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"Anything yet Merrick?"
"No sir, they are still offline."
Silently cursing, I sank into my chair. This was going to be a long night. We had gotten back to the Vengeance approximately an hour ago, and as soon as I had Esther taken to the medical unit along with Bones, and Uhura placed under Merrick's supervision as his chief assistant, I had begun to check for any signals from Jim or any of the others with him. Unfortunately, so far we had found nothing.
"Uhura," I turned to the Lieutenant, who was sitting next to Merrick and assisting him in his efforts. Looking up from the several screens in front of her, she turned to face me.
"Yes Khan?" she replied.
"Are you aware of anyone in this region of the galaxy who opposes the Enterprise?" I asked. "If someone does have a vendetta against you, most likely you've met them before."
Uhura muttered something and looked away, which caused Merrick to stare at her with a mixture of hurt and guilt. He nudged her softly, and Uhura looked back to me and spoke.
"I am unaware of anyone who is particularly against Star Fleet and more specifically the Enterprise," she began. "We encountered a hostile Romulan named Nero who destroyed Vulcan and wanted to destroy Earth, but he and the rest of his crew were destroyed. This attack could have come from Klingons, yet we have a hesitant peace with them now. If this was an act of war, it is uncommon for Klingons to attack like this. Usually Klingons are eager to express their strength and skill, not take a ship and leave without a trace."
"It is strange," I responded. "If a species had the technology to take an entire ship into tow with it, it should have the technology to sense life forms on the vessel. If they wanted to kidnap Jim or Spock or someone else of high ranking like you and Bones, I would have thought they would have at first sensed to see if their target was on the Enterprise."
We sat in silence after my thoughts, while Merrick sent out another signal. I tensed, praying that this time it would be answered. No such luck. Nothing appeared, and we all let out a disappointed sigh. The silence continued until Uhura turned to me.
"What about you?"
"What about me?" I hissed back, hearing the accusing tone of her voice. If that woman was even considering that I was behind this, then she would be escorted off the Vengeance right this second.
"I didn't mean it like that Khan," Uhura rolled her eyes at my snap. I wasn't quite sure if she meant it, but I allowed her to continue. "We're assuming that whoever took the Enterprise is in the dark and still believes Kirk is the Captain. But what if we're wrong? What if they know that you're the captain of the Vengeance and Jim's working for you, and one of your enemies is trying to send you a message?"
This last remark stopped me short, and I thought about the Lieutenant's words. I remembered everything that had occurred since I had awoken, unable to think of any enemy I had made, excluding StarFleet. Shaking my head, I turned back to Uhura.
"I have made no enemies," I replied, but Uhura refused to look away from me.
"Are you sure?"
In her glaring eyes, I saw suspicion, guilt, and anger. For the first time, looking at her, I realized just how much the Enterprise's crew despised me. I had mocked, hunted, and killed them, and I had been rewarded with their leader and friend. My heart hardened. They knew nothing of burden. I had been altered, used, and betrayed. Jim was my reward for all of my suffering, and I was his prize for seeing the goodness, no matter how small, in a person, and accepting all sides to a story. If the Enterprise couldn't accept that, then I would force them to. Jim belonged on this ship. It was the best for him, and that I knew.
A loud beep echoed throughout the bridge, and the main screen went alive before my eyes.
"Captain," Merrick spoke in a voice barely above a whisper. "We are receiving a transmission. Shall I accept the call?"
All eyes were on me, and glancing at Uhura fleetingly, I nodded slowly at Merrick. He hesitantly pressed a few buttons, and the screen changed again, revealing nothing but a lone figure. I couldn't make out any of the details about him; he was hid entirely by a dark black cloak.
"Captain Khan," the figure spoke. I narrowed my eyes, searching for anything in the picture in front of me that could tell me anything about this person. My mind was in full focus, and pure adrenaline and anticipation rushed through my body.
"What do you want?" I spoke bluntly. No point in bothering to ask the figure's name, if he was cloaked he wasn't going to bother sharing his identity with me.
"Your surrender," was the even blunter reply. When I cocked an eyebrow, he continued.
"It's time to change you Khan, improve you, and I need you back in my possession to do so." Possession? This last statement confused me greatly, and against my better judgment, I asked,
"To whom am I speaking to?" I knew my voice sounded like acid, and I hoped whoever I was speaking to got the message.
"An enemy," was the reply.
At this, Uhura's eyes narrowed.
"Who is this Khan?" she hissed.
"I don't know!" I snapped back.
"Oh you know Khan," the figure spoke up. "Or have you forgotten your past so easily?"
When I did nothing but glare, he continued.
"I took the Enterprise, as you've probably guessed, to warn you. To show you of my capabilities, and above all, to make you feel fear."
"Fear is for the weak," I said slowly and dangerously, growling deep. At this, the cloaked figure laughed, infuriating me further.
"But you are weak Khan," he cackled. "I of all people should know."
Suddenly, the figure reached his hand out of frame for a second, only to pull it back a second later, holding a very frightened Chekov, gagged and handcuffed.
"Chekov!" Uhura screamed.
"Khn!" Chekov's muffled shouts came through his gag. "Trsn...trsn!"
"Quiet," the figure spoke, and out of nowhere he grabbed a taser and used it on Chekov, effectively silencing the young boy.
"Chekov no!" Uhura cried in distress.
"If this is between you and I," I continued, doing my best not to show any emotion other than cold, calculated anger, "why must the Enterprise and its crew be involved?"
"Well Khan, I needed something to bait you, and besides your ship, which unfortunately didn't have the same defense weaknesses as the Enterprise, the only other thing you care for is the Enterprise and its crew."
At this I chuckled.
"You think you can bait me with people I have grown to despise," I smiled. "Then surely you do not know me as well as you think you do."
"Oh really?" the figure replied calmly. "How about this then? Come down from your ship and surrender to me in exactly twenty four hours, or the next limp body in my hands will be Jim Kirk's."
"This is crazy," Bones quipped for the fifth time. "How the hell are we going to find them? They could be anywhere! They could even be with Chekov and the others with crazy man."
"They are not with him," I replied, continuing to trudge through a forest of blue trees. Along with Bones, Uhura and Esther were accompanying me back to the underground tunnels where we were separated from Jim and the others, in a desperate attempt to find them. "If they were, he would have showed them to further bait me."
"Another thing," Bones responded. "Who's trying to bait you? And why?"
"Those are the million dollar questions," came Uhura's growling remark.
"I've told you multiple times, I don't know," I whirled around to face them, tired to their infuriating questions. Just how dull were these people?! "If I did, what benefit would I have of hiding the information from you? I am just as in the dark as you. As I have said, the only interaction I have had since my awakening is with Star Fleet, and it is evident this man is not with Star Fleet!" In my anger I approached Bones so that we were less than an inch away.
"Khan," a gentle hand grabbed at my shoulder. Whipping around, I turned to see Esther, looking at me with concern. "They're just concerned. We all are. Come." After looking at the mountain, she ushered for me to take the lead again. After glaring at Bones and Uhura once more, I continued to walk, now with Esther right at my side. We continued walking through the forest in silence until Esther spoke.
"Sir, I don't want you to get upset but do you really not-
"I really don't know Esther," I said resigned. "I'm so frustrated, and missing half of my highest ranking crew members isn't helping."
"We'll find them Khan," she smiled reassuringly. "I'm sure they're camped in one of the tunnels that way they can wait out the night. At the moment, the one who captured the Enterprise should be a little more worrying to you."
"I am not one to make many enemies Esther," I spoke. "You know that."
Upon Esther's smirk, I shoved her playfully.
"Within reason," I added.
"Well perhaps this enemy is from before we were frozen," Esther replied.
This last statement made me stop in my tracks. I had been thinking strictly of the time since I had been awakened, but what if this enemy was from before any of that even happened? Who could have survived that long and wanted revenge so badly that they would wait for my return after so many years of being frozen? Chekov's muffled words rang through my head,
Immediately I thought back to all those I had encountered so many years ago, looking for loose ends, rivalries, anything. But all of my opponents I had killed or befriended, most of the time the prior.
Bones' shout snapped me out of my thinking, and looking forward, I saw that all of them were in front of me, staring at me. Looking around, I saw that we had made it to the edge of the forest, and were standing at the entrance to the underground tunnels. Walking slowly up to join them, I scanned the surrounding area, hoping that perhaps Jim and the others were waiting there. To my dismay, not a sole being was on the outside of the tunnels.
"It's going to be at the heart of night soon," Bones explained. "I suggest we find shelter soon before all of the nocturnal killers in this forest wake up and find us."
"Into the tunnels then," I replied, and began to walk, aware of my surroundings. It was extremely risky to go into the tunnels at night, but I needed to find Jim. I wouldn't allow Jim to fall into the hands of whoever wanted me in his possession again. As I walked, a million thoughts swirled through my head.
But you are weak Khan. I of all people should know.
"Trsn," I mumbled. "Terrrsn...Tarrrrsn...TARSON!"
At my outburst, the other members of my party turned around in shock. However, they did not have time to speak, for two strange tiger-like creatures seemed to be awakened by my scream, and began to growl as they emerged from the undergrowth of the nearby forest.
"If we make it off this planet alive I'm going to kill you Khan!"
"Run!" I ordered.
Thankfully no one argued as the four of us sprinted towards the tunnels, the tiger creatures right behind as they too began to race behind us. Closer and closer we ran, with Esther and I in the front and Uhura and Bones right behind us. Or so I thought.
"Khan!" came Bones' shout. "Uhura's falling behind."
Risking a glance over my shoulder, I cursed when I saw the tigers were nearly on top of the Lieutenant. Skidding to a halt, I turned and ran the other way, ordering Bones to run with Esther to the entrance of the tunnels, where the tigers wouldn't be able to find us.
Just as one of the tigers reached out to claw at Uhura, I collided with it, sending us both to the ground in a growling, snarling heap. It swiped and bit at me, but thankfully it wasn't as strong as I, and I managed to get on top of it swiftly. Grabbing its neck as it tried to throw me off, I twisted it hard until I heard the reassuring breaking of its bone.
Unfortunately, the other tiger had left chasing Uhura and lunged at me, grabbing my shoulder in its mouth and flinging me off its dead companion and sending me skidding across the ground. Pain seared through my upper body, and after attempting to move it, I concluded that my shoulder was indeed broken. That would take a few hours to heal.
Slowly getting up, I watched the other tiger as it circled around me, trying to figure the best way of attacking when out of nowhere, a stun shot hit the tiger, sending it to the ground. Without hesitating, I took the opportunity and got on top of it, breaking its neck with one arm.
Exhausted, I fell to the ground after killing the second one, cringing as I felt my shoulder begin to heal itself and the bones realign. Not even my injured leg earlier had been this painful to heal.
"Khan," I looked over to see Uhura standing over me.
"Lieutenant," I cringed. "Thank you for helping me there."
"I think I should be thanking you," came her hesitant gratitude. "I forgot my gun was still on me until I was racing away with the others. I can't believe you saved me, I would have thought you would keep going."
"You are important to Kirk, Lieutenant Uhura," I spoke. "Therefore you are important to me. However annoying you are."
At this, Uhura laughed lightly. It ended quickly however, as a look of anticipation and worry came over her face.
"Khan," she said tensely. "That name, you said earlier...Tarson. Who-
"I thought he was dead," I groaned.
"Who is he?"
"He is the one who created me."
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