A/N: Warnings for some quite dark themes –torture, violence, slavery, misogyny, Tarsus and mentions of child abuse. This takes place before STID, so there aren't any spoilers if for some reason you still haven't seen the movie. Anyway, I hope you like it.
The landing party was tiny – the locals had demanded that the size should not exceed three, and that only one of the party members could be male. It was a strange request, but one that the crew of the Enterprise had been ordered to follow. The planet had large reserves of dilithium, and a treaty with the locals was 'highly desirable'. In other words, Kirk had been told to play nice.
The suspicious nature of the request meant that, naturally, Kirk himself was going (leaving Spock in charge of the Enterprise). Uhura was coming along, as communications officer (she wanted a chance to study the new language). Lieutenant Saunders, a female security officer, was tasked with protecting the captain.
Their mission was to essentially introduce the planet below to the federation, and to begin the drawn out process that would hopefully end with the people (whose species identified as Tomids) sharing their dilithium (which, surprisingly, they had no major use for) and perhaps, one day, joining the federation themselves. They were far from Earth and other federation planets, so interaction with the Tomids had been limited, and little was known about them. They were space faring, but they had never travelled distances like those of the Enterprise, although whether that was due to lack of technology or choice was unknown.
At first, things went well. On arrival the three of them were greeted warmly, given a strange but enjoyable warmed drink with bright blue flowers at the bottom. The Tomids were humanoid, although with a rounder shape than that of a human. They had long, flexible, fingers but no palms, probably helpful for climbing or gripping. They were larger than humans, and stronger too – probably similar in strength to Vulcans or Romulans.
The Tomids spoke only to the captain. Surprisingly they spoke standard, almost as though they had learnt it especially for this event. When the captain asked where they had learnt it, a Tomid answered that they often dealt with traders. It was a vague answer, and Uhura thought it was a little odd. The fact that they were essentially ignoring her and Saunders also gave her a strange feeling – although she supposed Kirk was the captain.
The three of them walked through a beautifully constructed building, Kirk being surprisingly diplomatic – he made decent small talk, commenting politely on the buildings and asking the Tomids about themselves. Uhura felt somewhat redundant; the locals were speaking standard and she really had no use. And still, she had a niggling feeling that something was up.
The centre hall stopped her train of thought. It was huge, with a curved walls that faded away to reveal the sky – she assumed that the ceiling was made of a clear material, but it was impossible to tell because there were no tell-tale signs. It was like they were outside, but the whole space was warm and dry. The hall was carpeted with a soft green material which her feet sank into slightly. It was a beautiful space.
A Tomid in green robes was lying on what looked like a wide throne in the centre of the hall. He had silvery rings around his ankles that were ornately carved. On the floor beneath his throne five Tomids formed a semi-circle around him, on their knees, obviously submissive. These Tomids were different to the others – their bodies were hardly covered but their faces were veiled. Uhura realised that they were the first female Tomids that they had encountered, making her feel distinctly uncomfortable. Were the women here slaves?
Kirk's mind obviously followed the same track. She was surprised that his eyes didn't linger for longer on the barely clothed women, but perhaps he was trying to focus.
"Are these women servants?" Kirk asked the head of their group.
"They are women," The man said, seemingly confused.
"Do you mean all women are servants?" Kirk asked, obviously puzzled by this statement. "In our society, men and women are equal."
"I know of your culture." Another Tomid spoke up, obviously better informed about the differences in their societies. "I will explain. On our world, there are many more women than men – about ten women per man. The women serve the men, doing all the jobs we have outgrown. All women are the property of the emperor when they are born, but they may be claimed by a man who pays at the auction, which happens when they are eleven. At this point they either continue to serve the emperor, for example on his farms, or go with their new husbands. Rich men have many women to do their bidding, poor men have none. Those unfortunates usually take lower managerial positions, like head of discipline at a farm. But women are in no way the same as men."
"You mean the women are slaves." Kirks expression was unreadable – his eyes were angry but there was no tension in his face.
"They do as they are told by their husbands. Like on your world, marriage is a bond."
"It is illegal to force marriage on our world." Kirk responded, his eyes still blazing.
"It is of no matter," The Tomid replied, dismissing the conversation. "Our culture is not of your concern. Now you will fall beneath the emperor, as he has commanded."
"Do you mean bow?" Kirk questioned, looking perplexed.
"No. You will fall," The Tomid said, almost apologetically. Kirks eyes moved down to his drink. He opened his mouth to say something, but Uhura never found out what. Sound faded out and her vision went dark. She never even felt the soft, carpeted floor as she hit it.
She awoke with a pounding headache, and pain in her shoulders. She realised that her hands were tied behind her, to something embedded in the wall. She opened her heavy eyes slowly, shaking the drowsiness off. Kirk was opposite her, examining the room. His wrists and ankles were clasped in heavy chains, which were connected to the wall. Obviously they felt that he needed to be better restrained than her. She looked to her left and saw Lieutenant Saunders, who was still unconscious; the security officer was also tied to the wall.
The room they were in completely contrasted with the intricately crafted hall they had left – it was windowless and plain, with all light coming from bright lights attached to the ceiling. The unnatural light was slightly unpleasant. The cell was fairly large, with Kirk on one side and she and Saunders on the other, all three of them restrained so that there was no way they could go anywhere near each other, let alone anywhere else. The door was in the other wall, and was clearly locked. In other words, they were trapped. This lack of control panicked her slightly – she could think of no way out of the situation.
Uhura looked back up at Kirk, who had noticed that she was awake. The captain did not appear startled by the fact that they had been kidnapped – she supposed this sort of thing did happen to Kirk a lot. Damn his bad luck.
"How are you feeling, Uhura?" He asked, "You look a little groggy."
"I'm fine. I have a bit of a headache though," She replied, wincing. The throbbing had increased with speech.
"Courtesy of our welcome drinks," Kirk said with a smile. "This is what happens when we drink on the job." She raised her eyebrow at him, not exactly impressed with his unconcerned attitude at the present situation. She was just deciding how to respond when they heard footsteps and a click from outside.
"Don't say anything, Uhura. Let me handle this." Kirk whispered quickly, his expression briefly clouded with something that might have been worry, or even anxiety, or perhaps acceptance. She couldn't tell, and before she could identify it his slight smile and uncaring demeanour had returned.
The door opened. A Tomid stepped in; Uhura recognised him from earlier, but she hadn't heard him introduce himself.
"Welcome, Captain Kirk," The Tomid said, his voice low.
"I wasn't really getting the welcoming vibe," Kirk said dryly.
"I am Tepi," The Tomid, Tepi, announced.
"Hi, Teppie." Kirk deliberately mispronounced the name, smirking slightly. Uhura tensed – she wished he would keep up the polite pretence of diplomacy. She had a feeling that winding these people up would not be a good idea. Kirk glanced over at her, and she wondered if her disapproval was obvious. Tepi noticed the look.
"Do not be afraid for the female. Harming an unclaimed woman is the most grievous sin. And any man who touches a woman who they do not own faces the death penalty," Tepi explained, not even looking at Uhura as he spoke. "Your wives are safe from our blows."
"Wives?" Kirk asked, sceptical. Now his eyebrows were raised.
"As husband, only you may teach your wives submission. A woman submits only to one man," Tepi said shortly. Uhura realised that because Kirk was her superior, the people here considered them to be married.
"A woman should submit to no man. And a man who hurts his wife is no husband; in fact he is barely a man," Kirk responded, looking both outraged and slightly horrified.
"Cultural differences." Tepi dismissed with a wave of the hand.
"I suppose attacking a peaceful diplomatic team and locking them up is down to cultural differences too?" Kirk asked.
"To an extent. You see, our planet has very limited space travel. The way our ships are powered does not allow us to travel great distances, and there is little power left over for weapons. We need the Enterprise, or at least information on how it works."
"For what end?"
"The extension of the empire, or course. Our emperor is king of only one world, but there are so many civilisations out there. Imagine if we could unify them, teach them to become more like us. To begin our quest of colonisation of lesser species, we need more powerful weapons." Desire was clear in Tepi's voice. "So, Captain Kirk, you will explain to us how your warp core works, and how it powers your weapons. If necessary you will demonstrate your theories. That is all we require from you."
"No." Kirk said shortly. "You will return me and my crew members to the Enterprise, and this will not go further. The federation wishes for only peace with this planet, but what you are doing is an act of war."
"We have trained interrogators, Kirk. I suggest you tell us. This is your final chance," Tepi threatened, his voice sharp.
"No, this is your final chance," Kirk stated, not intimidated. His voice was steady.
"Then we have no choice but to cause you pain," Tepi affirmed, turning his back on them and leaving the room.
As soon as he left, Kirk looked straight over at Uhura, his eyes meeting hers with great intensity.
"You're going to be fine, Uhura. For once, let's thank God for sexism. But this isn't going to be easy to watch. There might be some yelling. But don't worry; I'm a dab hand at this sort of thing," Kirk said, sounding fairly confident for someone who had just been told they were about to be tortured. "I can't give them what they want, whatever happens. Promise me you won't either."
She agreed that they couldn't give these people what they wanted, but the idea of anybody being tortured caught her promise in her throat. The Captain had no idea what could lie ahead. Kirk saw her hesitate.
"Promise me, Uhura. That's an order. You will not reveal any information that could be damaging to the federation." He said, keeping eye contact.
"I promise." She said, albeit slightly reluctantly, before looking down. Despite her best intentions, she felt afraid.
He looked like he was about to say something else, but the door opened and a new figure walked in. It seemed there would be no period to digest what was going to happen. The new man was tall, with a sinister air – although that was probably only because Uhura knew what he was going to do. Without saying anything at all, the man walked over to Kirk and kicked him violently in the stomach. Kirk let out a hiss of pain and started to roll into a ball, unable to fight back because of the chains, which were highly restrictive. Before he got there the man kicked him again, this time in the face. Blood spurted from his nose, but Kirk ignored the kick, not even making a sound, still moving round to protect himself. By the third kick he was in curled up in what looked like a highly practiced formation, protecting his face, stomach and chest with his arms and legs. Uhura wondered if he had learnt that one from bar fights.
The assault continued, with the kicks of a greater force each time, but Kirk didn't make a sound. Or maybe he did, but she just couldn't hear with his face covered. Eventually the man stopped, looking down at the silent Kirk. Kirk didn't uncurl. Seemingly disappointed by the lack of reaction, the man walked out of the room.
Only then did Kirk unravel himself. Blood was dripping down his face, but he was smiling slightly. Uhura wondered why, before realising it was probably for her benefit. Or maybe he just couldn't bear to seem afraid.
"Are you alright?" He asked her, voice thick with concern, as though she was the one who had been kicked half to death.
"Are you?" She countered, although the concern was drowned out by her incredulity at his question.
"Of course I am. You've hit me harder than that. Believe me, that was on the low end of the spectrum. The guy was an amateur; I'm guessing he was just the warm up," Kirk said nonchalantly. "It's ok, Uhura. We'll be rescued soon. I can handle this," He added.
Uhura didn't know what to make of that. She didn't understand why Kirk thought he could handle being interrogated. How could he be so blasé when he was chained up, bleeding, with worse to come? That was the problem with Kirk – he was always over confident and thinking in the heat of the moment. That was why he worked well with Spock, the master of logic and keeping a cool head. But Spock wasn't here. For a moment she longed for him, for his reassuring and calming presence.
"I'll be fine, Uhura," Kirk stated, looking assured despite the fact that he was dripping blood.
At that moment, Saunders woke up. As soon as she set eyes on the bruised and bloodied Captain her body stiffened. She had been their security, and she had failed in her duty to keep them safe.
"Saunders. Welcome to the party," Kirk said, his voice thick with sarcasm.
"Captain?" Saunders seemed disorientated – Uhura sympathised when she remembered how she had felt on her return to consciousness.
"Here's the rundown. The Tomids do not, in fact, want to make peace with the federation. Instead they have decided that they would like to extend their empire to other planets through war, but to do this they need stronger weapons. Instead of building their own they have decided to get me to tell them how we build ours. Due to my obvious refusal they are now going to torture me until I concede. Conceding is out of the question, so we aren't planning on it. Oh, and they're also phenomenally sexist and so have decided to leave you two alone because only I have permission to lay a hand on you. They count us as married. After this we should have our Honeymoon someplace warm." Kirk's tone was light, but somewhat resigned.
"What are my orders?" To Saunders credit, she did not seem particularly fazed by the turn of events. They did serve on the Enterprise after all.
"Keep quiet. I want them to carry on ignoring you two, so no shouting at or even speaking to our captors. In the meantime see if you can work on an escape – try getting out of your ropes. That goes for you too Uhura. But I think getting out of here alone is unlikely; we'll just have to wait for the Enterprise. Spock's in charge, so I'm sure we won't be waiting for too long. I can handle anything they put me through until then."
"Spock is a very competent commander." Uhura said, pride apparent in her voice. She knew Spock would not leave them here to die, he would quickly deduce that events had not gone as planned.
The three of them would have continued to converse, but a new Tomid entered, stifling the conversation. The man picked Kirk up and slammed him against the wall. The Captain gave a pained choke. Uhura flinched slightly. Out of the corner of her eye she saw Saunders do the same. The Tomid continued to hold Kirk up against the wall and suddenly pulled on Kirk's left shoulder. Kirk gave a shocked wail of pain as his shoulder dislocated. His arm hung strangely, obviously out of place; his breathing rough. The Tomid pressed down on his shoulder and Kirk moaned, writhing in agony. The Tomid didn't let go, and leant in to pull further on Kirk's arm. But as the Tomid moved close to Kirk, Kirk moved his head backwards before slamming his forehead into the Tomid's face.
The head butt was highly effective. Green blood erupted from the Tomid's nose and he staggered backwards, dropping Kirk against the floor. In response Kirk slid forwards and moved his chained feet round behind the Tomid. The disorientated man tripped over them, falling backwards heavily. Unable to move forwards any further because of the chains securing him to the wall, Kirk used his right arm to pull the dazed man closer to him in by his ankle, before punching him across the face, hard. He continued to pound him using his right arm, despite the fact that the Tomid was unconscious after the second hit.
As he hit him, two other Tomids rushed in and pulled him off the unconscious man, one of them violently backhanding Kirk. He fell backwards against the wall, fresh blood running down his chin and dripping onto his chest.
The two men pulled the motionless Tomid out of the room, leaving the captives alone. Kirk pulled himself up from the floor, out of breath from the sudden onslaught. He turned to the wall and, suddenly, pushed his shoulder against it, hard. He gave an inhuman groan as it popped back in, his expression contorted with pain.
Uhura watched with wide eyes as Kirk schooled his expression into a slight smile and looked up at her and Saunders. He was obviously still trying to be reassuring, but the fact that he was splattered with both his own blood and the blood of one of his captors took any chance of that away.
"Nice move," Saunders complimented, "They don't teach you that at the Academy."
"I'll get the Admirals to add it to the curriculum," Kirk said slowly, still smiling slightly, his voice still a little shaky with pain. "I told you I could handle it. That Tomid obviously couldn't. And he was supposed to be a professional." The smile dropped slightly as he took in Uhura's expression. Uhura realised that she was she was trembling slightly. She had seen violence before as a member of Starfleet, but never torture. She was in communications, not security; she had never been trained for this. And even if she had been, there was no way it could have prepared her for this.
"It's going to be ok Uhura. I promise. Just keep calm. We can handle this." Kirk said, in a mildly patronising tone that was probably meant to be encouraging.
"Will you stop saying that Kirk!" Uhura snapped. "You think you can handle everything by yourself. Being beaten up in a few bar fights does not qualify you for torture. You're not a dab hand at everything. Stop antagonising them! Then maybe we can leave this without you breaking apart." She paused, realising what she was saying. "I'm sorry. It's just… I'm afraid. I don't want them to hurt you anymore and now they're just going to retaliate."
"They're going to hurt me anyway Uhura, there isn't anything I can do about that. I might as well hurt them in the process." Kirk pointed out. This wasn't strictly speaking true – he could tell the Tomids what they wanted to hear to make them stop – but Uhura didn't bring that up. Kirk knew it already.
"I'm not getting anywhere with these ropes," Saunders said with a frustrated sigh.
"No worries," Kirk responded said, sounding disappointed, "it was worth a shot."
"The next interrogator is likely to be more careful."
"No doubt. Hey, speak of the devil…"
The door slid open and a new Tomid entered. This one was definitely more assured than the other two had been – he was smirking. Immediately Uhura's eyes were drawn to what the man was carrying – a viscous looking bar. Perhaps that was why this Tomid walked with such confidence. Like the first man he did not speak, but walked straight over to Kirk. Uhura thought he was going to hit Kirk was the bar, but instead he bent down over Kirk and took out a gleaming knife. Still without speaking, the Tomid cut the captain's gold shirt off, the blade slicing into the captain's flesh. Kirk hissed in pain as the gold was stained with more red, his blood soaking into the fabric. Soon the shirt was off, and she could see his bruised and cut skin.
She remembered the last time she had seen him shirtless, an age ago, in the room she had shared with Gaila. Then she hadn't seen him as a friend, more of an irritation. But now, everything had changed. She saw Kirk as both a friend and an irritation – he could be insufferable, but also kind, and dedicated, and funny. She might disapprove of him and his decisions at times, but he was her captain. And now he was being hurt, and there was nothing she could do to stop it.
The Tomid held the bar against Kirk's bare skin, and flicked something. Kirk arched backwards as he was electrocuted, his whole body lifting up off the floor. He opened his mouth in shock at the sudden pain, but no sound came out – Uhura wondered if he could speak. The Tomid leant in and shocked him again and this time he gave a long, distorted, groan.
As the Shocks continued, Uhura tried to make eye contact with Kirk to reassure him and let him know he wasn't alone, but he had closed his eyes. It looked like he was trying to dissociate. He was still moaning, but he looked almost peaceful – his expression was blank and accepting between shocks. The Tomid obviously realised that he wasn't really paying attention because he changed tack. He whacked Kirk across the face with the bar, blood splattering against the floor. Jim's eyes snapped open at the new injury, and widened in pain as the bar was brought down again and again against his body.
"Stop it! You're killing him!" Uhura yelled, breaking her orders to keep quiet. But she couldn't just watch as they beat him to death.
"I will stop if the Captain agrees to our demands," The Tomid responded, looking at her strangely. She realised he was unused to seeing women speak without being spoken too. "So will you give us our weapons, Captain?"
"Fuck off," Kirk ground out, blood dripping out from between his red stained lips as he spoke.
"You are resistant, Captain. We have encountered those like you before. It seems you are used to pain. But everyone has a breaking point. We will find yours."
"You wanna bet? This isn't my first rodeo." Kirk choked. He coughed again, spitting up dark blood. Uhura wondered what he meant by that, but didn't dwell on it. To be honest, she didn't want to think about it. "Now go screw yourself like I screwed your mother." Kirk added.
The remark earned him a savage kick, forcing him to roll onto his back. Then the Tomid stomped down on his chest. Kirk yelled in agony as his ribs cracked. The Tomid looked down at him in disdain, before storming out.
As soon as he left Kirk rolled onto his side and spat blood out against the pale floor. He coughed, which looked agonising with the broken ribs. By his expression she could tell it probably was. None of them spoke, she and Saunders just waiting for Kirk to pull himself together enough to look at them. Eventually he did, but she noticed he didn't try to smile. "It's ok. They're going to end up killing me way before I even think of talking," He managed, noting their concern.
"That's not a comfort, Captain," Uhura said, looking at him in fear.
"It should be," Kirk said, seriously.
"Is there anything we can do to make things more bearable?" Saunders asked.
"Just stay safe. Please Uhura, no more shouting at them. I just want you safe," Kirk said weakly, resting his head against the floor and closing his eyes.
This brief period of grace was short – Kirk had barely rested at all before the Tomid returned. Instead of a bar he was carrying a needle. Uhura tensed – the man could be planning on giving Kirk anything.
"This solution is very powerful. It makes you relive things you wish to forget. Memories with a lot of pain. Are you willing to return to your darkest days?" The Tomid asked.
"I don't think I'll be able to talk if I'm drugged out of my mind, especially if I don't know where I am." Kirk said, not opening his eyes or lifting his head.
"No, you will not be able to give us information because you will not know the information when you are pumped full of this. We will give you a shot of the drug. It will last for a few hours. Then we will ask, and you will tell us what we want to know, or we will give you another dose. I do not think that you will let it get past dose two. But if necessary, we can try again. The drug has no serious effects on the body, so we can just keep trying. With someone like you, I doubt that will be necessary."
Kirk didn't respond in words. Instead, he spat a glob full of blood and saliva at the Tomid. Without reacting, the Tomid walked forwards and plunged the needle into Kirk's neck, ejecting the contents into his bloodstream.
"Good luck, Captain." The Tomid sneered, watching Kirk for a moment before leaving the room.
"Uhura, Saunders." Kirk looked fearful now the Tomid had left, his eyes wide, the calm pretence gone. His breathing was fast; the drug was already beginning to act. It was the first time Uhura had ever seen him looking more afraid than angry. She waited for him to carry on, but he didn't. As she watched him, his expression shifted, becoming both harder and more afraid; like a frightened child trying to hide his fear.
"Kevin. You need to run. Go round the back. I'll hold them off. " Kirk suddenly said. Uhura realised that he no longer recognised where he was. He was deep in the past.
"Kirk? Jim? It's ok." She said softly, trying to reach him, but she could tell that he couldn't hear her.
"If I go with you then they'll catch us all." Kirk said, like he was replying. They were only hearing his side of the conversation. "I don't give a shit. I'm fourteen, you're only twelve – you do what I say. Get Alicia to safety. She's only five. We are not debating this Kevin!" There was fury and authority and desperation in his voice, all blurring. "There's something else, before you go. This is important. Once you get back to camp you need to get everybody to pack up, and move. Move somewhere completely different. Don't tell me where you're planning – I can't know. You know why Kevin; there's a chance that they'll take me alive, and we know how that would go. If I escape then I'll follow you, and get there before we move camp. Go now. Just… tell my mom I love her, and that I'm sorry I couldn't do better. Tell her I'm sorry I made her sad, and that I looked too much like… ah, hell never mind all that. Just give Frank a kick in the nuts from me."
The conversation was plainly over, and Jim rolled over and moaned like he was in pain.
"What's happening?" Uhura asked, looking up at Saunders to see if she had any ideas.
"It's the drug. This is going to be bad. Kirk's tough – we've just seen that. You don't get that tough unless you've been through some shit. He's going to go through it all again, exactly like it was. He's having to go through it before he developed his coping mechanisms; he said he was fourteen. In his head he's just a kid again." Saunders said, looking mildly nauseated.
Across from them, Jim started to scream.
"What an earth happened to him when he was fourteen?" Uhura wondered, gazing at the Captain in distress.
"My name is James Tiberius Kirk. I'm fourteen. I lived with my aunt and uncle, before you killed them. I'm just a kid. I don't know what you're talking about. I was alone, there was nobody else. Look, I don't know anything." Jim said slowly, dragging his words out. Then he started to scream again, thrashing around on the floor in apparent agony.
"I don't know anything." He yelled. The invisible onslaught continued, and Jim carried on screaming and writhing in pain.
"Who would torture a child?" Uhura whispered, looking at Jim in absolute horror.
"Who would hunt down children?" Saunders asked, equally horrified.
"I can't!" Jim screamed. "You'll kill them. We weren't doing anything to you, just let us be. Please."
"Captain, please try to hear my voice," Saunders said desperately. The normally stoic woman looked sickened.
"I'm going to kill him. I swear to God, I'll kill him. Tell your boss I'm coming for him. Kodos is fucking dead – either by my hand or someone else's," Kirk shouted. Uhura believed him; his voice was full of commitment. Then she realised what Kirk had just said.
"Kodos?" She murmured, comprehension dawning in her voice.
"Does he mean… Tarsus IV?" Saunders asked,
"It fits…" Uhura said slowly.
"Jesus. No wonder he keeps it on the down low." There was slight admiration in Saunders voice. "How the hell did he manage to become a Starship captain after that shit?"
"He's Jim Kirk. He's nothing if not persistent." Uhura said, surprised at the level of respect in her voice. She had no idea when she'd stopped seeing Kirk as an arrogant, self-confident disaster waiting to happen and replaced that image with a captain she would trust her life with.
The aforementioned captain was still moaning in pain, screaming every so often. He looked so vulnerable, half curled in on himself, tears running down his face through his screwed shut eyelids. He looked so different to before, and it was easy to see him as the fourteen year old he had essentially regressed to in his mind. Then, all of a sudden, the Captain opened his unseeing eyes. He looked utterly broken.
"Okay. Please, just stop. We were a group made up of kids. I was the oldest. We're camped in the woods, I can give you directions. Just stop." Jim whispered, his voice raw from screaming.
"But he already told the kids to move on," Saunders said, in apparent awe. "He told Kevin, earlier, because he knew that this could happen. He made sure he didn't have any information that could hurt them. You know what this means?"
"He doesn't have anything to give them. No leverage. It means that he's lying. What does he expect to achieve? They'll know he was lying." Uhura realised. She felt sick at the knowledge. But somehow the Captain had survived. Had Kevin not heeded advice? Had they found the rest of the kids?
"He just wants a break from the pain." Saunders replied, looking appalled. "Or maybe he thinks they'll realise he doesn't know anything." As Saunders suggested it, it became clear that they hadn't realised, or perhaps his torturers just didn't care. Kirk started to scream again.
"I swear we were in the woods. I told Kevin to move camp, but I don't know where. I swear to god. Please, fuck, just stop." He pleaded. It was in vain; seconds later the screaming continued. Uhura could barely stand it anymore. She felt like being sick. The captain couldn't hear them and there was absolutely nothing they could do. Resigned, she leant backwards and closed her eyes tightly. If she'd been able to use her hands she would have put her fingers in her ears.
"Just let me… fuck please." Jim moaned. Uhura wished she could drown it out. The thought made her feel so weak.
"Just kill me. Please, I'm begging you. I'm sorry. Just kill me." Kirk was begging now. She had never heard him so utterly defenceless. "I'm sorry, please, I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to let anybody down." She wished she could comfort him. "Please. Please."
Time was irrelevant; it could not have been long but at the same time it had surely been forever. She'd had no idea that screaming could be so emotive; it was like a gateway to the utter pain and despair and desolation and raw hurt that made Kirk up.
Let him die. It was a thought that plagued her. But he was pleading for it, pleading for an end when she knew that there would be no end. He had survived. Had he been intact? She had no clue. Surely nobody could ever be whole again after this.
"Please! I've told you everything! Just kill me!"
And then there was shouting, barely audible over the sound of Kirk's screaming and begging against the invisible onslaught. Shouting from outside. Uhura opened her eyes and watched as the door opened and McCoy rushed in, scanner at the ready.
"He can't hear us." She said, feeling that it was important to get this across to the doctor. For the first time she noticed that her face was wet.
"He's been drugged and he is reliving extremely traumatic childhood experiences." Saunders said, much calmer and therefore far more useful to McCoy. "We have been told it will wear off in a matter of hours, but I don't know how long ago the drug was administered."
"I know," McCoy growled. "I've just had a little chat with the man who administered it. It should wear off in another half hour naturally, but I've got something to counteract it."
"What happened?" Uhura asked, trying to stop her voice from shaking. "Are you breaking us out?"
"Believe it or not, this has all been done diplomatically," McCoy said, voice still low. "As in the sort of diplomacy that goes 'if you don't give us back our people we will blow your palace into smithereens'. The emperor's a complete nut job, but we managed to persuade him we were serious in the end. We'll have you beamed up in no time." While the doctor had been talking he had been preparing a hypo, and he stuck it into Jim's neck. "It's just me on the rescue crew – I just needed to ensure you're all stable for transport. So shut up while I make sure this idiot is okay."
"Bones," Jim suddenly said. All three of them looked at the Captain, who now had recognition in his eyes. "I think… everything is strange. Where's Kevin?" Kirk was obviously still disorientated.
"He's fine, Jimmy," The doctor said soothingly. "He moved everyone to the caves. Everybody's safe. We're going to go get you some medical treatment and some food, okay." From the way McCoy was talking it was clear that he knew exactly what Jim was reliving. She was glad that he'd had somebody to talk things over with, that he hadn't kept it all inside; although she wondered if Kirk had actually told the doctor or if McCoy had figured it out for himself.
"Does my mom know? It's just, I don't think she'll be interested." Jim still seemed lost.
"She knows, and she's gonna come and meet you as soon as she can. She loves you kid." McCoy consoled. Then he took out a key and took off Kirk's restraints – beneath them his skin was rubbed raw. Then he moved over to Uhura and untied her, before doing the same for Saunders.
"Kirk's stable enough for transport, prepare to beam up."
After that things moved fast. Kirk was whisked off to medical by McCoy as soon as they arrived, the doctor muttering furiously about lack of safety and the prospect of banning the captain from away missions.
She and Saunders were both left, standing on the transporter pad, safe after so many hours of uncertainty. Spock came down and Uhura hugged him close, breathing him in. She tried to keep her expression passive, but it was becoming difficult. She and Saunders both went down to medical to get the abrasions on the wrists treated – Saunders had struggled so much that blood was running down her arms. Uhura had hardly noticed the pain in her wrists because of the adrenaline, but now it was a dull ache. Her chafing was an embarrassingly small malady compared with the Captains significant injuries.
She and Saunders went to a debriefing with Spock, but Saunders answered most of the questions. It was agreed that once Kirk had been treated they could have a further, more detailed debrief. Besides, they were all exhausted. Uhura went back to her quarters in a daze, glad that her roommate was on shift.
Uhura sat down on her bed and stared forwards at the opposite wall. She had pushed everything that had happened to the back of her mind, but now she felt it begin to overwhelm her. Her blank, shocked expression disappeared; her eyes became wide and tearful. Despite her commitment to maintain control over her emotions, Uhura started to sob. Now she had started, she wasn't sure if she was ever going to be able to stop.
"Crying over me?" A wry voice said from behind her. She turned to see Kirk standing in the doorway. He came down and sat beside her, flashing a grin in her direction. But it didn't quite reach his eyes.
"Why aren't you in medical?" Uhura retorted, quickly sniffing and trying to dry her eyes; she disliked showing emotion, it made her feel weak.
"I could ask the same of you?" He countered.
"I didn't have any injuries; you were a punching bag for the day," She pointed out, looking at him as though he was an idiot. Sometimes, he was. But Uhura now knew, underneath, he was anything but.
"I escaped. I wanted to see you. I don't know how long we'll have until Bones notices, but knowing him not long. This will result in several hypos," Kirk responded, finally answering her question. He gave a mock wince at the final sentence.
Uhura didn't know what to say. She just looked at him, eyes slightly wide. She wasn't sure what she wanted; maybe to apologise? Eventually she settled on: "Why did you want to see me?"
"Today upset you. Being in that situation, with me screaming my head off, must have been pretty scary. And you weren't exactly calm before that. It's ok that it rattled you; I know that this is your first kidnapping. To be honest, they're always a bit scary."
"I don't think I should be this upset. But I am sorry Kirk."
"I had a funny feeling from the moment we got there, like something wasn't right," She admitted. "I should have said something. It's my fault we ended up in trouble."
"Don't be ridiculous Uhura."
"But-" She started, but Kirk cut her off.
"I had that feeling as well. But you can't always act on it in time. If anything it was my fault for letting us beam down when they had been so strange, requesting such a small party. But I was under a lot of pressure from senior command, so I let it slide. That's on me."
"I'm sorry I shouted at you, too. When you kept saying you could handle things," Uhura added.
"I did keep repeating it, must have been a bit irritating." Jim laughed. "I was trying to reassure you, and, to be honest, myself. And plus, I could handle it fine."
"I'll maybe concede that," Uhura said, lightly. Then she sobered, thinking of why she had been so down to begin with. "You were tortured when you were a child. On Tarsus IV."
"Yes. I think that was established." Kirk said, any lightness in his eyes disappearing.
"That must have been… how did you cope?"
"I didn't. I was just a kid, Uhura. You really think that I could hold off against an onslaught like the one they gave me? Even to a kid like me, used to being knocked around, that was something else. That's why I told Kevin to move the camp before I got caught; because I knew that I wouldn't be able to keep it secret under the sort of pressure that Kodos and his forces could exert. Nobody can hold out forever – every single person has a breaking point. You just have to get out before you reach it. I've reached mine, so I know exactly where it is. The day when you know that you would happily sell out every single one of your friends just to make it stop, when you wish that you hadn't come up with the stupid idea to get your kids to move camp if anyone got caught, when you try to imagine where the kids would go so you have some information to bargain with – that's when you're smashed to pieces." Kirk spoke with intensity and a raw honesty. Uhura had no idea why the normally guarded Kirk was being so forthcoming – maybe, after all this time, he just needed to get things off his chest. He needed to rant. To be honest she didn't think he was really talking to her.
"How long did it take?" She probed gently.
"For me to break? Three days before I gave them the location of the camp. I knew I had to try to keep it secret, in case they hadn't moved yet or in case they could be traced. I was used to being whacked around, and I even fought back a little; that trick with the head butt comes from experience. But when they realised that I was taking things okay they stepped it up – after three days I couldn't take it anymore. I spilled, just to make things end. I was absolutely sure that they were going to kill me as soon as I told them anything: strangely that kept me quiet at the start but later became an incentive to talk. But when I gave them the camp they didn't kill me after all. They stopped with things for a bit, to check out my information, but when it came up empty they just assumed I had been lying. I was a tough little shit, and they forgot that I was just a kid. By the fifth day I would have given absolutely anything for the chance to die."
"Starfleet got there. They were far too late. But in a way they were just in time; another day and they probably would have believed that I knew nothing and killed me."
"Jesus, Jim. I'm sorry." Uhura had no idea what she was supposed to say. Was there anything that could be said?
"So am I. I'm sorry that such a tragic event happened to so many. I'm sorry that I didn't save Kevin's sister, and that Tom got killed. But it was years ago, Uhura. I may have broken but I was mostly repaired – there's just a couple of splinters left. I rarely think of it." He was lying, Uhura could tell. She remembered seeing him up late, in the gym. No doubt his dreams were haunted by things she could barely comprehend. She remembered how he had been drinking, alone, in that bar on the night she had met him – a repeat offender not going anywhere with his life. She had sometimes wondered how someone with an IQ as high as Kirk's could end up like he had. Now she knew.
"You were just a kid. I can't imagine that happening to me as an adult."
"Humans can be incredibly barbaric. We do the most horrific things to each other. But we can be pretty great too. Tarsus screwed me up for years. Its why I'm so… well, you know."
"Dysfunctional." Uhura said, with a slight smile.
"In a word. But it made me who I am. It's where I learnt leadership, and teamwork, and survival. It taught me about pushing yourself, and always trying to do what's right. It toughened me up even more than my early childhood. It's what made me captain." Kirk had genuine belief in his voice.
"You don't know that," Uhura pointed out.
"Not for sure. But, in the other world, the world where Nero was from… that Captain Kirk went through Tarsus as well. It wasn't quite as an extreme experience for him, but he was there," Kirk said with a slight frown. Then he looked up at her, his intense blue eyes meeting hers. "Smile, Uhura. Today, we lived. We won. That's what this is all about. About living through the days."
They had lived through this day, and they would live through more. Uhura wondered if that would always be enough, if the days would always be worth living through. She wondered how Kirk did it. How he carried on when he had so much to drag along with him, weighing him down. She realised she would probably never know, and even if she found out she probably wouldn't understand. For now, she took his advice. She smiled back. Surprisingly it made her feel a little better.
I hope you enjoyed this, because I wasn't really sure if it was good enough to post. I'm working on a sequel to this because this was sort of written as a prequel for something longer. If you're interested then look out for it – it's going to be from Kirk's perspective and go through a bit more of his backstory and why he behaves as he does. Anyway, thanks for reading and please, please leave me a review letting me know what you thought of it. I would really appreciate it.