Kirk left the transporter room, strode directly to the turbolift and entered the bridge with long purposeful strides.

Chekov followed him and settled into his station.

He hesitated at the Captain's chair. Spock would be back soon, and it didn't feel right. Nothing about this felt right, but then again he just watched a planet dissolve into nothingness. He watched a man, a father and husband, die in transport. And he is damn sure he saw emotion in a Vulcan's eyes.

Nothing was right at all.

He didn't hesitate. He made the order and kept his promise to Spock.

"Set course to the Laruentian System, maximum warp."

Everyone else did.

"Sir?"

"Where's Spock?" Uhura asked, her eyes darting about the bridge expectantly.

"He advanced me to acting Captain."

Everyone kept their still pose at their stations. Loyal as always.

"Aye, I herd the order myzelf!" Chekov exclaimed, punching in the coordinates enthusiastically.

"Why you?" Uhura clipped.

Not at him, Kirk reminded himself. Everyone was on edge. Everyone had a right to be on edge. They were the only starship capable of bringing down a massive Romulan vessel, their captain was held hostage, and their first officer was out of commission for the time being. Nothing about their situation was easy. But that's why they had to be the ones to do it.

"Pike made him First Officer." Sulu added, his hands clutching the warp throttle, clearly waiting to see the consensus on Kirk's order.

"I sure hope you know what you're doing." Uhura whipped back to her station, securing the earpiece and flipped a few switches.

'So do I.' Kirk thought, hoping silently that Spock would be back to take over soon. He could feel the power throbbing under his feet. He could barely recall giving the order, but it felt natural. It scared him how easily he wished for command. And yet, he didn't. He was a cadet. He was adept at leading, but ordering? Shoving a starship into battle? This wasn't just his own actions; this was the coordinating efforts of half a dozen individuals to get the results that he wanted. Unless things happened instantly, it seemed daunting to put the pieces together. Kirk's hand tightened on the command armchair as he stood next to it, sweating and turned white.

"Punc-"

"Wait!" An ensign glued to Spock's science station exclaimed, voice shaking, and startled himself at his own outburst.

"What is it?" Kirk replied, his eyes rolling slightly at the delay.

"I'm picking up life forms on a sister planet just out of transporter range. Sir. They're Vulcan."

"Take us closer, how many?" Kirk asked.

"Just.. Just one. The other is human, and the third is not human."

"What is he?"

"I do not know." The ensign shrugged watching Kirk to see the outcome of his interruption.

"Good work, Uhura, can you open a channel? Are there any communications systems in range down there?"

"It seems to be an outpost, frequency bandwidth somewhat outdated. I'll try." A few bleeps and fuzzy scrambling later, Uhura announced that the channel was open.

"Federation Outpost, this is… Acting Captain, First Officer James T. Kirk… are you in need of assistance?"

The channel blinked and clicked and the static flooded most of the thickly accented speech nestled behind it.

"Repeat, are you in need of assistance?" Kirk squinted to concentrate on the flood of noise and speech filling the bridge.

"Jim?" A dark voice filled in behind. It was different. It was from someone else. Kirk couldn't be sure if he'd heard correctly. But it sounded like his name, his informal name that only Bones habitually used.

"Do you want us to beam you out?" Kirk asked, he could deal with questions later but at least he'd have the peace of mind that he tried to rescue them. A Vulcan… He hoped Spock would be pleased if he picked up one of his rapidly dwindling species. It was enough to make him want to try. It felt longer, but they were delayed only a mere minute before their answer came.

"Aye! Beam us up!" The accent was back, piercing through a window of static. Kirk finally sat down in the Captain's Chair, though teetered at the edge, ready to leap up the moment Spock arrived.

Kirk searched his armchair and came up blank. 'She's so advanced', he thought as he flipped through various menus and screens. Another feeling of being pulled deep under water washed through Kirk's mind. Way over his head. Way too far. But the waves, the momentum, the feeling, it drove him even so.

"Uhura, patch me through to the transporter room." Kirk asked briskly. She looked at him for a moment then comprehended.

She complied and gave a nod.

"Transporter room, this is Acting Captain, First Officer James T. Kirk, I have the coordinates of a Vulcan life form and two humanoid life forms to beam up. Have them report to temporary quarters and remain there until further notice." He definitely had to shorten his title, Kirk thought. Or Spock should come back and relieve him.

"Kir-Keptin! Sorry Keptin, I haff to speak with you!" Chekov stopped Kirk's order to continue on course.

"What it is Mr. Chekov?"

"If my calcuwuations are correct, the ship iz headed for Earth." Everyone turned to the young navigator, and then looked at Kirk.

The Laurentian system was far, in the opposite direction toward Klingon Space. If they left to gather the fleet… it would take days.

Kirk's eyes squeezed shut for a moment. He saw how quickly things happened. Felt how dark and deep the depths of this madness went. Just a day ago he was a cocky son-of-a-bitch flipping through federation bullshit tests like a goddamn super-genius. What test was this? What fucking simulation prepared a senior cadet to command a starship and battle an unknown massive, Romulan force? Hell, no one's ever seen a Romulan! The thought struck him hard. How monumental. But then again, he was just a kid playing on swing sets a week prior before those same playgrounds were splattered with starving bodies and filled with raid sirens.

Death followed him, he guessed.

Kirk thought for a moment. The moment felt longer than it actually was. But the eyes on him didn't help. Waiting. And waiting. He didn't want to betray Spock. But he didn't want Earth to disappear either.

"We've got'em sir!" A voice called out from the open channel still pumping down the transporter room.

Was it really only a few seconds?

"Good work, Kirk out." Uhura cut off the channel.

"Chekov, can you trace the ion trail of that ship?"

"Yessir!"

"Do it. We're going after them." Chekov pivoted his chair, tapped his screens and nodded at Sulu.

The ship lurched forward, inertialdampeners within the ship still made Kirk lean back in his chair. No. Not his chair.

But it was comfortable.