Vulcans have better senses of hearing, smell, and sight than humans do. Andorians have very advanced senses of night vision because they evolved as a primarily subterranean species.
Meanwhile, Spock was crouched behind a support beam in hanger H, wondering how Jim and his father would succeed against a heavily armed Andorian assailant. It was unlikely they would get much warning, unless they had exited immediately after he had called for them to run…
"Come on, little lizard," one of the henchmen sneered, "we'll find you soon."
'Unlikely.' They might know the area well, but he knew how to hide. They – apparently – did not, so they had no idea where to look.
A phaser blast knocked the closest man unconscious. The second turned at the first's squawk, but was shot before he could react. Careful, slow footsteps drew closer the Vulcan's hiding place. They were human steps.
James Kirk looked cautiously behind the support beam. He grinned when he saw Spock. "Commander. It seems you have a talent for trouble."
The hybrid raised an eyebrow. "One I acquired from you, I assume."
Jim was still beaming, "Probably. I'm guessing they took your communicator?"
"The younger Andorian who came to the conference room shot and destroyed it when I attempted to call you in warning."
Jim nodded. "'S not unexpected. Do you know where the intercom system is?"
An unusual question. "No. I have not had time to familiarize myself with the layout of the building."
"Alright. I've been in these before; they're all about the same. We'll find it." Spock blinked. When had the captain learned the general layout of Andorian docking stations?
"Sir?" Jim, who was still priming his weapon, did not look up.
"You'll have to go unarmed: I'm a better shot than you, and I think their guns are tracked." The henchmen's weapons were most likely being monitored to record their efficiency, and who possessed it, but it did not make the prospect of going unarmed any more attractive.
'Illogical.' Spock nodded and stood, and was grateful when Jim decided not to comment on his First Officer's undesirable hesitation. It would be unreasonable to assume that he had not recognized the motion other humans seemed to find invisible.
Jim strode purposefully deeper into the hall, away from the main concourse. "These stations are built in concentric circles, with the conference rooms ringing the edge. The PA room's usually in the middle of the whole thing. We're all the way to thee right," the blonde said over his shoulder, "so we go this way. There should be signs once we get to the center."
The two officers reached the end of the corridor, where a lone door stood: number 299. Jim flattened himself against the wall on the side of its hinges, and motioned for Spock to move to the opposite. "If anyone comes through slowly," Jim mouthed, "take him out. If he's going quick I'll shoot him."
The Commander nodded, and Jim flicked open the door.
No one came.
Another minute. Still, no guards. "Odd," Jim frowned, "you'd think they'd've posted someone." He moved to the middle of the open portal, ignoring Spock's motions to stay put. "Ah, shit." The human groaned. "A cavern. That's just perfect."
Spock, who had obediently stayed flat against the wall, looked into the open doorway.
It was clear that Jim's previous statement was meant to be ironic. His description of the station's layout had assumed a set of hallways connecting the conference rooms to the center of the structure, like the spokes of an antique wheel.
What was beyond the door was not a cave, exactly. It was, however, readily apparent where the name had originated. There was a large space that was the height and depth of the Academy's auditorium. Its ceiling and floor was made of what looked to be raw rock – the creators of the structure did not seem concerned with the aesthetics of such a strange place.
But there was lighting, from inexpensive lanterns bolted to the walls. It was of poor quality, the center of the hall appeared pitch black, but there was some means of illumination, so some persons were expected to traverse across the space.
"Jim, what is this structure's purpose?"
The human had been sighing up at the yellowish light fixtures, and Spock wondered what the hall looked like to him, with his sub-par optical nerves. "Well, at least we know we're going the right way."
"Excuse me?" All of the data that he had observed pointed to a very opposing conclusion.
"These were originally storage spots, but then some genius realized that they're ridiculously hard to lead an army through, and now they're put in to stop invaders from attacking." He kicked at the ground, whose raw surface looked treacherously uneven. "It's hard to hold a formal formation in here, the terrain's all wrong. Of course, the guys who work here know how to get around just fine."
The commander peered into the blackness. "What are we to do?"
"Keep moving, of course. It's a circular building, the worst that happens is that we'll miss the center and wind up on the opposite side." He began to advance into the yawning expanse of blackness.
Progress was helped by Jim's excellent orienting skills and hindered by the unfortunate fact that Vulcans were not designed for cavern dwelling. They did eventually find a metal door imbedded into a cold stone wall.
"Shall I open it, sir?" Spock asked. Jim shook his head.
"Do the same thing we did the last time. Get against that wall, and take out anyone going slow." The two pressed themselves into their assigned rocks. Jim flicked open the door.
This time, someone came. Moving slowly, a station worker peered through the door that he'd been told was always locked. Spock quirked an eyebrow, 'Him?'
It was fortunate that Jim could read him so well. The human nodded glumly. The worker was probably innocent, but in the present situation no one could be trusted. The movement caught the Andorian's attention, but before he could register that the Captain Kirk was standing to his left, an alien hand had descended on his neck. He fell to the stone floor with a dull thunk.
Jim winced sympathetically, then looked carefully into the hall. He nodded to Spock, and they both trotted into the lit corridor.
'1009' was the number on the door nearest them. Jim grinned.
"The stuff in the middle always starts with '10'," he explained. "We're really close."
Spock looked back on the feet of what Doctor McCoy would have called an 'ill fated' worker. "What shall we do with him?"
"Leave him. He'll wake up soon enough." Jim turned to the end of the hall. "I doubt there's more than a dozen people in this entire section. Not many will've been told how to get in."
That statement was very unlike the captain. He was most often the first to think of other's comfort. "It is unfortunate that it was necessary to render unconscious a person who may have known the location of the room that we are seeking. I have the ability to wake him back up: it is possible that he could assist us."
Spock began to regret the emotional offer as soon as he heard it spoken aloud, but the captain did not seem to mind. "No, we can't risk him setting off an alarm. And we're way more likely to be from an attacking group than from a group of victims."
A very logical statement, totally within reason. 'Meditation is in order.' "I hear no other beings in the halls directly adjacent to us."
Jim nodded. "Ok. The intercom should be in room 2 or 3. They'll be people inside, but they've probably soundproofed the rooms."
Spock suddenly, deeply wished for a tricorder. "Will they be armed?"
"They'll have weapons in the room, but not near enough to grab quickly. As long as we surprise then we'll be fine." Jim checked both ends of the intersecting corridor, then started towards his left.
He halted suddenly at the entrance to another row of doors. "You hear anything?"
"No. But if they have soundproofed the rooms, then that observation means very little." It was not pleasant, having to admit to this shortcoming. The Captain did not seem to mind, however, and took off down the hall.
1005. 1006. 1007. 1008. Then, on the other side, 1001, 1002, 2003. The human stopped outside 1002. "Anything?"
"This room has also been soundproofed. Any response would be irrelevant."
"No, I trust your judgment."
He had been asking an opinion? "Than my opinion is that it would be that, as we are unable to observe anything from this vantage point, we change our position."
"You mean break the door."
Spock nodded slowly. "That would… be one way of changing our position, yes."
Jim snorted. "Right. Ok. This door'll be locked, whether there's people inside or not. I can break in. You take this," the surprised Commander caught the tossed phaser, "and if anyone opens it from the inside, shoot. At them. Not me."
Before Spock could begin to protest – both the plan, and Jim's apparent distrust of his aim – Jim began entering a complex series of digits into the door's keypad. Somewhat at a loss, and thrice-damned before he would admit it, Spock stood back and aimed the phaser at the level of an average Andorian's torso.
There was a small slicking noise at the other side of the door that was loud enough for even Jim to hear. The human froze and abandoned the pad, backing behind Spock. The hinges turned slowly.
The door was less than halfway open when Spock shot. The employee, clipped on the side of the skull, fell with a thud and a clatter. There was a sudden violent commotion from inside, and someone else shot into the hall, just missing the pair.
Jim grabbed the phaser from Spock and rushed the door, throwing it open and revealing the three other workers, one of whom had a large and unattractive electronic gun primed towards his captain. Spock went for her as Jim shot the other two unconscious.
Just before the Vulcan managed to grab the Andorian's neck, she squeezed off a charge that somehow missed Jim and slammed into the wall behind him.
It punched a hole in the metal, leaving two stunned employees in the now-connected room free to observe the chaos that had previously been concealed by the soundproofing foam.
They shouted and lunged to where they assumedly kept their weapons, and Jim had to wedge his shoulders into the hole and shoot them before they could prime them.
Jim then hauled himself out of the wall and stood, panting, as Spock waited for something else to go wrong.
Finally, the commander found the presence of mind to look around.
"Jim," he started, "we are in the wrong room."
"Wha –?" the blonde wearily glanced about. It was true. They were surrounded by security screens, not microphones. "Ah, shit," he moaned, and stuck his head back through the hole in the wall. "It's this one. We were one off. I'll go out and break the lock on –,"
Spock picked up the Andorian's abandoned gun. "Stand back."
"What are you –? Oh. Well, yeah, that'll work too." He moved obediently into a corner as Spock shot at the wall until the hole was large enough to walk through. Jim peered inside.
"Yeah, this is defiantly it."
"Are there any more workers?"
"No, there were just these guys." Jim stepped over the two ill fated employees and started tapping at their instrumentation. Spock walked through the wall and had to clamber inelegantly over the remains of a swivel chair; Jim had apparently missed a shot and destroyed its base.
Jim was deftly entering codes into the computer terminal. In Andorian. A microphone slid quietly out of the black paneling. A question flashed on the computer's screen, 'Record and play message? Y or N,' it asked.
Spock only knew how to read such a message because of his position of Linguistics Professor inside the Academy, how did the captain know of the finer points of the Andorian Principle alphabet?
Jim pressed the equivalent of a 'Y' key and leaned closer the machine's pickup. "This is Captain Kirk of the Enterprise. Armed militants are holding Ambassador Sarek, Liaison Tishri, and three leaders of the Thakahla party hostage in room 319, hanger G. Assistance is needed. Please respond."
Jim tapped the 'End' key, and the microphone slid back into the desk. "And now we wait."
Spock looked at the five employees lying the two destroyed rooms, all unconscious. "Captain, how will we explain…?"
Jim stared sadly down at the man at his feet. "Collateral damage."
"Will that be an appropriate reason?"
The blonde sighed. "Unfortunately."
It took the police forty minutes to find Jim and Spock after they'd finished arresting the Nahka Comentha people.
Somewhere along the way they'd picked up a photographer, who'd taken a picture of Jim looking very Captainly, Spock looking very Appropriately-Staid-For-A-Vulcan, and the five employees looking adoringly at the two officers.
That must have been really hard, actually, since all five had promised to sue both officers for mental and physical damages. They'd been glaring daggers.
So everyone'd been escorted back into the hanger, and it tuned out that once you got a gun in Sarek's hand he turned into one hell of a BAMF. He'd single-handedly held off two of the Comentha's wackos, while managing to keep a group of four Andorians calm, which, come to think of it, was probably the most difficult task.
He was mum on how he'd done it, of course. Wouldn't tell a soul. He'd pulled Spock aside for a moment right after they'd left the cavern, but Spock wouldn't say what his father had told him, just given Jim an eye-smile when he'd asked.
Anyway, Sarek had done all of this while looking – but not feeling, the man'd insisted stubbornly – like he was about to shrivel and die and collapse into a small gray pile of dust.
And at some point the Thakahla leaders were all looking very impressed with him, and Tishri was looking happy to be alive, and apparently that made for a very good magazine cover because the next week's edition of Federation Weekly had that picture on the front.
The article inside was even better though. Some intern had decided that Sarek (being as close to death as he was, the poor dear) was the real hero of the entire debacle. Jim thought that was really kind of cool, actually: let's give the Vulcans some credit for once! But he had been worried that Tishri'd be annoyed.
However, when Jim had called Tishri about it back on the Enterprise, she'd just grinned and said that she was still not very popular with the government, so they'd just left her out of it.
In fact, she was such a political landmine that she'd been given a job way out in the Lorentian system: the First chair of the Starbase XI.
"But, wait, what about Mom?"
"Did you look at page 24? It talks about her there." Jim took the magazine off of the desk and flipped to page 24 – he'd been so wrapped up in the main article he hadn't read the first half.
"Winona Kirk: New Andorian Ambassador?
Tishri beamed. "I know, right? Apparently, when they were researching you for the main bit, they pulled up your mother's old Fleet record" The Andorian flipped through her own copy of the magazine, "I had no idea your mother was the Andorian liaison for the Kelvin, I only knew about the Europa thing.
Jim was stunned. "She was liaison for like five minutes! I mean, she was good, but –!"
"She's popular. She's connected to you. She has a record. She's the new ambassador."
"Wait. Here it says the discussion's being 'discussed'."
"Oh, please." The Andorian rolled her eyes. "You're smart. If the Admiralty even took the reporter's call, she's got the job."
Jim stared at the glossy article. "Well… Good for her, I guess."
Tishri flapped a hand. "Oh, don't worry. It'll work out. Always does."
"All that changes is whether it works out for us or for them."
The politician beamed. "See? I knew you'd come around."
Jim shuddered. "Oh, gods no. Don't scare me like that."
Tishri laughed. "Hey, did'ya hear about Leighton?"
"Christ, I haven't heard his name in ages!"
"I know, right? He's just been convicted on about ten counts of corruption."
The human's eyebrows rose. "Ten? That many?"
"Yeah, well the judge hated him."
"What about Arya? She was pretty deep in all of that."
"Oh, I didn't tell you! She's a city planner!" Tishri was obviously very proud. She was also completely dodging the question. "Doesn't know a thing about it, of course, but then, neither did the other guy. But she'll get a good advisor and she'll be fine."
Jim was just about to get righteously angry when he realized that was, basically, the same situation he was in. Arya had Tishri, he had Pike…
"Well, that's um… Great. Good for her."
Tishri preened. "I know!" She smiled at nothing for another moment, then refocused on the human. "Hey, how're the Vulcans doing? They left a little while ago, I was at the seeing-off ceremony."
"They're good. They're on-route back to the colony, the Cardassians swore to help protect them if we promised to give them back planet 41 Beta."
"But we never even had 41 Beta."
"Yeah, well. No need to remind them." The Andorian grinned.
"I knew you'd get it someday. Selective blindness, my friend." She looked down at the clock on her desk. "Shit! Listen, I've gotta go. There's a fast-food chain that wants placement, I'm meeting with them in ten."
"Alright then. Talk to you later."
"And you. Tishri out."
"Kirk out," and the connection was cut. Jim was left in his now-darkened quarters sitting in front of a comm unit, holding a limp magazine in his hands and wondering when he'd changed. He probably would've stayed there for some time if someone hadn't asked to come in.
"Enter!" he called. His doors slid open to show… Spock, of all people, looking almost as lost as Jim felt.
"Hello Cap – Jim." Jim smiled at the correction, "I just finished a conversation with my father, and did not know how to proceed," The commander looked around the room, as if he was just seeing it for the fist time. "Somehow, I came to be here, asking for entrance."
There was a long silence. Spock seemed to shake himself. "I apologize for the intrusion. I shall leave."
"No –!" Jim stood and grabbed Spock's shoulder. "I just had the same thing happen to me." He smiled weakly, "It's pretty stunning, huh?"
Spock nodded. "… Indeed." He stared at Jim's hand. The human stated and quickly removed it.
"Sorry, the whole no-touching thing." He gestured towards the bed, "Do you want to sit down?"
The Vulcan nodded and placed himself carefully on the foot of the bed. Jim just flopped backwards and hoped his head didn't hit the wall. He wound up with his torso straight and his hips twisted so that one leg dangled off the side of the bed.
He swore he could hear Spock's eyebrow rise, and grinned at the ceiling. No matter.
"So, what'd Sarek say?"
"My father is now the head of Vulcan's entire diplomatic team."
"Wow. Any reason?"
"None that I can decipher, and he knows of none. Nor do any Vulcans, apparently, the request for his promotion came from the Federation and simply went uncontested."
"Probably all of that publicity. And it's not like he's unqualified."
"It is… an irrational catalyst for a promotion."
"Yup. Politics doesn't have much to do with logic."
"Apparently." Jim grinned at Spock's dry tone. "Whom were you conversing with?"
"Tishri. She's the head of Base XI now."
"What of your mother?"
Spock was probably the only person who could ask that and not sound like he was tying to be insulting. "She was the Andorian liaison on the Kelvin."
"Your father's ship."
"For twelve minutes, yeah."
"Is that how you knew the layout of the docking station?"
"Wha?" Jim'd forgotten that he hadn't told Spock about that yet. "Oh, no. When I was eleven I drove a car – gorgeous old thing, Corvette, wheels and everything, it's a long story – anyway, I drove it into a quarry and got myself sent to a correctional camp off-planet.
"I was taken back from there in an Andorian transport shuttle, and when it landed we found out that my Mom didn't quite have enough money to come and pick me up yet. So I lived in the station for a while."
Spock was silent for a long while. "… Did you learn Andorian there?"
"Some slang, easy stuff. Mom taught the rest to me when I came back from camp."
"What planet was the camp on?"
Jim thought for a moment. "… Tarsus IV." He could hear Spock put the pieces together.
"You were eleven when you arrived on Tarsus IV."
"You were born on stardate 2233.04."
There was a pause that felt very long. "The Kodos Genocide occurred the summer of the year 2244."
No one said anything for a while, again. "You are a survivor of the Kodos Genocide."
Jim stared hard at the ceiling. The metal panels wouldn't judge. "Yes."
Jim's stomach curdled as Spock said nothing. If he lost his First now, after everything –
A light touch, on his ankle.
Jim lifted his head to look at his leg. Spock's hand was lying at the top of Jim's right boot. Not really doing anything. Just sitting there, politely. The Vulcan himself was looking determinedly at the opposite wall. He had a very strong un-expression on his face.
Jim put his head back down.
Spock's hand was very warm. Vulcans, higher body temperature and all that.
Jim was starting to zone off rather comfortably when Spock finally spoke. He couldn't quite pinpoint what emotion was making slightly strangled like that, but there was definitely something there.
"The situation… With Tishri. And Leighton. And my father, and you mother… It is… The mission was successful?"
Jim propped himself up on his elbows. Spock was still facing the desk, but he seemed to be looking lower, at the chair's legs now. "Well… Everyone got a job. Except for Leighton, he was a dick. But everyone's working somewhere."
He felt like he was reassuring the Vulcan. Reassuring him of what?
"Yet… Tishri and Arya… They were corrupt."
"Technically? So'm I."
Spock's head snapped up, and he finally looked at Jim. "How have you been corrupted."
Structured like a question, spoken like a command. "Arya's in office because Tishri liked her, right? And Arya doesn't know anything about the office she's in. But neither did I when I started. I'm just winging it with some good guys behind me, mostly because of a higher-up who liked me. Pike's my Tishri."
Spock seemed displeased with the comparison, in his subtle, Spockish way. "You have genuine talent. Arya has displayed none."
"No one thought I was anything except for Pike, and that was only because of my father. And you never know: maybe Arya's true calling was to be city planner, and she just didn't know it."
"If that is true, than I, too, am corrupt."
Jim shut up. Spock? Corrupt? Earth's sky was green and Vulcans were flighty. "That's not true."
"Neither is your comparison. Arya convinced Tishri to assist her, Pike offered you his."
"I'm only captain because my father was one of the only fatalities of the Kelvin." Jim said with finality. No way to argue with that statement.
Spock cocked his head slightly to one side. "You are a very good captain."
Jim blinked. "Oh. Thank you."
"No thanks are needed for a simple statement of facts." Jim could feel his face heat. Spock politely looked back to the wall.
He looked back down at his First. "Anything else you wanted?"
Jim did a mental head-desk when he realized that that'd sounded like a dismissal. He sat up and faced the wall with Spock, which was just as boring as he'd thought it was.
Spock's hand had transferred from his ankle in the shift. It was oddly disappointing. The Vulcan gave Jim a sidelong look and looked at his reclaimed hands, which were folded carefully in his lap.
"No. I believe…. I am content. Thank you." Spock stood and bowed, causing Jim to freak out, just a little, that he could be leaving so quickly.
"Shall I leave now, Captain?"
Jim flailed about for a suitable excuse, and then thanked whatever deities that sprang to mind that that chessboard was still on his desk. "You know," he started, "last time we played chess, it didn't go very far."
Spock nodded solemnly. "Indeed. A most regrettable state of affairs."
Jim grinned. "Would you like to continue the game?"
Another grave nod. "It appears to be the only way to rectify the situation."
The blonde pulled the board off of the desk and set it on the bed. He was overcome with the sudden, irresistible urge to tease the Vulcan. "You know Spock, you're getting more emotional with every day."
His First blinked. "Captain?"
"Inability to finish games of logic, surprise visits… you're becoming very excitable."
Spock placed himself on the black side of the board. "Captain, if you continue to insult me I will have to leave," he responded, setting up his pawns.
Jim ducked his head to hide his smile. "Of course, Commander. Won't do it again."
Spock's silence was the just about the smuggest thing, ever.
Jim couldn't help but laugh.