Chapter One: Departure and Arrival

Disclaimer: I neither own nor profit from writing about these characters.

Carol Marcus wakes with a jerk. For one terrifying moment she doesn't know where she is, but she hears someone running past her open door and she remembers. Starfleet's medical center, San Francisco. As if on cue, pain lances through her knee.

She blinks back tears. Not from the physical pain, of course. She can bear that. What threatens to overwhelm her is the image of Khan's face contorted with rage, his hands on her father's head—

More running in the hall, a crash cart being maneuvered past on an anti-grav skid, the faint beep of alarms going off.

Someone's coding.

With a sudden conviction, Carol knows who. Jim Kirk.

Wincing, she sits up in bed and pivots her legs off the side. Gingerly shifting her weight to favor her damaged knee, she makes her way to the door of the small hospital room and looks to the end of the hall and the room where Kirk is being kept in an induced coma. The glass doors are folded back but so many medics are hovering around that Carol can't make out the bed.

"Get out of the way!" Leonard McCoy yells from behind her. Turning, she sees him rushing up the hall, his rumpled scrubs and tousled hair proof that he has been asleep, probably kipped out on a couch in the residents' lounge.

With an almost imperceptible nod he acknowledges her as he passes—which Carol accepts as a sort of permission. Gritting her teeth, she makes her way slowly up the hall until she is standing at the shoulder of a technician manning a portable defibrillator. From here she can see Jim Kirk's motionless body on the bed and hear McCoy giving directions.

"10 cc's cordrazine," he says, and a medic presses a syringe into one of the IV lines.

McCoy's attention is on the monitor directly above the bed. Although she isn't a medical doctor, Carol knows enough to recognize the heart and respiration indicators. Both are flat-lined.

Her own heart hammering wildly, she watches as McCoy says, "Dammit, Jim! Don't do this!"

No one moves. The alarm on the monitor continues to screech.

"Another 5 cc's," McCoy says, and the medic swivels his head and says, "Doctor—"

"Do it!"

McCoy's tone brooks no discussion and the medic lifts the syringe to the IV line again and presses.

"Come on, come on," McCoy mutters.

For an eternal moment nothing happens, and then—

The alarm goes silent and is replaced with a steady blip, blip of the heart monitor. Kirk takes an audible intake of air and the respiratory indicator lights back up.

For several minutes Carol watches as McCoy barks out commands and medics scurry to comply. From what she can gather, this is the second time the captain has gone into cardiac arrest since the transfusion with Khan's blood—an unexpected side effect requiring drastic measures to stabilize.

A uniformed nurse presses past her with a wheeled infusion stand and with a start Carol realizes she is in the way. Turning to go, she stops abruptly at the sight of Commander Spock standing a few meters behind her.

He looks almost as he did when the Enterprise limped back into Space Dock a few hours earlier. Still in his science blues, he is visibly battered, dark bruises starting to appear on his face and neck, a long gash across his nose and brow stitched and covered with a transparent plaster. Without meaning to, Carol jumps.

"You startled me," she says unnecessarily.

Spock's eyes flick from her face to the room beyond and back again. No one she's ever known has made her feel quite so uncomfortable when he trains his gaze on her.

It's her own fault. The first time she met him she had been terrified that Captain Kirk would question her forged transfer—and Spock's intense scrutiny that entire shuttle ride up to the ship had convinced her he could see through her sham. The second time he had spoken to her she was terrified that he would go straight to the captain with his discovery that she was, in fact, a stowaway. She had prevailed on him not to—putting him in an untenable position, asking him to keep a secret from his commanding officer. She was frankly surprised when he didn't haul her directly to the brig.

She wants to tell him that—to thank him for keeping her secret even as she apologizes for burdening him with it.

And more. Somehow she needs to apologize for all this, for Jim Kirk lying critically wounded in a hospital bed, for all the crew members hurt or lost because of the actions of her father.

Not that she blames herself for what he did. Someone in Starfleet sanctioned his work for Section 31, approved the secret long-range torpedoes and the massive warship built with Khan's help.

But she needs atonement for what she does blame herself for—for not being quick or clever enough to stop his assault on the Enterprise.

Meeting Spock's gaze, she struggles to know how to start.

"I—" she says, faltering. Taking a deep breath, she gestures toward the room where the medics are still busy. "I—think the captain's stable, for now."

She's stalling. Spock will call her on it, will take her to task for wasting his time.

Instead, he says, "Your injuries?"

His comment is so unexpected, so solicitous, that for a moment Carol can't speak. She searches his face for an expression of concern but she has trouble reading him.

"I'm fine," she says quickly, and then amends with, "Well, not fine, but I will be. I'm only here because they gave me something earlier for the pain—"

She doesn't finish the sentence but trusts he will understand that she isn't referring to her torn ACL, her broken kneecap.

Spock gives a curt nod and looks over her shoulder at the medics still bustling in and out of Kirk's room. For a moment he is motionless, but then he turns and looks past her, obviously hearing something in the distance.

A uniformed JAG officer carrying a PADD is making his way down the corridor.

"Dr. Marcus? Lt. Commander Halton. I have a few questions to ask before the debriefing tomorrow."

Despite herself, Carol feels a wave of annoyance. She's tired, in pain, and she's already spoken at length with a JAG officer a few hours ago. Surely anything else they need from her can wait until tomorrow.

As if he can sense her mood, Lt. Commander Halton says, "I apologize for bothering you now. This won't take long."

From the corner of her eye Carol sees that Spock hasn't moved, his head tilted in her direction. His scrutiny is intensely embarrassing, having him overhear what she suspects will be thinly veiled suggestions that she was in league with her father.

She braces herself and waits. Sure enough, the first question confirms her suspicion.

"Dr. Marcus, you stated that you were aware of your father's research until several weeks ago when he abruptly cut off your access. Do you have any hard evidence that corroborates this?"

"I don't take your meaning," Carol says. "Hard evidence that my access was restricted?"

"Exactly," Lt. Commander Halton says, nodding.

"I'm not sure what that would be," Carol says. "It's not like he sent me a note saying I was no longer able to follow his work. I just found that I couldn't open any of his weapons files, and when I tried to trace the problem, I couldn't get in touch with him."

"So you have nothing which proves your lack of access?"

"I just told you," Carol says, more than a hint of exasperation in her voice, "that he never told me that I was no longer welcome to the information. I was just cut off."

"And when you asked him why—"

Carol takes a step back and lands hard on her knee. Wincing, she says, "Aren't you listening—"

"Dr. Marcus has already indicated that Admiral Marcus did not explain his restriction on the weapons files," Spock says. "If your intention is to imply that she worked with her father on their implementation, then your question violates the parameters of a simple debriefing and is now in the territory of a preliminary investigative hearing. If so, then Dr. Marcus is entitled to have counsel present."

As astonished as Carol is at Spock's intervention, the JAG officer seems more so. His mouth twitches and he shifts uneasily.

"Very well," Lt. Commander Halton says. Without another word he pivots sharply and heads back the way he came.

As soon as he disappears at the end of the hall, Carol turns to Spock but her throat is so tight that she can hardly speak. Swallowing hard, she blinks and says, "Thank you, Mr. Spock. I wanted to tell you…I know I'm not making any sense, but I need to tell you…that I'm sorry—"

She watches his face carefully as she sputters and strains to speak. He's as reserved and composed as always—until he isn't. A flicker of something Carol can't name crosses his expression.

"Dr. Marcus," he says, his face once again settling into an impassive mask, "perhaps you should rest. It has been a long day. And tomorrow promises to be challenging as well."

Without waiting for a reply, Spock steps away from her toward the captain's room. For a moment he stands and watches the whirlwind of medics, McCoy at their center, and then he turns and passes her on his way out.

Watching him go, Carol feels both grateful and bereft—his unexpected words of support surprising her even as she feels unworthy of them.

X X

When Carol's comm chimes, she picks it up from the bedside table and glances down to confirm what she already knows, that her mother is calling. She doesn't answer it but lets the message go to the queue. Since her father's private memorial service a month ago, her mother has called at least once a day, her worry both endearing and annoying.

"I will be fine," Carol told her the last time they spoke. "I'm sure this is just as hard for you."

At some level Carol knows this isn't true. Her mother grieved the loss of Alexander Marcus years ago, first when Starfleet took him off-planet for months at a time, and finally when she admitted that he was absent in every way that mattered and divorced him.

Carol, on the other hand, had joined Starfleet and specialized in weapons partly because it meant she could stay in her father's life in a way that now seems like a fool's errand.

The comm chimes again and she ignores it. Not many people have her civilian comm number. Her mother, her aunt. The take-out deli on the corner—and only because she's become such a regular customer since leaving Starfleet that they call if they haven't heard from her in a couple of days.

She should probably get up. Looking around the bedroom at the clothes strewn in the floor, Carol considers getting a shower and something to eat. It's almost noon—later than anyone should be allowed to sleep.

This is what depression looks like, she thinks idly, like someone observing a science experiment gone awry. An unemployed woman moping around in pajamas all day.

The comm chimes yet again and with a sigh Carol picks it up.

Commander Spock's name appears on the ID.

How'd he get this number? She'd surrendered her service comm when she'd resigned her commission—and then realized too late that she'd also lost most of her contact information for her friends and colleagues. Almost no one has tried to track her down. She doesn't blame them for staying away, not really. No one wants to ask what everyone wants to know. Were you part of your father's plan?

It's the question that keeps potential employers at bay, the question that drove her from Starfleet.

On the day she resigned, Carol didn't recognize any of the officers in the meeting room at Headquarters, but she wasn't sure if that was a good omen or not. No one made eye contact as she hobbled down the aisle toward the row of chairs facing a long desk.

Spock was already seated, the only person Carol recognized. Settling into a seat next to him, she said softly, "Before I was discharged from the hospital this morning, Dr. McCoy told me that the captain seems stable. I thought you'd want to know."

"I have spoken to Dr. McCoy already," Spock said. Carol felt at once abashed and foolish; her cheeks grew hot. Of course Spock would have checked up on the captain.

A maritime chime sounded—0900—and three officers filed into the room and proceeded to the front where they settled behind the desk. The oldest by far was one Carol recognized—Admiral Nakamura, whose pioneering space flights earned her a place in the history books. The other two were rear admirals, the plates on the desk identifying them as Omotoso and Garner.

Admiral Nakamura spoke first.

"Dr. Marcus, we have read your account of your understanding of the weapons program overseen by Admiral Marcus and directed through Section 31. For the record, you state that you were unaware that the long-range torpedoes being developed were intended as a deliberate provocation of Klingon hostilities?"

"I had no knowledge that my…of what Admiral Marcus' intentions were. I just knew that the weapons specifications were classified."

"Were you aware that Admiral Marcus's collaboration with Section 31 was not sanctioned by the Admiralty?"

Carol swallowed. Admiral Nakamura's face was as hard to read as Spock's, her expression carefully neutral.

"Until yesterday," Carol said, "I was unaware of Section 31."

Rear Admiral Omotoso leaned forward on the desk and said, "In your private conversations with your father, he never mentioned it?"

Something in the man's face suggested he was skeptical, that he would not believe her if she denied it. Carol's heart sank.

"As I stated," she said, "I knew nothing about it."

Was this how it was always going to be? Under a cloud of suspicion, never fully trusted again?

And Starfleet—internally fractured by differing visions of its mission—the pragmatists like her father opposed to resources for pure science, the scientists dismissive of the military's concerns?

At the end of the desk Admiral Garner shifted in his seat and said, "Commander Spock, we asked you here today to go over your report about Dr. Marcus' behavior on the Enterprise."

For a moment Carol was so stunned that she didn't breathe. So. This was an investigation—a hearing—and not a simple debriefing. Part of her was relieved. From the moment she'd forged her father's name on the transfer manifest she knew this day was coming.

At another level she was horrified that she'd pulled anyone else into it. Now Spock would be forced to testify against her.

"As you wish, Admiral," Spock said.

"In your report you state that Dr. Marcus falsely presented herself as a member of the crew."

"Because she was concerned about the secrecy surrounding the long-range torpedoes."

"That is your conjecture," Admiral Garner said, his voice flat.

"Incorrect," Spock said swiftly. "Dr. Marcus told both Captain Kirk and me that she became alarmed when her previous open access to the weapons research was halted."

As if he didn't hear him, Admiral Garner continued.

"Furthermore, when you confronted her with your discovery that her transfer was falsified, she asked you to keep that information from your superiors. Is that correct?"

Suddenly Carol could see where this line of questioning would lead. Because he didn't report her immediately, Spock left his own performance open to criticism.

"Admiral—" Carol said, but Admiral Garner held up one hand to silence her.

"And you did as she asked, kept her secret from your captain?"

"Admiral," Carol said, her voice ringing around the room, "the Enterprise experienced a warp malfunction that took the Commander's attention. He can't be blamed for not reporting me earlier—"

"Dr. Marcus also put your medical doctor in harm's way when she attempted to disarm one of the torpedoes," Admiral Garner said. At her side, Carol felt Spock react.

"Dr. Marcus' quick thinking disarmed that same torpedo," he said evenly, "and ultimately exposed Khan and the Augments for what they are."

Admiral Garner leaned back and pulled his hands off the table, glancing at the other two admirals as he did. Some unspoken signal seemed to pass between them, and then Admiral Nakamura said, "Dr. Marcus, we realize that you have suffered a personal loss and in no way mean to minimize it with our inquiry about your father. While some of your actions were questionable, we are not prepared at this time to open an investigation. Until further notice, you are dismissed."

That was it? Carol felt a cascade of emotions roiling over her—relief first and then anger and grief. Until further notice. Not a full reprieve but a warning that she would be watched from now on.

And worse, that she'd damaged the reputations of Captain Kirk and Commander Spock—or at least raised the specter of suspicion around them.

Taking a deep breath, Carol got to her feet.

"Admiral," she said, and all three looked in her direction. "I want to state for the record here and now that I accept full responsibility for all of my actions, including asking Commander Spock to hide my identity and putting Dr. McCoy in danger."

She sensed rather than saw Spock rising from his chair and she hurried on to keep him from saying anything else in her defense and possibly hurting his own career.

"I also want to apologize for being unable to stop the attack on the Enterprise," she said. Turning to Spock, she said, "I know you will disagree, but I should have been able to reach my father…and I couldn't. I didn't know what to say or how to make him hear me. And I should have known. I'm his daughter, and I should have known."

Turning back to the three admirals, Carol continued.

"That's why after due consideration I have decided to resign my commission. At this point I don't believe that Starfleet has a place for me, nor do I believe I will be effective here after what has happened."

For a beat, then two, no one said a word. If Admiral Nakamura had protested that Carol was making a rash decision, if she had counseled waiting until the shock of recent events had started to wane, Carol might have been persuaded to retract her resignation. The Admiral's silence, however, spoke loudly.

"If you are sure," Admiral Nakamura said at last, and Carol nodded mutely, not trusting herself to speak without her voice breaking.

Leonard McCoy sought her out a few days later, trying to talk her into changing her mind.

And Spock. She saw him the afternoon she stopped by the Academy to drop off some of her research files for a logistics instructor in the computer simulation department. As she rounded a corner she almost ran into him, his gray instructor's uniform telling her how he would spend the hiatus until the Enterprise was repaired and rechristened.

"Dr. Marcus," he said, eyeing her civilian clothing with undisguised disapproval—or at least it felt that way to her. "I have made multiple attempts to communicate with you."

"Oh?" Carol said as innocently as she could. Of course she knew he had sent messages to her mail queue and her comm line, but she had deleted them all without reading them. She was sure what he would say—that she was making a mistake, that she didn't need to blame herself for the actions of her father.

She really didn't want to hear it again.

Without letting him continue, she swiveled around and hurried in the other direction.

Now he apparently has her new comm number. Her comm continues to chime as she stares down at it in her hand.

"Not today," she says, putting it back on the bedside table. She lies back down and covers her head with a pillow.

She isn't certain how long she's there before the comm chimes again. Uncharacteristically losing her temper, she sits up, throwing the pillow off the bed.

"Dammit!" she says, picking up her comm.

But it isn't chiming after all. Staring at it stupidly for a moment, Carol realizes that the chiming noise is coming from her front door.

She hasn't ordered anything. She isn't expecting anyone. With a sigh, she sits up and slides off the bed.

"Coming!" she calls, grabbing her bathrobe and slipping in her arms as she makes her way from the bedroom.

The door continues to chime as Carol undoes a series of locks and safeties.

"This better be important," she says as she swings it open. There framed by the doorway is Lt. Uhura wearing a red uniform, her hair pulled up in a ponytail.

"It is," Lt. Uhura says. "Unless you help me, a lot of people are going to die."

A/N: We're off! I've been on a hiatus of sorts this summer, but I'm back with another story I hope you enjoy. Let me know if you do!