Spock had no sense of time passing. One moment he was on the Bridge of the Fleming, and the next he was in a dark alley still holding the Q's hand. They were alone. Spock let his hand drop and glanced around him in surprise. "This looks remarkably like San Francisco."
Q stepped back smiling broadly, "It is. You must find a way of getting aboard the Enterprise without being seen. It is due to leave orbit as soon as Kirk completes his inspection."
Spock frowned in confusion. "I do not understand. Surely we should be in the nexus?"
"Really Spock - I thought I had already explained all this. You must enter the nexus at the same point in space-time as Kirk. You have to do the rest yourself. I've wasted enough time already - Picard is still in danger. If you are successful, the nexus should return you both to this point. I'll meet you here with Picard"
Spock stepped out of the alley into the bright afternoon sunlight. When he glanced back into the alley, Q was gone. He stood for a moment staring into the gloom when suddenly a familiar voice made him turn.
"Spock? My God, Spock - it is you!"
James Kirk, resplendent in his Starfleet uniform, had just emerged from his apartment building right next to where Spock was standing. The Vulcan experienced a moment of panic. In this time line, Spock had been home on Vulcan working on the finer details of the Khitomer Accord with his father. He had not seen Kirk since their retirement party on board the old Enterprise, and, he reminded himself grimly, would not see Kirk again. At least not in this time line.
Kirk was talking again, "Bob said he would try to get some of the old crew together but I never dreamed....you are here for the Enterprise B's maiden voyage?"
Spock thought fast. "No Captain. I am conducting some research for my work on the peace treaty, and as I was in the neighbourhood...."
Kirk's face fell for a moment. Then the familiar boyish grin came back. "You thought you'd drop in on your old pal? Well I'm afraid your timing is lousy Spock. I'm on my way up to Enterprise now. How about you walk with me?"
Spock fell into step beside Kirk. Perhaps he could use this situation to get on board the Enterprise but if memory served, the media would be there in force. He could not allow himself to be captured on camera.
Kirk was regarding Spock speculatively out of the corner of his eye. "I take it work on the treaty is a bit of a strain?"
"You have some grey hairs Spock."
Spock's hand moved involuntary to his temple. A distraction was required before Kirk began to look more closely, "Indeed? I believe this is due more to working with my father than with the Klingons."
It worked. Kirk, at once shocked, and delighted, began to laugh.
It was a sound that Spock had dearly missed these last 80 years. And if this mission is successful? What then? Returning Kirk to this time line would alter the future. Spock realised with some degree of surprise that in agreeing to do this, he had been thinking with his heart and not his head. The logic of the situation hit Spock like a hammer blow. In order to preserve the future, would it ultimately be necessary for Kirk to die - again?
They had nearly reached the gates to the Starfleet Headquarters compound, and Spock realised he could go no further with his captain. He stopped and turned to his old friend.
"I have some business to attend to, Jim. Perhaps when the voyage is over we could meet?"
Kirk, who had taken another few steps before realising that the Vulcan had stopped walking, turned and regarded his friend through narrowed eyes. "Sure - the trip should take about 6 hours. Where will you be?"
Spock recalled a coffeehouse outside the main reception area that Kirk and he had often visited when they both worked at the Academy. "Darcy's?"
"Ok then, Darcy's. See you later Spock."
Before Spock could stop himself, he had raised his fingers in the traditional Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, my friend."
Then he turned and hurried off before Kirk could wonder why his parting words should sound hollow.
The Academy building was teeming with people as usual. Spock, however, knew ways of getting in without being spotted. He made his way cautiously to a small classroom at the back of the building. Using his pass to gain access he quickly checked the room and found it empty. This room was set up to resemble a transporter room at a starbase with a small transporter pad capable of beaming two people.
As expected, the control panel was locked off. Spock had not had reason to operate a transporter like this for many years, but it was a simple enough task to set the co-ordinates to beam him directly to the ship and then cover the activity so that his presence would not be detected. The difficulty was in finding the correct co-ordinates. One mistake and Spock could materialise inside a bulkhead or worse, in open space.
He activated the console scanners and fine turned them to select the area of the ship he had chosen. The panel before him ran through a series of co-ordinates then automatically flashed green on the most suitable one. Spock nodded and set the co-ordinates into the transporter matrix, then turned his considerable talent to the computer itself. Within a few seconds, all traces that he had ever been there were eliminated and the computer was primed to cover its own beaming activities.
Spock checked the scanners again for life forms in the vicinity of his beam-in site and found none. He hit the activate button and stepped up to the platform. A second later, the sparkling beam subsided and the transporter control panel quietly switched itself off.
Spock materialised behind a large stack of storage cubes in Cargo Bay Three. The cubes were piled from floor to ceiling giving Spock the impression of being in a narrow corridor. The sounds of studious pre-launch activity were all around him, but Spock knew that he was safe enough here. The site also had the advantage of being extremely close to a Jeffries tube through which Spock could access the area he ultimately needed to get to.
He regarded the stack of storage cubes in wonder. There were far too many here for a short trip round the solar system. Obviously it was Starfleet's intention to hurry this vessel into operation.
The ship-wide tannoy system announced at that moment, that the ship was about to leave earth's orbit and instructed all personnel to go to their duty stations. Had Spock been human, he may have congratulated himself on his perfect timing. This close to the engineering section, Spock could actually feel the huge starship's engines purr into life. He hurried into the tube and began to make his way through the ship towards Deck 15, section 21 alpha.
The Enterprise bucked and kicked against the pull of the nexus. Kirk was thrown first one way then another as the huge Starship tried to pull free. Scotty's voice sounded hesitant as he worked at his console.
"Captain - it may be possible to simulate a torpedo blast using a resonant burst from the main deflector dish."
The ship bucked again, and Kirk was thrown forwards into the command chair. Bracing himself against its arms, he turned to the young Ensign at the helm. Hikaru Sulu's daughter - Demora. "Where are the deflector relays?"
She did not hesitate. "Deck 15 section 21 Alpha."
Harriman began sprinting for the turbolift and shouted over his shoulder, "I'll go - you take the bridge."
Kirk sat down slowly in the command chair and felt its welcoming warmth seep through his body. It was like being wrapped in the arms of an old lover. For a moment he sat there, feeling that familiar rush of adrenaline making his heart pump faster. Then a little voice in the back of his mind shouted - let her go Jim. Before he could stop himself, his own voice echoed over the bridge,
He looked briefly around at the once familiar stations and stood slowly. "Your place is on the bridge of your ship. I'll take care of it."
He stopped at the upper level as Harriman hurried past him, and turned to take in the bridge one last time. His eyes settled on Scotty working calmly at the deflector console. "Scotty, keep things together until I get back?"
"I always do", said the engineer. Grinning broadly, Kirk stepped backwards into the lift, his mind already focusing on the task in hand.
Kirk was breathing heavily by the time he reached the Deflector Relay Room located on Deck 15. More than once, during his headlong rush through the ship, he had been thrown off his feet or slammed into a bulkhead. Steam hissed from conduits, blinding him, and small electrical fires added their pall of smoke to the already poor visibility.
Nearing his destination, he was nearly ripped from the access ladder, as the ship lurched violently to starboard. Kirk hung on for grim death. When the ship righted itself, He quickly hurried down to the platform and tore off the access panel. The ship lurched again, and this time Kirk barely managed to find a handhold. The panel flew from his fingers, and crashed onto the deck below.
Kirk found himself on a narrow piece of platform with nothing to stop him falling. He stared down at the deck and prayed that the ship would remain still long enough for him to get up. It did. A few seconds later he had managed to expose the circuitry he needed.
He chided himself for being so unfit. All those years spent galloping around the cosmos, and now a gentle jog through the ship and he was actually panting. He made a mental note that when he got home, he was going to have to join a gym. After all, he was only 60, half way through the normal life span of a healthy human being. Time to do something about his health before he really did grow old.
He located the circuits and quickly scanned them trying to remember how to re-route their function. Time was of the essence here and Kirk did not allow himself to feel any self-doubt. Perhaps Scotty could do this quicker, but he was needed on the bridge. No, He would do the job, and do it in time. He always had before.
Spock watched in fascination from his position behind a bulkhead. He had always known that his Captain reacted to deadlines with a most single-minded determination, but seeing him take action like this had always filled Spock with a deep sense of admiration.
Scott's voice spoke from the wall speaker. "Bridge to Captain Kirk."
"I don't know how much longer I can hold it together."
Kirk did not take time to acknowledge the engineer's grim warning. His fingers flew over the circuit board, their motion almost blurring as he pulled out one chip after another and replaced them faultlessly. Then he lifted the heavy control board and slotted it back into position.
"That's' it - let's GO."
Harriman's voice echoed over the speaker, "Activate main deflector."
Spock felt the ship shake alarmingly as the beam flared out. Then Scotty's voice, sounding almost surprised, announced, "We're breakin' free!"
The Vulcan took a deep breath and stepped out from behind the bulkhead. Kirk had hauled himself to his feet despite the ship's lurching. Seeing the Vulcan, his mouth flew open.
"What the hell?"
When the energy ribbon reached out and grabbed the valiantly fighting Starship, both men's heads snapped round to watch in horror as a huge hole was ripped in the hull.
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