Warnings: Rated T, (or PG-13 if we go by movie ratings) for alluded torture, some violence, and minor cursing. I'm putting this up at the top because I don't want to catch anyone by surprise. You have been warned.

A/N: Many thanks to the talented Lina-Baggins for her awesome beta read, and I hope you all enjoy the story.

Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek. :(

Seventh Circle

Chapter 1

They take Chekov first.

Kirk is not surprised. His first officer would say the choice was logical. The Russian is obviously the youngest of the captives. He will likely provoke the strongest emotional reactions in his comrades as they are forced to listen as he is tortured. The rage his comrades feel on his behalf will make them careless. They could possibly drop useful bits of information in their vain efforts to put an end to the boy's suffering. Made to listen to his screams, fearful anticipation of their own torture will cloud their judgment and their Starfleet ideals. The instinct for self-preservation will kick in, leading to cooperation to avoid pain. Despair sets in after his whimpering body is finally returned to their cell. Or as it is lifelessly laid out on a cold metal slab.

Understanding the choice does not make it any easier for Kirk to watch the Russian boy's huge hazel eyes widen in terror as they drag him away.

It takes two of them and a phaser to hold Kirk back. Big and Ugly– two huge brutes with no sense of personal space -- have his muscular arms in an unyielding vice grip, but that doesn't stop Jim Kirk from trying to wrestle free. He thrashes vainly in their grip, trying to yell words of encouragement to his youngest officer until a third (Dopey, Kirk decides) sticks a phaser in his face. Another (Runty) holds a phaser on Giacomo and McCoy. Spock is still unconscious, green blood trickling from his temple. McCoy crouches next to him, his face even grimmer than usual.

Ugly grunts something to Dopey, who smashes his phaser into Kirk's face and socks Kirk in the gut with his heavy fist. Big gives a reeling Kirk a tremendous shove into Giacomo, who crashes into the slimy stone wall. The three back out of the cell, covered by Runty and his phaser. Kirk recovers and his hands slam into the cold metal bars, shaking them with all his might. He roars vainly after their captors.

Giacomo is cowering in a corner, muttering Hail Marys. Kirk, to whom a Hail Mary will never be more than a play in football, resists the urge to snap at him. He doesn't have time for panicked rookie bullshit. McCoy has his fingers on Spock's wrist and his eyes on his chrono, cursing softly under his breath. Kirk lets go of the bars and begins pacing like a caged animal. His face throbs.

Chekov's name, rank, and serial number pipe from a nearby chamber in a reedy, terrified voice. Kirk freezes; McCoy and Giacomo look up. Muffled voices. Scuffling. Several voices, one higher than the others, mingle in the dank stone corridor before reaching their straining ears.

The voices floating in from the adjoining chamber take on a different tone. Softer, more reasonable, almost pleading tones. Then Chekov's reedy voice, clear as if he were standing right next to the little knot of officers.

"Nyet! I weel not!"

Murmurs. A pause. Then Chekov's accented voice again, rising even higher in growing panic.

"Chekov, Pavel Andreievich. Ensign--"

Kirk slumps a little.

More murmurs.

"No, please. Vait…please, va-- no! NO! NO!"

Chekov's protests trail off into an agonized scream. McCoy closes his eyes briefly before turning his attention back to the injured Vulcan. Giacomo's eyes are rolling fearfully in his sweaty face; he cringes visibly at every cry. Furious hot blood roars in Kirk's ears, nearly loud enough to drown out his navigator's shrieks.

They are torturing a member of his crew!

The unmistakable sound of an object hitting flesh, followed by a quickly stifled wail. At least the kid is still fighting. Red-hot pokers are pushing Kirk's eyes out of his skull. He wants to fight, he wants to rip every single one of those bastards limb from limb. Kirk's bruised hands close again on the impossibly strong metal of the cell door. I don't believe in no-win situations! Enraged at his own impotency, he shakes it again with all his might.

They are torturing a member of his crew!

Kirk shouts down the dank corridor again, alternating between encouragement for Chekov, oaths against their captors, and pleas for them to take him, Jim Kirk, and torment him instead. Kirk feels like he could burst from white-hot hate.

They are torturing a member of his crew!


McCoy's familiar furious hiss of his name finally bores its way past Chekov's screams and into Kirk's consciousness. Kirk turns to face the doctor, forcing himself to listen to his friend's words. "Spock's coming 'round now."

"He'll be all right?" Kirk asks distractedly. He can't get Chekov's terrified face out of his head.

"Yeah. He took a nasty bump to the head, but the cut's not bad," McCoy shrugged. "Probably has a hell of a headache."

"An accurate assessment, Doctor."

"Nice to have you back, Mr. Spock. Now, about getting out of this cell…"

Kirk draws formality around himself like a cloak as he goes through the motions of captaincy. He ignores McCoy's worried looks, and Spock's less obvious --but definite-- concern.

The y are torturing a member of his crew!

They search the cell fruitlessly for any means of escape, hampered by the failing light. By the time they have finished, the darkness is nearly complete. They took Giacomo an hour ago. Kirk's head is in his hands. In the dark he can finally drop the optimism and bravado required by his rank. He can finally give into that nagging little voice at the back of his mind that tells him what a fool he's been.

Chekov is crying in Russian now.

Bones is dozing lightly. Kirk can hear his heavy, even breathing. He eyes him enviously. His first officer is still awake; Kirk can see Spock's eyes glimmering through the darkness, illuminated by the faint light cast by the display of McCoy's chrono.

"Captain, may I suggest you follow Dr. McCoy's example and get some rest? I am quite capable of taking watch alone."

Kirk cocks his head wearily. "No thanks."

The barest trace of concern colors Spock's voice as he replies. "Jim…you are exhausted and require rest so you can continue to function under the present circumstances—"

They know each other well enough now that it doesn't sound weird when Spock calls him "Jim." But Kirk cuts him off.

"Spock. Those bastards are torturing two members of my crew. My crew," he emphasizes the last, repeated phrase the way most people would say 'my family'. "Do you really think I can sleep now?"

A dull ache forms in Kirk's chest as he vocalizes the thought that has been tormenting him for the past several hours. The Vulcan, perhaps guessing his feelings, says nothing. He leans back against the sweating stone wall. There is absolutely nothing that Kirk hates more than being helpless. He hates it. But until the first cold light of dawn reaches down into their cell—


Spock's warning is unnecessary; Kirk can hear the scuffling footsteps as well. He elbows Bones and springs to his feet. The Vulcan is instantly at Kirk's side. Faint light appears down the corridor. Three shadows approach, two supporting a third. Behind him, he can hear McCoy getting to his feet.

"What do you want from us?" he shouts at the approaching shadows.

In the dim light spilling from a door down the corridor, Kirk can see Ugly and Runty are back, half-supporting, half-dragging Ensign Chekov. Runty wrenches the cell door open, and before any of them can react, Ugly propels the boy bodily into the cell. Kirk grabs for him before he can hit the unyielding floor. The door slams shut behind him.

Kirk's heart pounds in his throat. "Chekov?" he asks hesitantly.

Don't worry, there will be more! Please review! :)