Sorry for the delay in posting. I promise you won't have to wait so long for the next part. Also, huge thanks to everyone who has reviewed/added the story to their favourites!

There's only so many times a man could be punched in the face before things start to get a little blurry. Granted, Jim's better at taking a blow than most men his size, but human endurance tended to fizzle out after round number four.

He was still standing, though. Sort of. Hanging between the arms of two guys who would give his muscle bound head of security operations a run for his money, and occasionally spitting blood in the general direction of the asshole using his face for stress relief.

And for once, he'd not done anything even remotely warranting the beating. Usually the first to admit that he was the cause of a good ninety percent of all bar brawls he'd participated in, Jim was also a firm believer in not taking responsibility for the shit that other people started.

This time the ball was firmly in someone else's court, and as usual, he just got dragged along for the ride.

It was the story of his life, really. Someone starts something, he finishes it.

Hell, that was the reason he was on The Maria in the first place, instead of at home, on Earth, in a bar with his crew bonding over semi-legal spirits.

Some Admiralty clusterfuck required him to be sent out to the ass end of the Universe, on a recon mission so top secret they hadn't even given him time to collect a change of clothes, let alone send word to Bones, who was no doubt going to kill Jim for making him do the trip to Georgia without company.

Once onboard the shuttle, he'd had nearly a week of sailing through the black to do nothing but fill out paperwork, bribe the admiralty into giving him some shiny new toys for his crew to play with, and try explain to Bones through very long winded messages that he wasn't fleeing the planet in an attempt to avoid seeing the ex-Mrs McCoy, no matter how much Jocelyn scared the shit out of him.

It had taken six days to straighten up the mess that was Intui II, and Jim had been ready to crawl into a bunk and not surface again until they were dirtside. A full debriefing would be held back on Earth, and only then would Jim be able to relay the classified information that he had acquired on Intui II. Some things even Starfleet didn't trust to technology. He had however gotten a pat on the back via video feed, along with the promise that everything he had requested for the Enterprise's refits had been cleared and installed, ready for his inspection as soon as he docked.

Once upon a time, they would have traded his skills in the field for the promise of a day where he didn't have to sit behind a desk and work on assignments. Now at least he could get something useful out of them.

The Maria had arranged to pick him up from port and transport him back to earth. As a diplomatic vessel, it had made for a comfortable, if boring journey.

At least until they'd been overrun by terrorists.

Jim had been asleep in guest quarters when they boarded, and without the alerts he was use to as captain, it wasn't until they were storming into his room that he even knew anything had happened.

Acting purely on instinct, Jim had killed the first one of them who had tried to drag him from bed at the end of a phaser.

In hindsight, that might have been why the others developed such an interest in punching him in the face.

Bones was going to have a field day after this one.

"You're not-" Kirk spat out a mouthful of blood and grinned painfully up into the face of the man closest "-very good at this, are you?"

As a general rule of thumb, punching people repeatedly in the face was neither endearing, nor conclusive to an effective interrogation strategy. Since they had yet to ask any questions, Jim could only conclude that their interest in him began and ended with how many times they could hit him before he passed out.

He was a little affronted. People usually had some legitimate reason for wanting to beat on him, even if it was a flimsy one.

Until he knew what they wanted, though, it was better they got punch happy with his face than start asking questions he had no intention of answering.

Spock could no doubt list to the exact digit the number of people Jim had invoked a violent reaction from, counting himself among that figure, not to mention Bones, his head of Security, half the nurses and sooner or later, Uhura. Apparently it was part of a First Officer's duties to know these things.

Jim still wasn't convinced Vulcan's couldn't lie.

It finally seemed like they were done with him, and Jim hung limply between the two holding his arms. His head felt like it had been stuffed with clouds, and his legs weren't all that keen on following the instructions he kept sending them. He was dragged like a ragdoll through corridors strewn with blood and terrified looking passengers, his ire raising with every face he saw through swollen eyelids.

This wasn't a military vessel, for christsake! These people were unarmed, and a large majority of them were civilians.

"Another, sir." The one on Jim's left shook him as they stepped onto the bridge. Jim felt his stomach roll at the sight of The Maria's captain, still alive, but barely.

He was sat in the command chair, his body arranged in a sick parody of readiness while his blood slowly pooled around his feet.

The man they addressed as their leader was humanoid, and reminded Jim a lot of his PT instructor back at the Academy. Tall, fit, and grey at the temples. He didn't so much as look at Jim before waving him away as an insignificant distraction.

Oh, he was going to regret that one.

As they started to drag him away, Jim let himself be pulled along. As much as it killed him to do so, he could hold his tongue when he needed to. Right then, he was in possession of highly classified information; information that needed to be passed on to the relevant authorities without being compromised. Neither would happen if he got himself killed by terrorists who might not even be there for him at all.

This, he figured, fell into one of the times when leading a life of adventure, excitement, and military espionage really, really sucked.

"So, what do we know about the captain's whereabouts?" With the departure of Pike and a quick jump to warp, the Enterprise was making steady progress towards The Maria's last known co-ordinates, leaving her crew to turn their thoughts once more to their wayward captain.

As one, they all turned to look at their Chief Medical Officer. McCoy never seemed a particularly cheerful kind of man, but his expression over the last twenty minutes had been nothing shirt of thunderous. "How the fuck should I know? It's not like I installed a tracking device on the kid."

They could all tell that McCoy was considering doing such a thing, though, and right then the idea had merits.

"Does the captain not usually spend his shore leave in your company?"

"I told you this already." McCoy huffed, scowling at Spock in his usual manner. "He wasn't on shore leave. The Brass called him into some top secret for your eyes only crap and shipped him off to fuck knows where. Even if he could tell me, he wouldn't."

Spock in particular looked troubled. "Sending the Captain of the fleet's flagship on any kind of mission without his crew would be entirely illogical."

"And yet they continue to do it." McCoy snarled. "Despite his physician's suggestions otherwise, I might add!"

"Why would they do that?" From his position at the helm, Sulu shook his head, clearly confused as to the motivation behind such a move.

"I think that probably falls under the whole 'top secret' part." McCoy shot him a look of disdain that wasn't in the least bit personal. They'd all learned that while the doctor was an irritable grouch on the best of days, when his captain was in danger, his behavior was downright antagonistic. Ironically, no one suffered more from the sharp lash of his tongue than Kirk himself.

Not that it made the slightest difference to his behavior, and so the crew tolerated McCoy's bad tempers graciously. It they had to keep James T. Kirk from splatting at the bottom of the cliffs he repeatedly threw himself off, they'd all be pretty testy as well.

"Commander." Uhura had left the conversation develop without input, her ear turned towards the vast emptiness of space around them. "Sir, incoming Starfleet communications suggest that scans of The Maria's last known location are reporting zero life signs."

"They made the jump to warp, then?" Chekov suggested hesitantly. No one seemed to want to consider the possibility that all aboard The Maria had been executed, their captain among them.

"That is one possibility, yes." No one would ever have thought Spock capable of pulling his punches, literally or figuratively, yet he did not say what they were all thinking. To do so might have been illogical. "Lieutenant Uhura, bring up The Maria's itinerary. I would like to know their point of origin."

"Aye sir."

"So, do you have a name, or should I just guess?" Jim angled his head to look at the beefy looking man dragging him down the empty hallway. "Bob? No. Dave. You look like a Dave."

"Shut the fuck up."

"An unusual name. Hi, nice to meet you."

Dave looked across to his partner, who Jim decided would be Bob after all. "Did we hit this one too hard?"

"Not hard enough, maybe." Bob scowled down at Jim, who returned the look with his best, beaming smile. Given the amount of blood in his mouth, he probably looked like a deranged little psychopath, but he'd pulled a seduction off with less.

"I don't know, you did a damn fine job from where I'm standing. Extra points for enthusiasm."

Bob and Dave clearly didn't know what the hell to make of Jim. It probably wasn't often that their punch bags flirted with them.

Jim lived for nothing if not to defy expectation.

They reached the end of the corridor, and turned to the turbo lift. The doors slid closed, and Jim lashed out.

Elbow to Bob's jaw, knee to Dave's groin.

It was enough to shake them loose, and then he fought dirty.

A thumb in Bob's eyesocket before ramming the palm of his hand into his throat. Bob went down with a gargled choke.

Dave was luckier. He swung out and sent Jim headfirst into the side of the lift.

Stars flashed before his eyes. The last of too many blows to the head.

"Fuck." Jim groaned, feeling his knees sag as his vision blurred around the edges.

This would be where the game was up, but Jim had never known when to quit, and he wasn't about to start now.

Swinging his legs out, he caught Dave in the knee, and on the rebound, slammed the heel of the same foot into his face.

There now. Jim wasn't the only one with a broken nose.

Dave went down with a satisfying thud, and as Jim slumped panting against the wall, he surveyed the damage around him.

The corridor was still empty, save for the two fallen bodies at his feet. No one would mind the blood, but he'd need to secure Bob and Dave before making any further moves.

Wondering if he would ever catch a break, Jim pushed himself back to his feet.