Down The Rabbit Hole
Warnings: Some mild sexual themes, mild bad language.
Disclaimer: I own nothing.
A/N: So thank you for all your incredible support over the course of this story. The idea just kind of took hold of my brain, Khan-esque, and refused to let go. It's been truly mind-blowing and I think Cassia is definitely my best original character yet. To those asking for a sequel, there's nothing concrete. I have a few ideas floating around, mostly involving an early arrival of the Borg than depicted in the Prime timeline, but nothing substantial, and my WIPs list is getting longer and longer by the day. We'll see.
Now, without further ado, here is the final chapter. Enjoy!
It had taken them a year.
Operation Castaway had been ongoing ever since the destruction of Starfleet Headquarters by the unmarked Starfleet vessel that had been commandeered by the terrorist John Harrison.
To his slight irritation, Commander Spock had been appointed Operation head. It had been only logical he should be chosen, so the faint irritation was just his human side rearing its head as the metaphor went. Humans had such strange phrases to describe emotional reactions.
It had taken him away from his Captain and his ship, only just completed repairs in Spacedock and soon to be reassigned to the Deep Space Exploration Programme for five years. He almost smiled as he remembered Kirk's childlike enthusiasm for the assignment a year previous, and again, just after Spock returned to Earth from the survey mission aboard the U.S.S Vigilant. His enthusiasm was almost infectious.
After the transfusion, he had been concerned that the augmented blood now coursing through Jim's veins might cause side-effects, or more permanent changes, but Kirk had seemed the same rambunctious, reckless human being he'd always seemed to the Vulcan/human hybrid.
As he watched him, atop the podium, delivering what was for Jim, a measured, sober address about what Starfleet truly stood for, his thoughts turned to some of the last words the Augment Cassia had said to him before she was put back into stasis with her family.
He admitted they haunted him, but it had been a combination of Nyota and Jim himself who had finally prompted him to act on the possibility her words had evoked. He had been surprised, especially, at Jim's support for the project, both officially and unofficially. He had stood up and given his vocal support when they met with Admirals Barnett and Jameson to discuss what was to be done with the 74 Augments in stasis at a classified Starfleet facility in Russia.
It had taken both effort and time to convince the Admirals of the logic and morality of their proposal, but they had finally accepted it. Everyone deserves a second chance, as Jim had put it. Simple if efficient phrasing.
It had taken them exactly 8.6 months to locate a suitable M-class planet on which to establish a colony. Devoid of sentient species evolved enough to pose either a risk or a temptation, with a mild climate and the necessary materials for survival, there was little doubt the Augments would thrive on the planet officially designated Janus IV. The planet was comprised of similar structural characteristics to Earth, with one large ocean and two continents, separated by approximately one thousand miles of open ocean. The northern continent possessed the most suitable climate, mild and possessing numerous varieties of ecosystems, from plains to woodland to tundra in the extreme north of the continent, closest to the magnetic pole, unlike the southern continent which was comprised mostly of desert and savannah environments. It had taken 3.1 months to have the planet designated a research and conservation only system, unsuitable for colonisation. Located 10 light-years from Deep Space 6, it was deep enough in Federation space that it would be protected from enemy incursions if war with the other powers in the quadrant became a reality, but also remote enough that discovery would be highly unlikely.
He had briefly considered Ceti Alpha V, but an in-depth survey of the planet and its closest brother planet had shown severe deficiencies in the structural integrity of Ceti Alpha VI, alongside seismic shifts in the planet's mantle which were a cause for concern, one that ultimately led to the abandonment of the Ceti Alpha system as a possibility for relocation.
And now the Enterprise's first mission on their five-year assignment would be the relocation of the 74 Augmented humans and their supplies to Janus IV. The colony would be given all it needed to survive, and on their return trip to Earth in five years time, the Enterprise would conduct some minor sensor sweeps to ascertain the fate of the colony. As for anything else, they would follow the Prime Directive and allow the fate of the Augments to play out as it would.
Although Spock had a sneaking suspicion Kirk would probably ignore the Prime Directive as he had numerous times before. The human was predictable in his rebelliousness, after all.
It was the sensation of something other than cold that returned first. Her limbs, while weakened by the revival process, felt warm and light, no longer weighed down or confined by the ice which had kept her in stasis.
Her eyes were closed, but light burned through her thin lids, and she opened them cautiously. She squinted against the harsh light that assaulted her retinas, before something cool and shady fanned across her vision, and it settled enough for her to see a tree branch in full leaf, similar to an Earth elm tree, shielding her from the fierce light of the sun in the sky.
Blinking, she slowly sat up, fanning her hands across her body, feeling its corporeal reality, clothed in the Starfleet regulation black jumpsuit that she had worn when she was returned to her cryotube. Her hair was loose and long down her back.
This was real. In cryogenic stasis, one did not dream.
Her hand grazed over her neck, feeling the tiny indentations of an injection by hypospray, quickly healing, against her fingertips. She suspected she had been out of the cryotube for some time, but kept in an induced coma. The question was: why?
Slowly, she stood; testing out the strength of her legs, but her muscles had not atrophied as she feared they might. She was alone in the clearing.
Carefully, wary of alien beasts or traps, she left it, creeping along through the trees, until she reached another clearing, loaded with grey cargo chests stamped with the Starfleet insignia and identification numbers. And among them lay Khan.
She darted to his side, throwing herself down beside him and checking his pulse. Steady and strong, she breathed a sigh of relief as she stroked a stray lock of hair back from his forehead.
While she waited for Khan to awaken, she ran over recent events in her mind. The last thing she remembered was going to sleep in her cryotube. Now, she was awake and with her lover, on a planet that resembled Earth yet she felt it was not. There subtle differences, in the colour, in the air on the tip of her tongue as she inhaled through her mouth, and the moons she could see in the sky. No, they were on a different world.
They had been relocated, then, and if the storage containers were any indication, left to survive and thrive as they would. A second chance.
"Well, well," she breathed to herself. "Seems the Vulcan came through with his proposal after all."
She hadn't dared to hope after she had read Spock's encoded message on that data PADD. She could barely believe it now.
She wondered where the others were, before she remembered a very salient fact that her awakening had momentarily caused her to forget. She was pregnant.
And finally, their child, hers and Khan's child, would have the chance to be born, to live, without the legacy of her parents hanging over them. They would be free to choose their own path from the beginning, as Cassia never could.
Suddenly a movement beneath her hand tore her from her thoughts; as she looked down to see Khan's eyes open, unfocussed and wary as they stared restlessly at the sky above them.
"Khan?" she called his name softly, as those icy blue eyes snapped to her. "I'm here."
Focus and relief flooded into them, tinged with disbelief, as Cassia found her hand enfolded in his, then her arm and shoulder, before she was pulled into his desperate embrace. She clung to him tightly, smiling into his neck as he inhaled deeply of the scent of her hair.
"Cassia," he exhaled. "My love."
"I'm here, we're both here," she whispered. "Wherever 'here' is."
Khan drew back slightly, leaning back on one elbow, dishevelled and sinfully handsome in the shaded light breaching the leafy canopy above them. "What happened?" he asked. "I remember being pursued by the Vulcan, then he knocked me unconscious. What happened to you?"
"They found me and kept me under guard until I healed," she explained. "Then I was placed back into stasis, as you were. They used your blood to revive Kirk after he died from a radiation overdose while trying to save the Enterprise."
Khan's face hardened, and his eyes flashed. She held up her hand to head him off, and the words she could see on the tip of his tongue halted.
"I think…we have been brought here, to start again. We've been given a second chance, so to speak," she murmured softly. "Commander Spock intimated as much to me when he came to visit me during my recovery-"
"Exile, you mean," Khan spat venomously, looking away. "Somewhere remote and out of the way, no doubt, with no way to avenge our family's deaths-"
"If you let me finish, you great oaf," Cassia cut across him with a pointed glare, not intimidated in the slightest by his own. "Our family is not dead. Commander Spock and Doctor McCoy removed the cryotubes from the torpedoes before arming them and letting us beam them aboard the Vengeance. He duped us into taking them, believing they contained our people."
Khan listened to her, struck silent by her revelations, as he watched her intently. "You know this for certain?" he asked, a reluctant hope in his eyes.
"I saw them myself before I was placed back in stasis," she nodded. Khan's mouth stretched into the first truly happy smile she had ever seen on him, and she was almost taken aback by him. He pulled her to him and held her tightly. "Khan, what is it? You seem different?" she asked, sure something else had happened without her knowledge. He seemed erratic, jumping between his usual dark moods and happiness so light she was almost blinded by it.
"The Vulcan. During our fight, he melded with me to prevent me from crushing his skull," he explained, meeting her gaze directly, stroking back her hair. "It seems the Vulcan's powers were not only effective on you, my love. I took experienced a memory from my human life before I was able to push him away."
For a moment he looked haunted, and despite the curiosity burning inside of Cassia, she sensed that like her own experience, it had not been the most pleasant of memories. The time for confessions and discussion would come soon, but not now. Now was a time for reunion and joy before the work of rebuilding their family and ensuring their survival began.
"There's something I need to tell you, Khan," she murmured, drawing his attention away from whatever dark remembrance had momentarily consumed him. His eyes watched her warily, and she smiled. "I'm pregnant."
Shock made his entire face go blank, as he stared at her. "Pregnant? But…how?"
Cassia eyed him derisively, as he rolled his eyes. "I mean, how it is possible with the implant-?" he asked again, his hand grazing her arm.
"It seems three hundred years in cryogenic stasis damaged it. It wasn't working when you found me and brought my memories back, so when we made love, I conceived. I am only a week into the first trimester," she told him, as another smile appeared on his lips, transforming his face from its usual austere sensuality to the man she sensed he was before the Augmentation. He reached up and kissed her, pulling her down into his arms. She cupped his face and twisted her hips into him, drawing a moan from him as his arms tightened.
It was the only warning she had before he flipped her onto her back, her heavily muscled body sinking onto hers with a need she met with her own, ardently. He hauled her leg over his hip, rocking against her pelvis as she clutched his back, fire racing in her veins. The haze of pleasure and need descended, and it was all she could do not to tear the clothes from Khan's body and her own, and have him again. She wanted to, desperately.
But they needed to find their family first.
"Wait, wait!" she gasped, breaking away from his kiss reluctantly, her hair spread around her head like a halo. Khan made an impatient, growling sound, deep in his chest and bent his head to hers again, but she pushed him back. "We need to find the others first, Khan. If they wake up alone, they could get into trouble. They'll be confused. We need to find them."
Khan inhaled deeply and nodded, closing his eyes for a moment as his jaw worked, fighting back the need that flickered in Cassia's body, pleading for fulfilment. Once after three hundred years of separation was too long and too little.
But not now. Later.
He whispered that word to her as he let her up, hauling himself to his feet and holding a hand to help her up. She glanced at it, then at him narrowly, before climbing to her feet herself. She dusted down her jumpsuit, before meeting his aggrieved gaze pointedly. "I do hope you're not going to turn into an overbearing, overprotective gorilla for the next nine months?" she asked acerbically. "I mean more than you already are?"
Khan smirked wickedly. "Perish the thought, my love."
He held out his hand, and she took it with a long-suffering sigh, as they turned and walked into the trees, both memorising the way back to their supplies.
"So what now?" Khan asked her, as they walked.
"We start again. This time, we do it our way," she replied firmly. "This time, we decide who and what we are. No one can take that away from us this time."
She met Khan's icy gaze, and smiled warmly at the love she saw in them. He bent his head and kissed her gently, one hand dipping into her curls, as she leant into the caress.
They would always have the propensity for death and destruction in their blood, darkness and domination hardwired into their very DNA. But that did not mean that they had to choose to be defined by that. Now was the time for new beginnings and new paths to be forged.
They would forge their own path. As she felt Khan's hand against her abdomen, as she drew back and met his gaze, warmer than she had ever seen it before, that silent vow passed between them.
They heard voices, urgent and uncertain, in the forest ahead, and as one, they turned and strode to meet their family and the unknown future that awaited them.
If Cassia looked to the sky, in the clearing where they found all 72 of their family amassed, waiting for them, and saw a distant shape gliding through the sky, and smiled at the sight of it, she told no one else. This thank you was just for her, alone.
Aboard the Enterprise, Kirk, Spock, Nyota, Sulu, McCoy and Scotty amassed on the bridge, looking down on the planet below them, awash with cool blues and greens, netted with the white of cloud cover across its sphere.
"Relocation successful, Captain," Nyota murmured, from her workstation.
"All 74 life signs are active and strong," McCoy added from his own, monitoring the Augments as they awoke from afar. "It's done."
"Good," Kirk murmured, before looking to Scotty. "Scotty?"
"I've detonated a data charge in Starfleet Archives. All records, all mentions, of the Augments have been deleted from the Archives, Captain," the Scotsman replied.
Kirk glanced to Spock, unmoved and stern beside his chair. "Think we're doing the right thing?" he asked quietly.
"There is not enough data for any thorough conclusion, Captain," the Vulcan replied, before his eyebrow quirked slightly. "But as humans are known to say, it is up to them now."
Kirk chuckled wryly, before turning to Sulu and nodding. "On our way, Mr Sulu. Punch it."
As the ship jumped to warp, Kirk looked at his last glimpse of Janus IV, peaceful and calm in the endless cold of space, and his lips quirked in a smirk. See you in five years…
But first, they had a mission to complete, and new worlds and new civilisations to discover. To boldly go where no man had gone before.