind is leaping to and fro. Her voice is slightly frosty as she elaborates, "And the signal from Beta Colony has stopped transmitting."
Right. Beta Colony. And Jim's favorite governor. "Open hailing frequencies, try again, Lieutenant." If at first you don't succeed, try, try again...
She continues to glare at her controls and Jim is thankful not all of her ire is directed his way. A few moments and she shakes her head again, her lips pursed together, disappointed. She almost seems to take it as a personal affront, that the colony is not cooperating in the communications department.
Sulu's hands move deftly over his nav controls. Jim makes a decision. "Move us into standard orbit, Mr. Sulu." He flips a toggle on his chair. "Doctor McCoy, ready yourself for an away team." His eyes seek out Spock's. "We're beaming down."
"--not natural. Disintegration --"
They beam into stifling heat and gore, McCoy's rant starting up where it left off only to scream to an abrupt stop when they see what's all around them. The taste of copper fills his mouth and it takes all Jim has, not to rush to the side and gag. They'd beamed into the assembly room and all that remains of the governor and his men, well, Jim would be hard put to even tell how many men had been in the room, were torn limbs, skin and organic matter. The walls are splattered, the blood, already sticky and thick against the soles of his boots.
McCoy swears and Jim figures if McCoy is that shade of pale, what must he look like?
"What the hell," Jim whispers, his mouth dry.
Spock is unreadable. He has his tricorder out before most of them have even managed to fully process what they're seeing. His eyes reveal something then; troubled, he turns to Jim. "Captain, I believe we should --"
Whatever he meant to say, is lost then; a guttural scream, low and throaty, full of fury and hatred, clouds the room. Jim has his phaser out and swings around, searching for the source of danger. What killed these people...how'd it get here? What caused it to murder so horribly that what it left behind was hardly enough to identify, let alone bury?
One moment he's visually scanning for the thing, creature, whatever it is, and the next, slamming into the wall with a force so strong his teeth rattle in his head. Jim moans against the pain, rolling, trying to get himself back up, defend himself.
"Jim!" McCoy shouts.
Spock steps toward him. "Captain!"
The security guard that'd been standing to his left stares at him, surprise on his lips, right before his head is ripped cleanly from his body. Now Jim does gag, but he snarls down his body's betrayal. He's yanking out his communicator, desperately trying to flip it open while trying to find just what is in the room with them. He can't see anything, but it's here. It just killed the single security member he'd brought with them. His crew, his friends, they're in danger and Jim's scared shitless right now and being scared makes him angry as hell. "Enterprise," he shouts, "three to beam up!"
"Captain," Scotty answers, and there's worry in his voice, "there's some sort of jamming field. I can no more get a lock on you than carry you home myself."
His accent increases with his distress. Jim almost wishes he has an accent himself, because the only way he can express his growing realization at just how much trouble they're in, is by gesturing wildly at Spock to get McCoy and get out of this room. "Go, go," he shouts.
They go, they run towards the door like the devil itself is after them, and Jim wonders if maybe it is, because he's never seen this kind of slaughter before. He sees Spock drag McCoy through and then Jim is leaping for it, tumbling forward, when something sharp snags his leg. He sprawls, flat on the floor, his phaser spinning away from the impact; his torso is free of the doorway, but his legs are left in the shadow of the assembly building. He finds himself fighting against the pull trying to drag him back. Some instinct tells Jim if he can just get out into the daylight, he'll be okay. Trouble is, whatever has him, doesn't want to let him.
His eyes flash up, taking in McCoy, open-mouthed with shock, and Spock, lips compressed in a fine line of masked fury. His Vulcan first officer lunges forward, moving with lightning quick reflexes, and while Jim had been less than appreciative of those qualities when they were beating him senseless, he's now amazingly grateful.
Jim yelps, growls at the sharp, knife-like tearing at his lower leg, even while he tries to drag himself forward. Spock has his shoulder, fires into the dim room. His grip is bruising but it's a lifeline and Jim helps him with everything he's got, kicking back at the unseen foe. Though he sees nothing, he feels the hard impact against his boot. The stunner coalesces against a vague shape and the grip on Jim's leg slips to his ankle, dragging lines of pain with it, until Jim is sliding forward, fully into the light, Spock grim in his determination.
Jim rolls onto his back, blinking at the bright sunlight. He's bathed in sweat, fights to control the need to shake from that brief encounter; he knows he just brushed lightly against death, and won, thanks to Spock.
"Doctor, I believe the captain is in need of your assistance."
"What on God's green Earth was that thing?" McCoy splutters. He is waking up, moving towards Jim, damping down his fear and surprise that had momentarily stunned him. He crawls across the inches separating him from Jim, not bothering to waste time in standing.
Jim waves him away, sits up. "I'm fine, Bones." He reaches for a hand from Spock, who after hesitating a moment, concedes that if the captain wants to get up, he'll probably keep trying until he succeeds and he might as well help him rather than watch him flop about. Spock was right about that, by the way; Jim has a real problem doing anything other than what he wants to do.
"You're not fine, man! Have you seen what that...thing...did to your leg!" McCoy is trying to open up his med kit, point at Jim's leg, and glare at Spock all at once.
Spock, however, is moving forward already, following Jim because Jim needs to see more. Are there any colonists alive, any survivors, and if so, what can they tell him about that creature that'd just murdered at least ten, including what appeared to be the colony's political power and one of Jim's crewmen. He's lost his first man on his first mission. The fact that he doesn't even need Spock to tell him how illogical it is, to think he could've saved that crewman, just leaves him flat, unimpressed. That's his job. To save lives. Protect his crew.
Jim notes that Beta Colony is a town in disrepair. The fields are dry and fallow; well, that explains the need for the relief supplies. The buildings are unimaginative, boxy, run-down. He's seen better places in the backwater towns near home. The whole area has the feel of people giving way to the grind of nature.
"You're bleeding, Jim," McCoy calls after him, "at least let me wrap it!"
Spock grabs Jim's arm, stops him. He inclines his head towards McCoy. "Doctor McCoy is correct, Captain. You should allow him to tend to your injury."
Jim stands, tightly-wound; he's close to Spock, looking up at his first officer, surprised by the smell of sand and spice; he reminds Jim of a hot desert. "I need to find what did this," he says, jaw locked; he wants to find out what did it and make sure it can never do it again.
"And we will," Spock agrees. He flips open his communicator after handing Jim over to McCoy. "Spock to Enterprise, Ensign Chekov, I need a search and cross-reference --"
He wanders out of earshot and Jim's attention is suddenly fully recaptured by McCoy. "Ow!" He reaches for the source of pain, only for McCoy to swat his hand away and glare at Jim.
"Quit it, the risk of infection is already higher than I'd like." He cuts Jim's pant leg the rest of the way off, right above the boot, which is equally shredded as his pants, revealing a band of puncture wounds just below his calf and then a track of cuts trailing down to his ankle. His pale skin is lost in the rivulets of red welling up and running down his leg. It looks far worse than it is, he thinks, but he lets McCoy clean it up, wrap it, without protest. He keeps his boot but it's more like a slipper at this point, held together with medical tape. It's when McCoy pulls out a hypo that he gets a little nervous. "Wait, wait," he says. When McCoy pauses, he points at it. "What is that?"
McCoy looks at him like he's being a baby. "It's a little cocktail I whipped up myself." He looks proud as he holds it up. "A little bit of an anti-coagulant combined with a fever suppressant and an infection preventative." He doesn't wait for Jim to give an okay; instead, he reaches in and jams it home against Jim's neck, eliciting another yelp, Jim's second of the day.
Jim breathes hard, scowling at the hypo.
Spock is back; his gaze impassive as he considers the damage. "I believe," he states calmly, "that we are in grave danger."
Jim laughs. He can't help it. His feet are blood-soaked, his leg's on fire, and they just escaped a room straight out of a nightmare. Spock's eyebrow rises and Jim realizes that both his best friend and first officer share the same annoying trait. "Doctor, perhaps it would have been more prudent to refrain from giving the captain mood-altering substances until after we'd returned to the ship."
"I did no such thing," McCoy snaps, shoving his equipment into his satchel. "What you see is the typical idiocy I've lived with for the last three years."
"Forgive me," Jim says, not meaning it a bit. "Nothing personal, Spock." Setting aside his amusement over Spock's ability to state the obvious, Jim clambers to his feet, testing the strength in his injured leg. It continues to burn unpleasantly, but otherwise seems sound. "You have information?"
It's an assassin; a Seth'kesh. Genetically engineered, fully capable of killing indiscriminately. The only weakness is its inability to handle daylight. The UV rays damage its skin, highly sensitive because of its ability to camouflage, leaving it vulnerable and open to detection. It operates always in the shadows, steals about in the night. The Federation had believed they'd shut down the last of the labs responsible for processing these galactic terrors, but they had obviously been wrong. Why one had been sent to Beta Colony, though, eludes Jim.
"Why some poor bastard would consent to be changed into that," McCoy marvels, both horrified and disgusted, "I just don't get it."
Spock, however, is leading the way, phaser out though it is still five hours till nightfall; he knows exactly why. "Power, Doctor," he replies evenly. "There are some individuals who will do whatever they can to achieve it."
"Even become a mass-murderer?" McCoy counters, disbelieving.
So far they have found no signs of life, but neither have they found any bodies. The death toll seems to have been confined to the political body of Beta Colony. But until Jim finds the remaining two hundred and thirty people, he takes nothing for granted. They don't search inside, instead, Spock scans them with his tricorder. They've changed the settings to detect the Seth'kesh, but Jim doesn't want to give the creature any kind of advantage. The assassin can move faster than they can; it was made for one purpose, and going inside a building was giving it an open invitation to try for them again.
Another building, another shake of McCoy's head.
Scotty hadn't been able to tell them what the source of the interference was, or it's origin, and that had left Jim with two choices. Either find it and shut it down or have a member of his crew pilot a shuttlecraft down to pick them up. Bringing a shuttle down risked giving the enemy a chance at escape. If it could slip on board, and it probably would try, they'd be providing the assassin with the means off this world and onto his ship.
Jim had discarded that option. He wouldn't risk the Enterprise and its crew. And that left him with finding the source of the interference. The creature, because they aren't really human once the genetic reconfiguration process is complete, had to have set it up near a power source and they move in that direction now, pausing only long enough to continue checking for life signs.
After the sixth building, Jim realizes his shoulders are tense. His skin feels itchy, nervous. He looks around; there's someone following them, he's sure of it. They are staying in sunlight. If it's the assassin, it'll have a hard time getting to them before the UV and the tricorder exposes it. Not that it still wouldn't be able to kill them, Jim thinks wryly. But at least they'd know it was there a moment before it tried to gut them.
Jim can't see who or what it is, or where they are, but every sense he's got seems to be going off. Spock is still moving forward, McCoy on his heels. Jim lingers behind, frowning at the corners of the buildings on either side of the street. Single-story, residential homes. He looks for some visible sign, something that will validate his growing twitchiness. Jim knows something is watching them, following. He steps away from Spock and McCoy, focused wholly on this new threat, hoping to draw it out.
It barrels into him from behind. Jim is down before he hardly has a chance to realize it, a heavy, anvil of a weight pressing against him. Blood is dripping into his face and Jim reacts with pure survival instinct. He brings his hands up and slaps both sides of the being's head. His attacker screams and rolls off Jim.
Jim staggers to his feet, sees that Spock and McCoy have jogged back to him. McCoy is by his side, scanning him. "I'm fine," Jim reiterates. Being knocked down didn't do anything more than bruise his ego.
"You're covered in blood!"
"Not mine," Jim waves, "his."
His would be the colonist, rolling on the ground, depleted of whatever reserves he'd had left when he'd attacked Jim. He's whimpering in pain, blinking unseeingly up at the end of the phaser pistol Spock has trained towards his head. McCoy kneels, scanning, moving to treat what is now a patient instead of an adversary.
Jim kneels down also, leaning over the man, trying to capture his terrified attention. "What happened here?" He tries to be gentle, but he needs to know. "Are there any other survivors?"
"Who...who are...you?" the man rasps.
"Captain Kirk, of the USS Enterprise. We received your distress signal."
The man's eyes widen. "Captain," he stutters. "You can't be any older than my son..." and just when Jim's getting really sick of that kind of reaction, the man starts sobbing. "My boy," he gasps, "Oh God, it killed my boy!"
This is where Jim realizes, he's maybe not exactly ready for this job. He looks helplessly at McCoy. His friend is too busy trying to stabilize the man to give Jim any advice. Jim focuses again on the colonist, his need to know burning stronger within him than his sympathy. "Look, I'm sorry for your loss. But that thing," he says, "it's still out there, hunting us. Hunting you. We need to know, are there any other survivors? What has it done? Who brought it here?"
The man's eyes are darting back and forth in his head; it's like he's reliving his escape, his fear. Jim frowns and rocks back on his haunches, staring up at Spock.
"I will attempt a mind meld, Captain." He's holstering his phaser. "But I cannot promise it will be useful."
"Do it," Jim orders. They need answers. Their survival most likely depends on it.
"Are you crazy, Jim?" He gestures angrily at the man, blubbering and bleeding. "This man has been traumatized and now you want to add to it by having Spock invade his mind?"
Spock stiffens. "I would not harm him, Doctor."
"He'll be okay," Jim reassures McCoy. But secretly, he remembers the strength of a mind meld with the older Spock he'd encountered. It'd been like embracing a dying ember, hell bent on flaring bright and fast one final time; just recalling it now threatened to send him spinning back into that emotional turmoil.
In the end, his reassurances are useless, because the man writhes under Spock's fingers, and as his first officer and the colonist are connected, the man dies. Jim watches Spock's face slacken, his muscles go rigid. "Spock," Jim shouts, alarmed. Impulsively, he reaches for Spock's hand, tugging, trying to break the link, but again, finds himself reminded how immovable Spock is. Jim swears and does the only thing he knows how to do; he reacts on instinct. He grabs Spock's free hand, forces it against his own face and calls out with everything he's got in him.
At first, he feels nothing. He lost, Spock's gone. But then, in the blink of an eye, that all changes. He's being dragged under. Sucked down into a well, drowning. He can feel himself gasping, hear McCoy yelling, pulling at Spock's fingers that are now pressing against his skin, pinpoints of a dozen singularities.
"You're killing him, Spock!"
Jim can't breathe, he can't exist. Then Spock is there, familiar. Spock's confused, at first, startled by Jim; a stunningly-bright presence, grabbing Jim and hauling him back, scolding him for doing something so foolish...
He's wrenched free of the meld, left sucking down air, still on his knees, almost blind from the sudden shift of being completely alone again. McCoy is looking worriedly at them both, scanning them, but Spock shakes his head. "That is no longer necessary, Doctor. I am quite recovered."
"I'll be the one to decide that," McCoy declares. "What the hell was that, Commander?"
Jim can suddenly detect a thin layer of vulnerability resting between him and Spock. The Vulcan stares at him, new questions in his eyes, ones he will not ask, they both know. "It was nothing, Bones," Jim says. He's shaken but there's still a monster out there, after them. "Did you get anything, Spock? Before he died."
Spock's eyebrow lifts. "Indeed," he says.
They find them in the meeting hall, south-west of the assembly building. Two hundred and twenty-eight, once you subtract the man and his son. Jim limps in, Spock and McCoy behind him. Inside, he's furious, but he betrays nothing of the sort, smiling charmingly. "Captain Kirk, USS Enterprise. We received your distress signal."
There's women huddled together, children. Men sitting about, some standing. The room is full of packed luggage. A man steps forward, a timid woman wrapped against him. "Harrison Johns," the mans says, offering his hand. Jim doesn't take it. The man lets it fall, awkward, but recovers smoothly. "Captain, we're so glad you made it. There's a monster out there, killing our people. Please," he entreats, "you've got to get us out of here."
"Sorry," Jim says blithely. "Can't do that."
Uncertain glances pass throughout the room; McCoy rolls his eyes and slouches against a wall. It's been a hell of a day.
Harrison doesn't process it. "We won't be any trouble, Captain. You can drop us at the nearest colony."
Jim smiles, reminiscent of that day when he bested the Kobayashi Maru. "I don't think so." He folds his arms against his chest and leans back.
Now Harrison is catching on; Jim's not following his carefully laid script. He gets angry and moves towards Jim but Spock stops him, stepping smoothly between Harrison and Jim. "I would not advise moving any closer to my captain."
"What is this?" Harrison demands. He detaches his wife, his face reddening. "It's your job to protect us! We're Federation citizens. You have to rescue us!"
"You're wrong about that," Jim says, all traces of humor evaporating. He leans forward, letting his anger and contempt leak through. He glances at Spock, "What regulation is it, Commander. I always forget."
"You know," Jim says, enjoying himself again, "the one wherein any citizen found guilty of committing a crime against the Federation, and its member worlds and colonies, loses the right to said protections and memberships therein; something like that." He doesn't give Spock time to reply, he bulldozes on. "Your jamming device has been disabled, by the way."
Gasps fill the room. A child cries, reacting to the emotion all around him. Harrison pales and begins to sweat. "You can't do that!"
Jim shrugs. "Already did."
"But, it'll kill us! Without the high-frequency filter, it'll be free to --"
"Kill the ones responsible for driving it mad, for reducing it to a being incapable of thought or controlling its own actions," Jim snarls. He gets to his feet, anger erasing the pain in his leg, but not the tightness gripping his chest. "You turned that thing into a mindless killing machine and then expected my ship to save you."
In the face of Jim's fury, Harrison wilts. "It was the only way. He wouldn't let us quit. He wouldn't let us go home." He throws a desperate look around him. "Can't you see, Captain? Look around you! Beta Colony was a failure. It was only a matter of time before we would be completely reliant on relief supplies and what happens when they don't come? What happens then?"
Spock is detached, cool. "You arranged for a highly illegal, paid assassin, but in order to hide your actions, you found a way to drive it mad, out of control, in hopes of confusing any investigation that would follow. A surprisingly logical choice," Harrison's face showed relief, but it was short lived, "but founded on an illogical basis. Petitioning for the dissolution of this colony would have been a far more intelligent decision, and far less destructive."
The woman's face melts into rage. "They held us hostage, wouldn't let us leave, find a new home. It was slow torture, Captain. They deserved to die!"
Jim looks around the room, looks at the faces of the other colonists. He remembers another colony, another disaster, another horrific decision by a man that assumed too much control. McCoy doesn't know about Tarsus IV and if Spock has dug deep enough into Jim's sealed files, he hasn't let on. Kodos... Jim's eyes blaze and he tries to remind himself to keep from punching her, woman or not. "That's never an excuse," he says flatly.
He's tired, his leg hurts, and Jim has decided for a first mission, this has been about as crappy as they come. "A prison ship will be arriving shortly." Jim tries not to think about the kids. "In the future, you might want to consider therapy before murder." His eyes burn. He strides for the door.
Harrison leaps after him, but Spock is there, creating a wall. Jim turns and lays Harrison out flat with a right hook. Spock's mild disapproval only makes him grin; he's angry and spoiling for a fight. Spock looks down at Harrison. "I suggest you stay down."
The man wipes his bloodied mouth. "You can't leave us here. It'll kill us."
"Not my problem," Jim says. He waits a second to see if the man will try again. He doesn't. Jim gestures at McCoy. It's time to go and his friend doesn't seem to know whether to cheer him on or take Jim down a peg or two for being such a cold-hearted bastard. In the end, McCoy simply walks out, deciding to do neither. Spock follows, ducking through the door frame.
Jim pauses on his way out, leans back in, and offers one final piece of advice. "You might want to lock the door."
They walk across the street. A dried bramble rolls across Jim's way. The grass has all dried and turned to trampled weeds, brown and dead. A figure is slumped in a yard, two houses down. Its naked shape is already turning gray and peeling. Jim stares at it, pity as much as hate, finding himself hard-pressed to stop focusing on the charred phaser burn on its back that he'd put there moments before they'd confronted the remaining colonists.
"You had to, Jim," McCoy says softly.
Once they'd had all the information from the now-dead colonist, they'd found the creature easily enough. Increasing the frequency of the filter had left the assassin senseless from pain, unable to move, let alone kill. Capturing it was out of the question. There is no reversing the effects; no choice; you don't leave a rabid dog loose.
He nods. "Doesn't make any of this less wrong, though."
Spock steps into the quiet moment. "Captain, we need to submit a report to Starfleet. You have gathered biological samples, Doctor?"
"Of course, Spock."
They'll give this new information to Starfleet, and Starfleet will send another eradication team to infiltrate and destroy the production plant. Biological tags found in the creature's tissues are as good as hand-drawn maps to the planet where the assassin was created.
Whomever this poor bastard had been before, they'd find that out too.
"It's a good thing they'd sent that guy out to adjust the filter or we'd have never known what really happened." McCoy stares off towards the building where the mutilated remains are. "We probably would've died here."
Jim remembers what they found when they found the filter device. What was left of the man's son. "Too many did," he thinks out loud.
"Innocent people die every day," Spock says, his tone flat, surprising Jim. "You have already seen that."
The weight of a world, Spock's world, rests between them.
McCoy coughs. "Should we tell them the danger is gone, before we up and beam out of here?"
Jim shakes his head, a grim smile playing across his face. "Let them worry. The prison ship should be here in a week. A little fear will do 'em good." He flips his communicator open. "Kirk to Enterprise. Three to beam up, Scotty."
And this time he gets the familiar brogue answering, "Aye aye, Captain."
The medical bay is quiet; sickbay, Jim corrects himself, the right term for a ship is sickbay. The beds aren't exactly comfortable, but the fever he has is just enough to make him sluggish and lethargic and he finds himself dozing off and on anyway.
"Infection was inevitable, Spock; puncture wounds are notorious for being difficult, he'll be fine. I've got him on a course of antibiotics, a few days and he'll be as good as new."
Jim hears them talking about him; they're a few steps away, hovering near McCoy's desk. He had been sleeping, but the pain throbbing from his ankle up to his knee, keeps waking him.
"Time, Doctor, is something we rarely seem to have."
"What is it now? Dammit Spock, there's other ships in Starfleet, surely one can --"
"There are no ships currently closer to Janus VI. Something is killing miners and as you are aware, dilithium is in high demand. The fleet must be rebuilt and to power starships, we must have more dilithium crystals."
McCoy sighs. "I can have him back on his feet in twenty-four hours, no sooner."
"Twelve, Doctor, and I will promise to not...break him."
"Well," McCoy capitulates, "let's go tell him the good news."
"I believe that is unnecessary." Their attention shifts to Jim and he grins weakly. "He has been listening to us for quite some time."
"It was like five minutes, Spock," Jim protests. "Besides, if you knew I was awake, why'd you keep on talking about me like I wasn't?"
"The information was delivered, regardless of the method."
Jim bites back a laugh. So, the next mission is already on his doorstep before he's had time to recover from the last. He doesn't feel great, but he could get up now and fight if he had to, so he's pretty confident in McCoy's ability to get him on his feet in half a day.
For a first mission, it was as close to a bust as he hoped he'd ever come again. The good guys died, well, good's kind of relative, considering the government had been so twisted as to cause it's people to resort to murder; he'd lost his first crew member, got banged up in the process, and signed over two hundred and twenty-eight people to a penal ship.
A lesser man would probably be doubting himself about now. Jim, though, remembers all to well someone else's memories, memories of a career full of miraculous accomplishments. Setting those aside, he's also smart enough to know there wasn't a whole hell of a lot he could've done differently. The blame over Beta Colony rests entirely on the Federation's overwhelmed shoulders. Whomever had been in charge of reviewing Beta Colony's status reports would have a lot to answer for.
Spock considers Jim before saying, "I suppose it would be a waste of time reminding you that the captain is better served staying aboard ship rather than joining the away team?"
He grins disarmingly at Spock. "You'd be right."
Spock sighs, unfolding his arms and moving towards the sickbay doors. "In that case," he says, "I will begin to draw up a training regimen immediately."
McCoy is struggling to hide his own smile behind his hand as Jim shouts after Spock, "I already know how to fight!"
Spock's reply floats back to Jim, sing-song, and one could almost say, smug. "You did not win against me last time." Then the door shuts and his first officer is gone, gaining the last word in this recent round.
Jim lies back with a groan. What the hell has Pike gotten him into?
"Get some rest, Jim." McCoy pats his shoulder affectionately. "The bridge will be there when you wake up."
He knows it will, and Jim's surprised at just how much that thought means to him already. He has a sinking suspicion that his impulsive need to prove himself is going to take more from him than it'd give back, before it's all said and done, but his future had been written the moment he'd seen her under construction, had sat in her chair. The Enterprise is in his blood and Jim doesn't think his friend has any cure for that. "Sure," he says, sleepy. "Whatever you say."
The mining planet waits, another mystery to be solved. Jim just hopes this time he isn't greeted by an accusation, threatened to be reported and arrested, when he hails the man in charge. There's only so much he can take in a day.
 Kodos refers to Kodos the Executioner, from an original series episode titled The Conscience of the King. It is my belief that though some things are, and will be, different in this new time line, other events will have taken place, though perhaps brought about by different circumstances.