"That might actually be the single most terrifying thing I've ever seen." Sulu nodded in silent agreement as McCoy stopped beside him, arms crossed over his chest and his eyes on the two men who hovered over Spock's station.
"I know, right?"
"I mean…there's two of them. Two." McCoy continued, unable to tear his eyes away from where Jim and his father were talking Spock through some equation or other.
"I can see that." Sulu nodded.
"Yes there are."
"I thought he was dead. Didn't you think he was dead?" McCoy finally looked Sulu in the eye and frowned questioningly. The arrival of Jim's father had only been fuel on an already ferocious fire of gossip on board and now speculation was even more rampant than usual.
"I didn't think about it." Sulu shrugged.
McCoy didn't believe him. Sulu might be cool as ice but even he wasn't immune to gossip. Hell, even Uhura was getting involved, and her no gossip rules had been iron clad up to that point. "Not even a little bit?" Sulu glanced aside shiftily. "Yeah, I thought so."
"It's good though, right?" Sulu asked, watching the way Jim had practically lit up with his father present. He was even more animated than usual and it was clear from George's body language that being in such close proximity to his son was more than he could have hoped for. "I mean, that he's not dead or a prisoner somewhere."
"Hmm. Sure." McCoy agreed. He'd be glad George Kirk was safely out of Klingon hands even if Jim wasn't his friend. Knowing how lonely the kid sometimes was and how utterly horrific his childhood must have been, he was elated.
He was also slightly terrified, because one psychotic Kirk was enough to handle, let alone two.
"You could maybe less enthusiastic." Sulu suggested. "I think you just broke something."
"Save the sarcasm for the experts, flyboy. I'll be more enthusiastic when we aren't about to get shot by people who want to kill us."
"Untwist your panties, Bones." Jim called from across the room, reminding McCoy once more how damn sharp his hearing was. "We're already at warp."
"Like being at warp has ever stopped people who want to kill us, Jim. Remember the crazy Romulan with the super ship?"
"He did have a name, you know."
"His name is irrelevant." McCoy huffed. "He followed us. Then shot at us. Repeatedly."
"And we blew him out of the black. No harm, no foul."
"My nerves were harmed."
"You nerves are pussies."
"Perhaps I could have a moment of your attention, sir?" Spock broke the bickering with his usual deadpan seriousness. McCoy didn't miss the snort of laughter George hid behind his hand.
"Sorry Spock," Jim said contritely. "Carry on." That didn't stop him turning quickly to Bones and pulling a face at him.
"I'm going back to sickbay." McCoy announced. "Where people are sane, or at the very least highly medicated."
Jim waved at him absently and Sulu had already moved on to whispering with Chekov. Children. McCoy was working with children.
In truth, sickbay was both peaceful and quiet without Jim there to irritate him. It was also a little boring. He wrote up his latest reports and decided to put off the physicals reviews he needed to sign off on until after dinner. He left his office into a practically empty sickbay and walked right into a punch to the stomach.
McCoy didn't know what hit him. It came hard, fast, and dropped him to his knees, clutching his throat. He retched violently, struggling to suck in air as the blow to his gut forced everything from his lungs.
With blurred vision, he was just about to make out a pair weathered boots pass in front of his face before strong hands were hauling him up by the neck of his uniform and throwing him back inside his office.
"Doc." He'd been expecting a visit from George Kirk ever since Jim brought him on board. If he was honest, he'd been waiting for Jim to snap for so long now that it was almost a relief for his comeuppance to come from someone else.
It was for that reason McCoy didn't attempt to fight back at this point. That, and the fact that he was under no illusion that he'd be a match for Jim, let alone George.
"Wondered when you'd come visit." McCoy said, his voice gruff as he continued to try and regain his breath.
"So you recognize what you've done wrong." George said. "That's something I suppose."
"Never denied it." McCoy said in response, leaning back against the edge of his desk to help him with his balance.
"Then why? Explain your thought process to me." George sounded completely reasonable and his face, clean shaved and animated, was almost friendly. That was where Jim got it from, he supposed, that ability to smile so genuinely when most certainly plotting violence.
"You gotta talk to Pike about that." McCoy shrugged his shoulders.
"And by talk he means not punch me in the face before I get a word out." Pike stepped into the office from behind George, but from George's lack of reaction he'd obviously known he was there.
"You want me to apologize?" George asked serenely.
Pike's shoulder's slumped. "No."
"Where's Jim?" McCoy asked, half expecting Jim to pop up out of thin air and surprise them all.
"I sent him down to Engineering." Pike explained. "Scotty'll keep him occupied."
McCoy nodded. That was something at least. Jim probably wouldn't take too kindly to the conversation they were about to have, either subject or content.
"So talk." George said, his voice still calm and modulated. "Explain to me why you decided it was okay to dose my boy with valhalandramide."
"We needed to control him." Pike said, equally as calm. McCoy got the feeling that with these two men an entire argument could be had without either of them raising their voices. Jim was far more volatile, as was McCoy. "You heard what he got up to after he escaped?"
George nodded shortly. "I heard."
"What happened?" McCoy cut in, his curiosity getting the better of him. He knew that if he asked Jim how he'd escaped from Rura Penthe, he'd probably be completely candid, and for that reason he never done so. "How did you get out?"
George threw him a shrewd look. "Jim's caused a lot of problems for the Empire over the years." He said by way of explanation. "Think they were planning on using me to catch him. Obviously I wasn't about to let that happen."
"Obviously." Pike echoed, probably noticing that George hadn't actually answered the question. "Jesus. I should have known you were still alive. Jim was far too keen to go charging back into the Empire for a someone who was supposed to be running from them."
"He's a contrary kid." George nodded with a touch of a smile.
"He was trying to get you out." Pike said. "He never told me. If I'd known-"
"What, Chris? Would you have come running to my rescue?" There was a slightly sardonic edge to George's voice that made McCoy's hair stand on edge.
"Yes." Pike said firmly. "I'd have come for you. I'd have come for the both of you if I'd known you'd survived."
"But you didn't." McCoy wasn't sure to which point George was referring. Neither did Pike by the looks of it. "And you drugged my son. Your godson."
"Whoa!" McCoy jerked upright in shock. "Jim's your godkid? What the ever loving fuck?" Jim really was having a terrible effect on his vocabulary.
"I don't think that's the most pertinent point here McCoy." Pike frowned at him.
"Really, because I think it's pretty damn pertinent." McCoy might be the only one who raised his voice, but at least he'd be able to match the volume in the room for the tone that was developing.
"I could maybe start to like you, Doc." George said, his half smile at odds with his serious eyes. He had much boarder, stronger features than Jim, though his son had clearly inherited his chin and somewhat wayward eyebrows. They had the same eyes though, bright and full of secrets.
"I'm a likable guy." McCoy said sardonically, ignoring Pike's snort of disbelief. He turned to Pike. "But in all seriousness… Jim's your godson?"
"He is." Pike nodded.
"Does he know?"
"Of course." Pike frowned.
"Oh great." McCoy huffed in anger. "Well no goddamn wonder he's not killed either of us yet. Why the hell are we drugging your godkid?"
Pike closed his eyes, struggling to control his temper. When he opened them again, he seemed collected once more. "Because he presented an opportunity that was too good for Command to pass. Jim knows more about the Klingon homeworld and their strategies than anyone I've ever known and that is damn valuable which is how I was able to get him posted on the Enterprise. He's also fucking crazy and not exactly shy with it. He was, hell, he still is, considered a high risk asset. For all we know the Klingons could have turned him and be using him as a mole. We knew nothing about how he was raised and what that had done to him. Maybe if he'd told us you were still alive we might have been more ready to believe the purity of his intentions. Maybe not."
"You will not blame him for this." George said, his eyes narrowing.
"And you'll stop treating me like I threw the kid under the bus!" Pike fired back. "I vouched for him, I put my life, my career, my goddamn ship on the line for him so I could have him on board where I could keep an eye on him and this was what they wanted in return. Jesus George, you know exactly what would have happened if I hadn't stuck my neck out for the kid."
George looked away in anger.
McCoy frowned at both of them, his eyes darting back and forth in search of an answer. "Wait, what are you talking about?"
"Jim spent his entire life in the Empire. If Command truly thought he posed a threat, they'd have had him put down."
"They'd have killed him?" McCoy couldn't believe that.
"We're at war, McCoy. Letting Jim live is the biggest risk the Federation has taken."
"But he's proved himself!" McCoy yelled in outrage. "How many times has one of his crazy plans saved out asses?"
Pike held up his hands, palms out in a gesture of calm. "He has. Which is why he's still alive and why we're still running things as we are. You don't think Command have a backup? They know I'm compromised when it comes to Jim – they'll have someone on board ready to take a shot as soon as it looks like Jim's loyalties are in doubt." Pike shook his head as McCoy opened his mouth to speak. "No, I don't know who it is. Jim says he does but he's not telling."
"Goddamn." McCoy stumbled over to his chair and slumped down. He was getting too old for this kind of drama.
"Pretty much." Pike agreed.
"But why valhalndramide?" George demanded. "You could have chipped him, you could have had your Vulcan Science officer read his damn mind."
"We offered him that option." Pike said. "He refused, and Spock would never meld with him without permission."
"So drugging him was the next best thing?"
"That was my idea, actually." McCoy admitted. "Not the actual drugging part, but the valhalandramide. Despite it's reputation, it's actually one of the safer drugs to administer."
"Jim said it hurts." George said, his mouth pulled into a thin line of anger.
"It does." McCoy nodded regretfully. "Like a bitch, I'm told. But it's also damn difficult to reproduce even if you are a certified chemist."
"Which you aren't." George pointed out, though how he knew that McCoy didn't know.
"Not officially, no." He agreed. "But then you're officially dead, so these things don't really count for jack shit, do they? My point is, there's maybe a handful of people who can replicate the drug which limits the places Jim could defect to. Command wanted something with a limited halflife and they suggested using kytroxin, which is ten times more likely to give him a heart attack. Valhalandramide isn't pleasant, and the dangers of not taking a dose regularly are extreme, but the actual side effects of prolonged use are actually the least hazardous. I had to weigh up which was more important in the long run – daily comfort, or his long-term health. I made the choice."
"Doctor McCoy is the best there is." Pike spoke up in his defense. "And he will always put Jim's wellbeing first, even if that has to be in undesirable parameters."
"I understand what you are saying." George acknowledged, "but you drugged my son. I told him when he got free to come to you. That you'd protect him." He said the last words to Pike, who flinched from the accusation. "Do you understand what that means? The only person Jim has ever been able to trust is me: I told him that he could trust you, and the first thing you do is abuse that."
"And what would you have had me do differently?" Pike demanded. "I did the best I could to keep him safe."
"You did the best you could to use him!" George shot back, both of their tempers finally bubbling to the surface. "He shouldn't be on this ship! He should be safe on Earth, having a life he's never been allowed to have, not driving your war forward like some rabid attack dog."
"Jim was never going to sit back." Pike exclaimed. "Even taking you out of the picture, he was never going to be satisfied living in the suburbs and reading the morning news. He wanted to be here, he wanted to fight."
"Did you give him the choice?"
"I did!" Pike yelled. "He turned it down. What was I supposed to do? Either he was with me where I could try keep him in one piece, or with someone else who didn't give a damn either way."
"You should have made him stay on Earth." George growled. "He's a kid for christsake."
"He's not a kid! And I don't know if you've noticed, trying to make him do something he doesn't want to do is kind of like trying to make peace with the Klingons and the Romulans. It's damn near impossible!"
their escalating argument was interrupted by the chime of Pike's comm. He continued to glare at George, but answered the call. "Pike here."
"I think we might have broken your ship." Jim's voice said without permeable. "Sorry about that."
"Come again, Number One?" Pike blinked in disbelief.
"Well I say 'we'. Scotty found some anomalies during maintenance and we've run checks on all the systems to see if maybe it's some kind of glitch, but now we know for certain it's sabotage."
"What's the damage?" Pike was already leaving McCoy's office and marching through sickbay.
"Well we're probably going to need a new carbon generator." Jim announced. "Possibly a new aft emissions tank as well, if Scotty can't fix this one up. Whoever did the job's gone and sheered right through both the compartments and the wiring inside is fucked beyond belief. We can do a patch job, weld up the damage, but we're gonna need to get in new units if we want to do anything more strenuous than skip about the galaxy. One wrong hit on the shield and it'll trigger a pretty catastrophic chain reaction. Never thought about it before, but this really is a lousy place to keep tanks dealing with those kind of gasses."
McCoy could see the cursing flitter silently across Pike's face before it was schooled to his usual cool expression of competency. "Have Scott do what he needs to do to minimize the risk." He ordered. "We'll have to call in for repairs. Head up to the bridge."
"Yes sir. Kirk out."
"Well that's just great." Pike grumbled.
"Sabotage?" George frowned. "Why would someone sabotage your emissions tank? Jim's right, it's not dangerous by itself. What would be the point?"
"Because most of the department get inspected twice a day and any damaged is logged on shift. The tanks only get seen to once a week – because as you say, there's no real risk associated with them – and the computers are run through the labs for codding bi-monthly.
"So you're looking at someone in Engineering." George concluded. "Someone who knows the schedule and knows what damaging those two components could do. Still, that doesn't explain their purpose, unless they intended to deliberately trigger a reaction through the shields."
"Someone who knows we've been flying through enemy space for the last month." Pike added.
"Any suspects?" McCoy asked, wanting to check in with Jim on the bridge and so following both men down the corridor.
"None at all." Pike said. "That's not going to be a problem. If the computers don't come up with anything Jim will have a crack at it."
"God help the poor bastards." McCoy muttered.