Author's Note—First of all, let me just say I am so sorry this took so long to put up. I hope y'all are still interested! Meant to get this up over two weeks ago (over a month ago, really…), but I reread it again right before posting and decided it was in need of a massive rewrite… and then I was attacked by a massive bout of writers' block. So sorry—I've been overwhelmed with the amount of interest in this story—you guys are great and I'm so thankful that you're interested in this—so sorry keep y'all waiting with my very, VERY long bouts of not publishing…

PS—if you listen to music while you read, you should start out with Spoon's "Got Nuffin." Kicks ass. Also very Kirk.

A short warning: this chapter contains a brief description of genocide. Chapters will be darker from here on out—I'm considering changing the rating to M, but we'll wait on it for now.

Thanks again for reading (honestly, can't thank y'all enough)—please review.

Disclaimer--I don't own Star Trek, or Jim Kirk...

Chapter 4

Time had slowed down for Kirk to incomprehensible crawl. His phaser had malfunctioned, and he sat there, helpless, pointing the useless weapon stupidly at his adversary and completely at a loss for how he should act next.

Kirk hated feeling helpless.

Luckily the Maridian soldiers still seemed too shocked to know what to do so Kirk had a small window in which to act. Unluckily, there was nothing he could do. The main soldier, the first one who had discovered him made to step towards him and Kirk, who could think of nothing else to do to defend himself, flung the faulty phaser at the man's head—slightly desperately—with his full strength.

The man simply caught it one handed and dropped it harmlessly on the floor once more and continued on his original path as if nothing had happened. Kirk swore internally.

Kirk watched the man calculatingly as he stepped deliberately closer to the place where Kirk lay. With a flick of one of his gloved hands, he motioned for his cronies to step forward. Instantaneously, two of them materialized at Kirk's sides and grasped his arms roughly while another three positioned themselves around the pillar and proceeded to roll it off Kirk's recently healed legs. It weighed heavily against his shins and he had to suppress a grunt of pain as it grated over his feet.

The men who held his arms hoisted him bodily off the floor and Kirk resisted as much as he could, but he recognized a lost cause when he saw one. There was simply no way that he would be able to fight them off just now—not when he had guards surrounding him, all on red alert for any sign of trouble. Now was the time to wait for an opportunity. Anything else would simply get him injured again. So he hung between the two guards, trying to test the strength of his legs as discreetly as possible.

The masked commanding officer considered him for a second, his head slightly cocked and Kirk had the impression he was being sized up. Apparently he had been deemed satisfactory, because his captor's stance shifted and he cleared his throat to speak.

"So," he said, and the translator that Uhura had equipped him with crackled uncomfortably in Kirk's ear, "You are a Starfleet officer, no?"

Kirk nodded curtly. Apparently they needed confirmation of this fact, seeing as the uniform spoke for itself, Kirk thought wryly.

"Well, then," the man growled. He had a raspy voice that grated on Kirk's ears when he spoke. He flipped the communicator on his wrist and spoke rapidly into it words that Kirk could not immediately understand. The voice that answered came back just as rapidly, and though Kirk strained to hear, he could not make out the response.

The short conference only lasted a matter of seconds before the commanding officer flipped the communicator shut and jerked his head in Kirk's direction. "Take him to the testing facility," he said ominously, "This man will be useful yet—we have yet to test our methods on humans." Kirk had the distinct feeling that behind the mask, the man was grinning cruelly. The two guards on his left and right jerked him forcefully, and he tried to twist in order to protest only to have them wrench him around again. His newly healed legs twinged painfully and he barely suppressed a cry of pain when—

The world around him exploded. He felt himself thrown forward and rock and stone flew everywhere. He did not know what had happened—he couldn't tell what was going on, let alone which way was up. He smashed into the ground hard and his cranium cracked on a loose rock as more stone rained down on them all from an unknown source.

Coughing wildly, Kirk glanced around from his position on the ground, his eyes watering heavily from the dust that had accumulated in the air and his head buzzing from the hit to his skull. The two guards who had held him only moments ago were unconscious beside him, their arms and legs thrown out at odd angles and masks half-torn to reveal the blue faces underneath.

Blinking through the haze, he saw that the wall behind them had been blown entirely apart. Bits of piping and stone hung jaggedly out of it creating a strangely misshapen hole where the blast must have originated. Standing in the recently created hole, weirdly framed and eerily distorted by the dust, were two new shapes that Kirk did not recognize. He squinted at them fuzzily, trying to distinguish their forms out of the chaos. One of them was male—he was sure of it—for he was tall with shoulders broader than even Kirk's, but the other had to have been female. She stood a head shorter than her companion out of the mist, but she was still tall as far as Kirk could tell and quite slender. They did not wear masks. Not soldiers, Kirk woozily observed through his clouded brain, they're not soldiers.

This all happened in a matter of a few confusing seconds before the newcomers, who seemed just as shocked as those on the other side of the wall, burst through the opening before the fallen Maridians could regain themselves. They were both armed with phasers and they had begun to fire the weapons, but it was quite clear that they had no experience or idea how to use them. Their shots clumsily fried spots on the ground and blew apart bits of the wall, but came nowhere near actually damaging the enemy soldiers. When the woman managed to hit one unfortunate Maridian soldier, Kirk was quite certain that she had been meaning to hit the man five feet to his left. Kirk stayed down, hands protecting his head, afraid that if he stood up and tried to help, he would only be shot down by a stray blast from the pair now charging across the room.

It was only when Kirk saw that ten feet to his immediate right, a Maridian soldier had finally picked himself up from the debris and now pointed a well-aimed phaser directly at the woman's back, that Kirk sprang into action. Scrabbling to his feet and sliding slightly on the displaced bits of wall, he charged at the Maridian with a cry like a bull and rammed him full on in the side with a lowered shoulder. The soldier fell as if in slow motion, his masked head smacking with a sickening crunch onto a loose stone and he stirred no more.

Seeing the fallen soldier's phaser on the ground, Kirk quickly moved to retrieve it only to have it smacked away again by a well-placed kick from a swinging leg that came out of nowhere. Kirk barely had time to register the new massive body now attacking him when it hit him in the face with a quick strike from an elbow. Kirk felt his nose snap as he fell back onto the ground, blood pouring out of both nostrils. But he barely had time to lament this when the Maridian bore down upon him once more, striding toward him with a murderous edge to his step. Kirk scrambled backwards, struggling to get his bearings but the soldier did not slow. Waiting until the last possible instant, Kirk kicked out with both legs, striking the man's kneecaps hard. The soldier crumpled, but Kirk did not wait for him to recover. Choking on the blood coating his mouth, Kirk rolled over onto his knees, scrambling toward the fallen phaser.

His hands closed around the handle and he swung it around just as the Maridian, who had recovered much faster than Kirk would have thought possible, kicked him hard in the ribs with a heavily booted foot.

All the breath whooshed out of his lungs and lights popped in front of his vision as he rolled to the side, but he maintained a hold on the phaser in his hand just barely, his one hope of survival against the massive soldier. Gasping painfully for air he locked the phaser on the kill setting and swung it around in one movement to fire blindly upwards. He prayed to God that his aim was good as he could not see through the haze of pain still clouding his brain.

But the blast found its mark. The Maridian looked down as if in surprise at his chest, a gaping wound steadily spreading a dark stain through his dark clothes radiating from the dead center. He touched it lightly, and let out one last dying gasp before falling to the side.

Still choking for air, Kirk sat gasping for a few seconds, phaser still frozen where he had pointed it. He blinked hard trying to clear his vision and his thoughts at the same time and gingerly felt the place where the soldier had kicked him in the ribs, sure that he had once again broken the recently healed bones.

But he could not stay in that position for long. Gazing across the room, he saw that the man and woman had somehow miraculously survived and were now bent over a console protruding from the wall at the other end. They both crouched behind the minimal protection of a collapsed pillar, the woman attempting to cover for her friend, but she was clearly struggling and her shots had a slightly desperate feeling to them as if she were simply firing at random, hoping that the very improbability of the attack would be enough to fend off the Maridians. It seemed pure luck that she and her companion still survived as a company of five or so Maridian soldiers still fired at her and the her friend. Each shot seemed to just barely miss them.

Kirk decided he could not wait any longer. These two, whoever they were, had saved his life—however unintentionally—and he could only hope that he could return the favor. They were clearly on some kind of mission—a foolish one at that, but they were clearly unequipped for it. They needed him. For they were clearly Shenkaran, and for them to be here, in their erstwhile base, in the midst of a siege, was nothing short of suicide.

Heaving one last deep breath, Kirk braced himself and darted out into the main space of the room. Mercifully, the five soldiers left who had not been either taken out by original blast, Kirk himself, or the randomly fired phaser shots paid no attention to him as they focused their entire energy at the two hiding behind the fallen pillar.

Wanting to avoid immediate detection, Kirk skirted the edge of the fight, darting from pillar to pillar and waiting to find a clear shot of the remaining Maridians before they captured or killed the two rebels at the console. He needed to get behind the soldiers without them noticing; he crept ever forward and trying to get a clear shot of the origins of the phaser fire that threatened his newfound friends. Glancing out from behind a pillar, he gripped his phaser doggedly in both hands and took aim at the backs of the soldiers now directly in front of him.

He quickly took out three of the five soldiers before they realized the source of the attack. Ducking behind the pillar once again, he heard the crack as a blast of phaser fire hit the other side of it, shattering a chunk of it to the floor. More blasts of light sailed past his hiding place, but from his position, the Maridians could not get a clear shot at him, just as he could not fire at them without exposure.

Kirk glanced out again from behind his hiding place only to have another barrage of phaser fire greet him. He stepped back just as a well-aimed shot nearly singed the hair off the top of his head.

Crouching down, Kirk thought hard. He needed to get farther around the enclosure in order to get a clean shot at the remaining two soldiers without endangering the two behind the console. There was nothing else for it; he was going to have to move.

Before he could pause to think about it any longer, he moved fluidly out from behind the pillar, bolting to the next and firing opportunistically whenever he could. He had little confidence that his shots would actually find their mark as the Maridians were positioned among the pillars but it did no harm to try—or at least intimidate them a bit.

Slipping behind another pillar, he slid a little on a loose bit of rock and a sudden inspiration hit him. It was a rudimentary idea—quite amateur actually—but it had a chance of working—if the Maridian soldiers were slow on the uptake and if he was quick on his feet.

Taking the bit of rock in his hand, he tossed it in the direction he had just come from and it clattered across the dirty tiles. Flinging himself out from behind his pillar he saw that—as he had intended—the Maridians both had their attention trained on the spot he had thrown the rock. They didn't have time to raise their weapons as Kirk took them out one after the other.

Finally free of the Maridian threat, he ducked out from behind the pillars at last, determined once and for all to meet the people who had saved him from certain torture at the hands of his captors. The woman still held the phaser pointed at him with clearly shaking hands and the man at the console had paused in his work to stare at Kirk avidly.

Kirk approached slowly, stuffing the phaser in his belt and holding his hands out to show that he meant them no harm. Two pairs of dark, glinting eyes observed his advance and he met their gaze levelly.

"It's okay," he called out in Standard, hoping they either understood or had a translator on them. He wasn't sure they could've understood him even if they did speak Standard as the continued flow of blood from his nose blocked any attempt to talk properly, "It's fide… I'b dot godda hurt you, I swear—I just wadda help, that's all. I'b a friend…just a friend."

The pair glanced at each other and then back at him, and slowly, very slowly, the woman lowered the phaser. She stood up in full and Kirk saw her clearly for the first time, not surrounded by smoke or dust or half-concealed behind a pillar, and he saw that she was… stunning. She had deep blue skin—just a shade darker than the Maridian tone—and light ridges down her nose that were now familiar to him, but what struck him most were her dark, intelligent beetle-black eyes shining out of wide set sockets. Her thin face was framed by a mass of short-cropped curly black hair. A heavy brown coat swathed her thin form and she wore a pair of thick, black boots to match her partner's who, Kirk saw, had gone back to the console without another look.

He had stopped pacing forward without really realizing it, and they stood there, ten feet apart from each other, sizing each other up while the man worked on his unknown project.

Finally the woman spoke. "I am not going to shoot you, if that is what you are afraid of," she said in broken Standard, a single eyebrow quirked and a small smile playing about her lips. "In any case, I doubt I could hit you even if I wanted to."

Kirk blinked. He allowed a half-smile to crack the blood caked around his mouth before remembering with a pang that his throbbing face did not appreciate smiling in the least bit. He winced and let the smile fade, realizing as he did he probably looked a horrible mess. He mentally categorized his broken nose, the congealed blood coating his face and hair and of course the shirt that was now more dark red than yellow, and he was sure that the blow to his head he had received as a result of the explosion had given him a mild concussion. It was probably not the most diplomatic first impression, Kirk mused, but when had he ever really been that diplomatic?

The woman addressed him again before he had the chance to speak. "I believe we—my brother and I—owe you our gratitude," she said, gesturing to the bent form behind her, "We would undoubtedly be dead by now if it were not for you. Thank you." Her voice had lost its faint trace of humor and had gone low with the depth of emotion present in her short speech.

"Uh," Kirk began, eloquent as usual, "Yeah—yeah, no problem." He was finding it hard to assemble his thoughts as the throbbing of his nose redoubled and his broken rib shifted uncomfortably. "Look," he said, wincing through the pain, "You're Shenkaran, right? I'm Captain James T. Kirk of the starship Enterprise—I'm—" He was finding it difficult to speak with his mouth still clogged, "I'm here to help you—" He paused and spat blood but before he could continue, the woman was there, at his side.

"Come here," she said, gripping his elbow, "We can help you with that."

Slightly confused, he let himself be led to the console. The events of the past half hour seemed to have been finally catching up to him. His head throbbed and every time he moved his torso even the slightest bit, a shooting pain shocked his entire body. "I think there's something here that can help me," he said thickly, remembering the technology that had saved his life earlier, "Little blue lights—like little bugs or something. They healed me. Wouldn't be alive right now if it weren't for them."

"That's right," the woman said soothingly, "Nanodroids. That is what we are here to find."

"Nano-what?" Kirk said as he allowed himself to be eased down the wall by the console where the man worked.

"Nanodroids," the woman explained, kneeling down beside him, "Shenkaran medical technology. They are… I cannot remember the word… robots I suppose. They are miniature drones programmed to search and find all injured and repair all damage wherever they find it, regardless of race, gender, or age. We placed them in the walls throughout the base so in the event of an emergency, we would have easy access to at least peripheral medical help." She stared around the half-destroyed room sadly, taking in the lifeless bodies of several Shenkaran rebels. "But I do not think they ended up being much help at all." She sighed and continued, "They will, however, be able to help you."

"It will only be a moment more," the man said, speaking for the first time over his shoulder, "One of our shots hit the console—that is why we could not immediately access them…"

As the man's voice trailed off, Kirk allowed his vision to fuzz before him for a few moments, only vaguely aware of the woman to his right and the man crouched to his left. He was only just starting to allow his eyes to slide closed when the man let out a whoop of raucous laughter.

"I have it!" he shouted. Kirk snapped his eyes open in time to see the man take out a jar and scoop a glowing handful of the nanodroids into it. "Here," he said, holding out a smaller handful of the robots in front of Kirk's nose. Immediately, they swarmed Kirk's head and torso and yet again, he felt his injuries miraculously healing themselves for the second time in an hour. His nose slid back into place with a sickening pop and his breathing suddenly became much easier as his broken rib molded back into place.

"Woah," he groaned, clutching his head as the nanodroids swarmed back to the man's hand and he stuffed them into the jar. "I've gotta get my hands on some of those," Kirk remarked, thinking that Bones would never have to hypo him again.

The man only chuckled grimly. "I would not plan on using them on a regular basis. The system is not without its flaws."

"What flaws?" Kirk asked, his eyebrows contracting. If these nanodroids had just given him some sort of space virus, he'd never hear the end of it from McCoy—if, that is, he survived to return to the Enterprise in the first place.

"Do not look so concerned," the man said, still smiling darkly, "It is only that—" he hesitated, "With each successive healing, the quality of the reparation degrades. It is as if they—the nanodroids—remember you… They seem to recognize you as injured always—and thus you do not need fixing, as it must be your permanent state to be injured. It is their one glitch—that and they can only cure physical injuries. So, if you are poisoned…" he let the implication hang in the air ominously.

Kirk raised his eyebrows. "Great," he said, a touch of sarcasm gracing his tone. Still, the nanodroids had made his life considerably easier in the last hour, and for that he was overwhelmingly grateful. Heaving a great sigh, he sat up straighter against the wall and eyed his two saviors. "Look," he continued, "I don't mean to be rude—but who are you?"

The woman looked at him in surprise as if realizing for the first time that she had never introduced herself. "I am Kaitsumi, and this is my brother, Liam," she said, "We are part of the Shenkaran resistance. Our father—" she hesitated for a beat before continuing, "Our father was the chief ambassador to Maridia."

Kirk lifted his head in understanding. He recognized the pointed use of the word was in her last sentence. "I'm sorry," he said sincerely, trying to put a lot of unsaid emotion into the simple statement. He knew what it was to be without a parent.

The woman—Kaitsumi—only smiled a sad half-smile. "It was over a year ago," she said quietly, trying to brush it off, but Kirk did not miss how her glinting eyes had suddenly become over bright. Sniffing slightly, she glanced at her brother and continued. "We came here because when we evacuated the base, we lost our medical transport—we had nothing. Liam and I—we decided we had to come back."

"And that brings you here," Kirk finished for her, nodding. "Well—listen, I can help you. No offense or anything, but you guys are not soldiers. I can get you out of here and back to—wherever you're headed if you need defense. But I need to get into contact with my ship—the Enterprise. Do you have any way to communicate at your base? Anything at all?"

Kaitsumi and Liam looked at each other. "All communications out into space can be tracked—it is how they found this base," Liam explained slightly apologetically, "We thought we had manipulated the signal, but it was clearly not enough. If we attempt to communicate again, we would risk another exposure…"

"Well, what about here, then?" Kirk asked, insistent. "They already have control of this base, so it shouldn't be a danger."

Kaitsumi shook her head. "Once we sent our distress signal, they were able to hack in and cut communications. Nothing in or out."

Kirk swore under his breath. He was about to suggest something else, but he stopped dead, holding up his hand for silence. The three of them froze. For out of the silence, they could make out the sounds of shifting rock and the faint echo of an electronic murmur. More Maridians were coming.

It was Kaitsumi's turn to swear. "We have to move," she hissed, pulling herself up on the wall and taking the phaser out of its place in her pocket. "Come with us," she told Kirk, "Come with us and maybe we can help each other out."

Kirk nodded, his jaw set. He levered himself up as well, and to his left, Liam did the same. The man looked shaky and wide-eyed. He clutched his own phaser nervously and hesitantly held it out to Kirk. "Here," he said, "Take it. You know how to use it."

"No," said Kirk, pushing it firmly back into Liam's hands, "No, I got my own." He pulled it out of his belt and held it up for Liam to see.

"No," Liam protested in a low voice, "It is not that, it is just—I hate those things…"

Kirk looked at him sympathetically, but before he could say anything, Kaitsumi stepped forward and grabbed her brother's arm. "Liam," she said, her black eyes hard, "It is past time for hesitation. You must keep it—and use it. It is for your own good." The two of them stared at each other for a prolonged moment, until a particularly loud bang from the distantly shifting rocks caught their attention.

"We have to go," Kaitsumi said, releasing her brother and setting off in the opposite direction of the shifting rocks. Kirk shot Liam what he hoped was a consoling glance before urging him ahead.

"Go on," he said, pushing Liam forward, "I got the rear."

With that, the odd threesome skirted the edges of the great hall, Kaitsumi leading the way to a small doorway in the wall. She placed her hand on a scanner that had been half ripped out of its place, but it still worked enough to read her palm. The door slid open and they found themselves crowding into a narrow low-ceilinged passageway that did not even allow for two people to stand abreast.

Kirk watched warily as the door slid shut behind him and enclosed them all in darkness. Liam ran to catch up with Kaitsumi, and Kirk was not far behind.

"Kait," he heard Liam breathe, catching his sister on the arm, "Kait, you are not going toward the emergency exit—we have to go the other way."

"No," she said without breaking her stride, "We cannot go that way, Liam. They are watching it—you saw what they did to the medical transport."

"Then where are you taking us?" There was a hard edge to his voice as if he already suspected something and simply wanted Kaitsumi to say it for herself.

She stopped and turned to face him, her face half-hidden in the semi-darkness. "We could…" she hesitated, "We could leave through Yamoko's Field. Through the southwest gate. They would not expect to find us there."

Liam stood as if frozen. His face had gone several shades paler and he swallowed audibly. "We cannot go that way," he whispered.

"Liam," she stepped away from him, "We do not have a choice."

Kirk looked between the brother and sister, allowing a faint crease to form between his eyebrows. "What's in Yamoko's Field?" he asked.

The two of them looked at him and then back at each other. "Something…" Liam began but trailed off.

"We must leave," Kaitsumi cut across him and with that she turned once more and led the way up the half-destroyed corridor.

Liam did not move, and Kirk came up behind him and placed a hesitant hand on his shoulder. He jumped and looked around, but Kirk did not remove his hand from its place. "Liam," he said, "We gotta get out of here. We have to go."

Liam glanced at him nervously, but his hands tightened on the phaser and he started forward again. Relieved, Kirk followed, listening hard for any sounds of Maridian interference.

After fifteen minutes of following one cramped passage after another, he had long since lost himself in the shadowy labyrinth. He could only hope that Kaitsumi knew the base well enough to navigate it, because, he thought turning down a corridor that looked exactly the same as the one he had just exited, he would not be able to find his way in these passages even after living a year in the underground caves.

It was a taxing experience, running through those corridors, every sense on high alert for any sign of trouble. They were going steadily up now, and Kirk had begun to sweat. He could still make out Kaitsumi's thin back ahead of him, and Liam's wide shoulders directly in front of him. Looking down at his feet and sprinting further upward still, he did not immediately realize it when the two in front of him stopped abruptly. He skidded to a halt just in time to avoid knocking Liam headlong into his sister, and looked up in confusion to see the reason for the halt.

They had come to a door.

Kait crouched by frame, her ear pressed against the cold metal, listening intently. She motioned for them to step closer. "This is it," she mouthed, and Kirk could tell despite the darkness that she had gone pale, "The southwest gate is just beyond this door." She pressed her ear harder against the metal. "I cannot hear anything," she said skeptically. Turning to her brother, she said grimly, "Are you ready?" Kirk saw the slight quiver of her hands when she said it.

He could not see Liam's face from his position, but he saw the set of the man's shoulders and saw when he nodded his black-haired.

Kaitsumi moved to press the keypad by the door, and Kirk, in a fit of sudden concern, shoved Liam to the side and attempted to get to the door before her. "No, wait—let me—"

But she had already pressed the pad. The door slid open with an innocent whoosh and they had a fleeting glance of a wide cave-like room before settling on the company of ten black-fatigued Maridian soldiers all turned as one to face the opened entryway.

Kirk did not stop to think. Shoving the two siblings ahead of him, he shouted, "RUN!" before flinging himself out of the doorway himself, shooting madly.

He took down three of them without missing a beat, but the other seven recovered from their surprise quicker than he would have liked. He only barely missed losing his leg from a stray shot. Cursing, he threw himself behind a pillar, as he did hearing the shriek of a woman.

Praying that Kaitsumi had not met her death, he flung himself out again, screaming madly as he shot down the soldiers one by one. Relief sent a tremor down his tense body when he saw Kaitsumi and Liam crouched behind an overturned table to his right, both alive and uninjured. But they were outnumbered and Kirk knew it.

Dodging blasts of phaser fire, he plunged right and fell back behind the table to join Liam and Kaitsumi. Breathing hard, he muttered to them quickly. "You used a blast to get into the main hall," he said urgently. "Do you have any more?"

Kaitsumi nodded wordlessly and reached into her jacket to pull out a small, round, grenade.

"Good," Kirk said, snatching it. "I'm gonna throw this, and you two sprint like all hell toward the gate. I'll be right behind you."

Not even pausing for their approval, Kirk pressed the activation button on the bomb and lobbed it over the remnants of their shelter. Pushing the two in front of him, they all sprinted amidst phaser fire toward the heavy gate set within the rock wall at the end of the small cavern.

They heard rather than saw the shouts of alarm from the Maridians as they recognized the bomb and then they were being blasted forward into the stone steps leading up to the gate.

Landing hard, Kirk struggled to get his bearings. His head buzzed and the blast from the bomb had temporarily deafened him. Blood poured from his lip and he had a cut above his eye, but he did not let any of this bother him. Levering himself up, he grabbed the fallen brother and sister by the scruffs of their necks and pulled them toward the door.

"C'mon!" he couldn't even hear the words coming out of his mouth, "The gate! We have to get to the gate!"

Kaitsumi was the first to get her feet under her again and she tripped toward the keypad next to the heavy metal gate. Punching it in desperation, she watched as the gate grated upward with an awful screeching and ran to rejoin Kirk and Liam. As soon as the gate had opened enough for then to fit through, they burst out into the open air.

With a final burst of a sprint, the three of them surged into the open daylight and Kirk had the fleeting impression of a rocky outcropping before they were running for their lives across a small yard and into a copse of trees on the edge of a forest. But they did not stop running even then. They skirted around underbrush and swerved around the thin trunks of the young saplings and only when they reached the edge of the grove did they stop.

Stretched out before them was a field, wide and green, and obscured slightly by an eerie mist.

And Kirk suddenly understood fully why his two companions had been so reluctant to come this way.

For on the field stretched out as far as the mist would allow him to see, were bodies. They looked like faint little bundles on the ground, but Kirk knew beyond a doubt that they had been Shenkarans—hundreds upon hundreds of Shenkarans.

AN—A quick word about Kait. She is not a love interest for Kirk. Absolutely not. I meant more for these two to be connected by their common determination and will to fight for what's right rather than an attraction for each other. I'd love to know what you guys think of her—and her brother. Are they believable? Please, please review!! Reviews help me write faster!!