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Rob Morris

July 20th 2293

It was long a tradition at Starfleet Headquarters that the newest cadet learned within a relatively close proximity to the senior-most Admiral. It was said that this served as a reminder to both of where one could go, and where one had been. Naturally, the two groups didn’t eat together or truly interact. But the dichotomy was omnipresent, and most felt it lent perspective to that place most badly in need of it. Once, an effort to build the Admiralty its own social club had been successfully opposed by an outspoken up-and-coming cadet named George Samuel Kirk. His appeal to traditions and balance marked the beginnings of his noteworthy career.

Seventy years later, George Kirk’s grandson, Peter, was sitting in an area common to both high-rankers and no-rankers. He was waiting for George’s second son, Jim, to finish a sudden urgent meeting with Spock. Then, the two Kirks would join Doctor McCoy for a nice lengthy leave on Serenidad, guests of La Caudilla herself, a.k.a. Princess Teresa de la Vega Ruiz-Mendoza McCoy. Peter had met her once, and even though it was under very bad circumstances, she couldn’t help but look incredible. Best word was, she still did.

In a seemingly absent but quite conscious gesture, he rubbed his lieutenant’s bars for about the millionth time since getting them back. Technically, it was not a promotion, but rather a restoration to a previously held rank. But Peter barely recalled the first time he made lieutenant. This time, he recalled and treasured it fully. He didn’t know whether or not his life had actually become better after his release from Tantalus Penal Colony. Peter Kirk simply knew that life tasted better.

He tried keeping his patience, knowing that the absent Jim would come when he could. The first time he tried to contact him, Peter mused, would probably also be the last, so he held out just a bit longer, so as not to try Jim’s patience. The two had at long last reached a point where a delay was seen as a delay, not an effort to push the other one away. Besides, Peter found it a bit of a kick just to sit around in Starfleet Headquarters and not worry about tests and such. Passing cadets took greater note of his bars than he himself did.

He and his uncle had spent the last five months together, as Peter lived out his dream of service aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise. Granted, the ship was being largely shut down, and he was mostly assigned the categorization of scientific equipment. But serving with Jim aboard his ship was something that would never leave his nephew’s heart. Plus, the sometimes-drudgery of this duty had helped net him the extra leave time, as seasoned officers had left the ship in advance of such duty.

"That should be enough time."

Peter called Jim on his private frequency, but was quietly and quickly brushed aside.

"Not now, Peter. This is...we’ll talk later."

The upset tone in the senior Kirk’s voice would have been evident to Peter even before Dianas. Nowadays, he knew what that precise tone meant. Captain Kirk was upset with someone he cared about. The younger Kirk was mightily glad that it wasn’t him.

"Aye, Captain. Kirk out."

Reasoning that he might be waiting a while longer than he had originally thought, Peter got up from his chair and began to wander the then-emptied class-halls. Having very few fond memories of Starfleet Academy life, he had never really appreciated how well designed the place was. Or perhaps, he reasoned, the design had been improved in the last twelve years.

That wouldn’t surprise him. But a voice, seemingly from the dark past, did manage to surprise him.

"Big shot hero-kin. That means exactly nothing here. Nothing at all."

Peter was well past his probation, yet still knew that getting into a fight was by definition a bad idea. Yet if this unknown speaker failed to withdraw what he saw as fighting words, then the lieutenant would feel hard-pressed to keep his temper even. A second voice, though, shook him out of his temporary self-absorption and brought him back to reality.

"I’ve never done anything to any of you. Yet, day after day, you stand here, and try to obstruct my passage to the one class where tardiness really costs you big."

A subtler lot than his own tormentors, Peter still found these people simply vicious. They were like the prehistoric velociraptors, hunting and pecking for weakness before swiping at their prey with their dewclaws. Their target, a pretty Human female cadet of Asian descent, happily seemed a bit calmer than Peter did at that age. Despite her calm, or perhaps because of it, the ringleader of the four harassers kept right on.

"Is the cadet afraid of telling Daddy about her less-than-perfect record? Well, too bad. You’re here until you’re good and late. This is what happens to stuck-up trash like you. You walk around here with a bug shoved up your behind, and the rest of us are supposed to genuflect or curtsy. Well, screw you, screw your Dad’s high-powered friends, and screw your Da—"

At that, Peter saw the young woman come alive, and slap the ringleader. It wasn’t an angry slap, from what he could see. It was more a line of demarcation. She wasn’t saying that she was about to cry. She was perhaps saying that he was about to. That is, if the punk was about to allow a fair fight, which Peter correctly doubted.

"Hold her. I’m gonna enjoy this."

Past letting matters run their course, Peter Kirk shouted words at the party that he had, in many respects, waited a lifetime to say in earnest. "Cadets, stand down!"

However full of themselves the harassing party might have been, ignoring Peter’s words was obviously not in them. To ignore even an upperclassman was tantamount to death for most cadets. To ignore a commissioned officer was grounds for eternal damnation.

"Lieu-Lieutenant, this isn’t how it—"

Peter again ate up this opportunity, a kind of generational payback. "Cadet, permission to speak was neither requested nor granted. You will maintain silence. Am I understood?"

He turned to the young woman. "Cadet, you are dismissed. Report to your class. Here—" He scrawled a number sequence. "—is my public BellComm code. If your instructor needs verification of your story, I’ll provide it."

Peter, who had never had anyone intervene this way on his behalf, could not help but see the gratitude in her eyes.

"Thank you, sir."

As she left, Peter turned his attention to the other four. "You’ll stand at attention for five minutes, and ruminate on conduct unbecoming a Starfleet Officer. Then, after I take your names, you can go."

As he hoped and prayed, one of them, the ringleader, spoke up. "Not a good idea, sir. My dad serves in Admiral Po’s office. Helps process personnel assignments—if you know what I mean. So how does a ground assignment as Starfleet observer to Tantalus Five sound?"

Like the man once said, irony is nothing if not ironic. Peter lightly shrugged at the big-talker. "Great. I haven’t seen Harry Mudd in years. He still owes me for poker, the bastard. Now, Cadet, would you care to withdraw that threat?"

The arrogance never seemed to fade from the punk’s face. "No, sir. I would not. I will, however, take your name for possible action."

In Peter’s day, the other three would have been dropping this loser like a hot potato. But now, they looked on, figuring to walk away scot-free. They would be wrong in this figuring. "My name? Okay. I’ll spell it. K-i-r-k."

The looks on their faces said at least that they could spell. Whatever influence the leader’s father had, it had just been wildly trumped. Peter called for Security, and not a peep was heard the rest of their time together. Peter was quite explicit in their behavior and their threat. The younger Kirk knew that Admiral Po of Starfleet Personnel was not going to be happy with one of her staff, but that wasn’t his problem.

When Peter finally got back to the Starfleet Headquarters Main Briefing Room, Jim Kirk was only just emerging. The captain looked disgusted.

"Jim? What’s wrong?" Peter asked.

Kirk turned and pointed at an emerging Spock. "You wanna know what’s wrong? Ask Spock! Tell him, Captain. Tell my nephew why we can’t spend our leave together. And Peter? Don’t punch him, because you’re going to be sorely tempted to do so."

Peter walked over to Spock, and both were still a bit shaken as they watched Captain Kirk walk away, still muttering to himself. "Captain Spock, I’ve seen him that angry exactly once—at me. Sir, what happened? What’s going on?"

Were Peter a bettor, he would have taken odds that while Kirk’s reaction itself had not surprised Spock, the depths and breadth of that reaction did. The Vulcan did not seem quite himself. "Peter, your uncle is needed on a vital mission of galactic peace. No other man is better qualified to accomplish this daunting goal."

Somehow, being around Spock made Peter want to carefully control his reactions tenfold. Jim had referred to the man as a brother many times over. That made the Vulcan legend family. On this occasion, though, the lieutenant addressed the captain in a manner disturbingly similar to a more troubled and troubling Peter Kirk.

"Well, its always him, isn’t it?"

Perhaps Spock was taken aback by another upset Kirk. At least that’s what his face suggested to Peter, who apologized, at least for the intent of his words.

"I’m sorry, Captain. I should have prepared myself better for this very real possibility. Sir, is the mission classified?"

Spock did not answer, except to ask a question of his own. "Peter, are you upset with me?"

"Sir, if I gave offense...."

Spock cut him off with a raised hand. "That was not my question. You are operating under the fallacious assumption that I have chosen to be challenged by the slightly harsher tone your voice has taken. That is incorrect. My sole concern is for your uncle, and by extension, yourself. I do not wish to reopen the rift between the two of you."

Peter nodded, reluctantly. "Yes, sir. I am upset with you. But I also know that you wouldn’t do this without good cause."

Spock looked in the direction Jim had gone, so visibly upset. "Then, Peter, you know more than your uncle does. I never truly gauged the depth of his grief over your late cousin’s murder. That appears to be an error on my part."

While the Vulcan continued staring at the path of his absent friend, Peter fought back another wave of anger. The Genesis incident had been a news blur to the young ensign while stationed on Prothos Colony. Peter had found out that Doctor David Marcus was his first cousin about the same time as everyone else in the galaxy had. It seemed only weeks passed before he learned he no longer had a cousin, thanks to a lunatic Kh’myr Klingon named Kruge.

"Begging the captain’s pardon, sir, but what has all this got to do with David Marcus?"

Spock almost seemed annoyed, now, in a Vulcan-like way. "Yes. I should not have allowed my attention to wander. Could I be upset with Jim in turn?"

Peter shrugged. "When Jim gets like that, sir, it no longer matters whether he’s on the right side of an argument. One’s natural instinct is to recoil. Trust the word of one who’s been there and back."

Spock raised an eyebrow. "I am familiar with his patterns of behavior, Peter."

"Why? When has he ever been upset with you?"

Spock allowed for the relative naivete of the question and got back to business. "That is not important, now. Our mission is not classified. Its motives and methods are quite open to any and all scrutiny. The Enterprise and its crew are to play host to Klingon Chancellor Gorkon and his entourage. Our aim is a truly historic one. To bring a full and lasting peace between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. The Praxis Crisis has opened a window of opportunity that may not come this way again in our lifetimes. Your uncle is very much needed, both to show the Klingons the face they most respect, hate and fear, and to have this mission be headed by someone whom anti-Klingon political forces within the Federation cannot easily call a dupe or a collaborator."

Peter shook his head. "That is big, no argument. A man of my uncle’s stature could make all the difference. But why was he so upset with you?"

Spock paused. "In concert with my father, Ambassador Sarek, I helped begin these talks. I arranged that your uncle head this mission. I did all of this without first informing him of my plans."

Peter’s eyes went wide. Small wonder Jim’s upset! The younger man realized he was learning about all this only minutes after Jim himself had. "Sir, permission to speak freely?"


Peter couched his words, but not his intent. "Sir, you sorely mishandled this. I may not know Jim as well as I’d like, but I do know he does not like surprises, unless they’re on his part. Dad once told me about a surprise birthday party he threw for Jim. I mainly remember the gist of the story —it’s been a long time. Suffice it to say, things didn’t go very well."

"Yet, if I had informed the captain of my intentions, he would never have agreed to them."

Peter allowed a slight smile to form.

Spock nodded, seemingly in realization of his unspoken counter to that argument. "I see. But the fact remains, I believe firmly in the cause of peace. The discomfort of my closest friend must not enter into this equation, no matter the cost to our relationship."

Perhaps a smarter Peter Kirk had emerged from Tantalus, because he decided then to leave the issue to be settled between the friends. But he added one last thing. "Sir, Jim’s been set up any number of times. Serenidad comes to mind, with the Klingon assassin of El Caudillo impersonating him."

"Your point, Lieutenant?"

"Well, it seems to me that if this effort fails, the Klingons could claim that Jim was foisted on them and that this caused insurmountable problems."

Peter was prepared to hear any number of responses. The one he got, though, was not among them.

"A superior suggestion, Peter. Yes, I shall ask that a document be prepared to that effect. In fact, I am surprised that neither I, my father, or his staff suggested such a thing. A simple thing, really, and yet it would never occur to a Vulcan. These negotiations are so fundamental, such possible excuses for failure should be summarily removed."

Peter was still thrown when Spock added,"You continue to show signs of your heritage. I would encourage you to keep doing so."

Peter nodded. He was glad to help, and he also knew that Jim Kirk would calm down eventually.

"Thank you, sir. So, when do we all leave for the rendezvous with Gorkon?"

Spock again looked slightly off his mark, as he gave Peter more news he didn’t need. "We do not, Lieutenant. It is true that you paid for your crimes, in full. You have made an excellent recovery on many fronts. Your actions aboard the Enterprise, the Shenandoah, and the Marseilles all point clearly to a young man who has left the grim past behind. But for this mission, we were forced to carefully screen all those who will be in contact with the various high-ranked negotiators. Forgive me, Peter, but you were considered in this instance to be a security risk. You will not be a part of this mission."

Peter felt the world drop out from under him yet again. As Spock and Jim engaged in the greatest diplomatic coup since the Federation was founded, Jim’s nephew would once again simply be a person who read about history--not one who helped make it. "I understand, sir. Thank you, sir."

Spock wanted to offer more comfort, but there was no time. "I must go." The Vulcan headed out the double doors of the briefing center, heading, no doubt, to the Klingon Embassy.

Peter watched him go, then wandered down the corridor to the lounge, trying and failing not to feel absolutely miserable.


"Lieutenant Kirk?" came the thickly accented voice.

Head buried in his hands as he sat on a bench on the lounge, Peter looked up and hoped that Commander Chekov had not been waiting too long, while he wallowed in misery. Protocol aside, he simply liked and admired the man. "Sorry, sir."

Peter stood, but Chekov bade him sit back down. "Vwe’re not on duty, Peter. My concern vwas how vworn down you looked. Have you spoken to your uncle, or to Kyptin Spock?"

"Mostly to Captain Spock, Commander. Jim...didn’t seem in a talkative mood."

Chekov nodded. "Right now, wvery few of us are, Lieutenant. Kyptin Spock is a great man, but his sense of timing...leaves much to be desired. To even contemplate a comprehensive peace with those Klingon Cossacks..." He trailed off.

Peter was getting the impression these anti-Klingon feelings ran deep among his uncle’s crew, and who could blame them? One phrase explained it all: The Serenidad Tragedy.

Chekov continued, "In any event, I came to speak with you on a few matters. The first, I’m sorry to say, involves you leaving the Enterprise. You vwill not be part of this mission."

Peter nodded, not feeling the impact quite as keenly this time. "I know, sir. Captain Spock informed me that I’m a security risk. Well, they told me my crimes at Dianas would follow me. I’m just never prepared for when they catch up."

Peter saw Chekov’s face shift, seemingly in annoyance. "Oh, did he tell you? Hmm. One might consider such things the province of the chief security officer. But not Kyptin Spock, apparently. Lieutenant, you are not a dangerous criminal. No one thinks you are going to shoot the Chancellor or burn anyone’s cabin. But there are different levels of risk. Level One Risks—such as members of hate groups or those, such as yourself, with criminal records—are obvious, and none are knowingly serving in Starfleet. Level Two Risks are those crewmembers who have had close family killed by Klingons. Those individuals are being identified even as we speak by a young Vulcan under Kyptin Spock’s tutelage and furloughed. Then, in such a situation as..this conference...we are forced to go to the Level Three Risks: those whose presence compromises the ability of the senior officers.

"You, Peter, were actually disqualified on all three levels. Not only because you have a criminal record from Dianas, but also because you lost a cousin to Klingons. Furthermore, you are the closest kin of our captain, a man no more vwell disposed toward Klingons than I myself am. Frankly, I vwould not vwant someone who could be falsely accused of acting under secret orders from his uncle around on a mission such as this. Being the captain’s nephew, Klingon or Federation forces opposed to this peace mission could frame you in such a vway that the captain’s integrity and the mission itself could be jeopardized."

Peter was grateful, but now was worried for Spock. Jim’s anger at the Vulcan was simply the most visible, not necessarily the most deeply felt among the crew. "Thank you, Commander. Was there anything else, sir?"

Now, Chekov smiled. "There is indeed, Peter. Did you come to the aid of a cadet who vwas being harassed earlier?"

Peter wondered how that had got around so fast. "Yes, sir. As you know, I have a low opinion of such goings on."

Chekov gestured behind Peter, and once again the younger Kirk cursed his self-absorption. The same young woman had been standing behind him. "Peter Kirk, meet Demora Sulu. My goddaughter, of sorts. I’ve already sent a message to her father, Hikaru, relating what happened. You have my thanks, and very likely his as well. Now, if you both will excuse me, some frenzied preparation awaits."

As Chekov left, Demora Sulu nodded. "Thank you, sir. No one’s ever stood up for me like that since I got here. It’s like those jerks have carte blanche."

Everything old is new again, thought Peter. "Glad to be of help, Cadet. Are you an upperclassman?"

She smiled. "I can’t wait to get out there. Sir—"

"It’s Peter. We’re kind of cousins, by way of Enterprise, after all."

She nodded again. "Peter, can I ask you a personal question?"

A bit nervous, Peter nonetheless allowed it. "Go right ahead, Demora."

She now appeared nervous. "You and Pavel both mentioned crimes at Dianas..."

At least it was politely phrased, he thought. "I did a some things I’m not proud of. I hurt a lot of people, including myself. I ended up spending three years in penal rehab. Why do you ask?"

Cadet Sulu looked askance. "I...until I heard you admit that...I thought I was the number one screw up in the Enterprise...‘family’."

Peter knew enough to see deeply held shame. He reached out and lightly grasped Demora’s hand. "Whatever happened, trust in those you love. I didn’t. I held it all in until the very sight of Enterprise made me ill. Don’t go that way, Demora. Nothing can kill a family’s love. Believe me, I tried with my uncle. But you see, they never give up on us, no matter what. And one more thing..."

He trailed off, released her hand, and he saw that Demora was smiling. "Yes, Peter?"

He smiled. "As to being the number-one screw up in this space-happy clan of ours? Sorry, kid, you’re not even close."


Peter and Demora chatted for a time. She was surprisingly open about her life to a relative stranger, but for Peter this reinforced the feeling of meeting up with a long-lost cousin of sorts. When they exchanged BellComm codes, and she left, Peter felt good. Maybe Jim was his only real blood relation left. But through the Enterprise, the orphan from Deneva still had family. One of those he now regarded as such caused his wrist-comm to beep right then.

"Enterprise to Kirk," came Uhura’s voice.

Hoping against hope that it was a calmer Jim wishing to speak with him, Peter answered. "Kirk here, Commander."

Even through the filter, the relief in the chief communications officer’s voice was evident. "Peter, I’m glad I found you. I have to make a request of you. An urgent request."

Lieutenant Kirk puzzled at her phrasing. "Sir, I’m Starfleet. I’ll go where I’m told, and I’ll do so twice as quickly if one of you seven is doing the telling."

He didn’t know why he needed to say that. Perhaps his criminal and otherwise unpleasant past actions pushed the reformed man to make simple, fundamental declarations. Perhaps Uhura appreciated this in any event, for she chose not to counter it in full. "That very well may be, Mister Kirk, but considering that you’re on leave, I know enough to couch my orders a bit. Can you beam aboard?"

Since arriving, Peter had seen his and Jim’s plans fall through, witnessed Spock be completely unaware of Jim’s duress, been informed that he was a security risk, both bluntly and politely, and met a charming young woman who helped remind him of a big gaping hole in his life. A duty shift, simple, straightforward and structured, sounded very good, right then.

"Yes, sir. I can and will beam aboard right away."


At the transport pad, Peter told the operator his destination and authorization. "Enterprise, per Commander Upenda Nyota Uhura. Confirmed?"

The young operator looked at him. "You actually know those people?."

Peter’s face betrayed a little pride. The man was very young, and very new, to look at him. "Not as well as I’d like, Ensign. But they all seem to know me."

While enthusiastic and positive, the operator seemed part of a trend. From Demora’s openness about her sexual escapades to the silenced big-talking cadet to this kid, everyone around him seemed to be incapable of restraint... including Peter’s heroes aboard Enterprise, it seemed.

The operator spoke again. "Someday...it’s gonna be me up there. Energizing."

Peter was no longer thrown off by such comments. He hoped that this was a sign of his recent maturity. Materializing aboard Enterprise, he was greeted by the one who’d summoned him.

Uhura handed him a padd. "That’s a short message from a very grateful Captain Sulu." She studied his face. "And since I forgot to say so in the hurly-burly of the last few months, congratulations on the completion of your tour of duty aboard the Marseilles."

Peter shrugged. "Thank you, Commander. That...was a long mission, and one I was grateful to see come to an end."

Uhura nodded. "All things considered, I can’t blame you for that sentiment. I’m also grateful you’re here. Most junior officers on leave promptly disable their wristcoms..." She smiled. "...accidentally, of course."

Peter nodded. "Probation or no, I think it’ll be a long while before I can afford to ‘accidentally’ anything. I don’t know what my actual prospects are, but I think these bars of mine want some company."

She led him out and into the hallways while talking. "Showing up when asked to in a difficult situation is a very good start, Lieutenant. You know about our mission, I take it?"

Peter nodded. "Yes. I’ve also been informed about my security status."

Uhura led him towards a bay that contained some equipment they had previously stored. "If this weren’t such a historic—if naively misguided— occasion, you might’ve made it aboard. But there was no leeway, here. I was frankly shocked at some of the people Valeris bounced."

Peter asked the obvious. "Who is Valeris?"

Uhura opened the secured doors to a bay that was just as crowded as Peter remembered. "She’s a young Vulcan, a protégé of Captain Spock. I just hope she doesn’t share his political sensibilities in regards to this ill-conceived mission."

If Peter hadn’t witnessed first-hand the bond between the senior crew on many occasions, he would have incorrectly thought their friendship with Spock was over. That said, the strain was painfully obvious.

The look of shock on the younger man’s face seemed to tell Uhura she’d overreacted. "I’m sorry, Peter. I’m angry not with Spock, but he volunteered us without taking our feelings into consideration. No discussion. No debate. He may hold the rank, but he is most certainly not the captain. How can we all forgive this immense presumption?"

Peter felt torn up inside, seeing these people—his family—turning upon one of their own, no matter the cause. He gave the best answer he knew how to give. "You forgave me. Surely Spock deserves forgiveness more than I ever did."

If his words moved her, she chose not to show it. "Maybe he does. But no one seems to be able to make Spock realize how sorely he’s mishandled all this."

Peter had no counter to that argument. So he got back to business. "Commander, what am I doing here?"

Perhaps she was actually grateful to have the subject changed, for Uhura said no more about Spock. She handed him another datapadd. "I need you to dig out the Mark Seven Universal Translator and these related duotronic components. I never installed this system because it just struck me as too buggy..."

Peter briefly recalled something from the interminable categorization process. "But isn’t the Mark Eight a more fluent-sounding model?"

She checked over the list while answering. "Yes. But the Mark Seven has a larger, more diverse and adaptable database. It was especially developed for use with the Klingon language. We can’t afford syntax, grammar or any real errors on this mission. I am not giving the Klingons any excuse for war. I intend to see this peace work."

"Yes, sir."

"Call me when you’ve gotten them all pulled, and I’ll get you to give me a hand installing this older system on the bridge." Uhura turned and left Lieutenant Kirk with his list.

He glanced up and down the aisles of the storage area, shaking his head. "This is going to take forever..."


After about five hours, Peter had just about gathered all the required duotronics. He had stopped for a glass of ice water and banana wafers when he saw a woman he did not recognize emerge into the cargo bay. Seeing she was a Vulcan, he guessed that it was Valeris whom Commander Uhura had mentioned.

She spotted him and quickly crossed the storage room deck to confront him. "Are you authorized to be here, Lieutenant?"

"Yes, Lieutenant. Under Commander Uhura’s orders, I’m tagging equipment that she intends to install in the bridge comm system."

Valeris pulled up a datapadd. "What is your name?"

"Lieutenant Peter Kirk. You can check with Commander Uhura, Lieutenant. She’ll verify my story, if you need that."

Her voice, a forced monotone rather than the natural calm of most Vulcans he knew, never wavered. "No need. Her authorization is not relevant, in this case. By order of Captain Spock, I have classified all known security risks. You, Peter Kirk, are unique in that you are the only one that meets all three criteria for exclusion. You must leave the ship, or I will call Security."

Peter shook his head. "I’m not going on this mission, Lieutenant. Captain Spock and Commander Chekov have already explained that to me. But Commander Uhura asked me to get this job done as many of the crew are furloughed. Once I’ve got her shopping list filled, I’ll leave, Lieutenant."

She regarded him with a tilt of her head. "You are recorded as already being on furlough. You have no place here."

"Mister Valeris, in another ten minutes, I’ll be done. I will then resume my leave, and await my possible transfer to another posting. But I promised Uhura I’d do this for her. Now, may I get back to work?"

"You may not. As a security risk, your handling of this sensitive equipment is automatically suspect." She strode to the nearest wallcomm. "Security to Storage Area Seven."

"Mister Valeris, stand down."

The Vulcan turned and looked at Uhura who was standing at the door. The lieutenant asked, "Am I not to be permitted to perform my task, as appointed by Captain Spock?"

Peter was slightly amused by her nervous habit of tilting her head from side to side.

Uhura pointed at the door. "Go and ask him yourself. He’s back on board."

She nodded, again in an off-putting manner. "I shall. It was a pleasure meeting you, Peter Kirk."

Lieutenant Kirk tried and failed to keep in a quip. "Charmed, I’m certain, Valeris."

Again, the head-tilt. "Unlikely." She strode from the area.

When the doors closed, Peter opened his mouth to speak, but Uhura promptly cut him off. "Yes, she’s for real."

Peter looked at the doors again. "You’re absolutely certain of that?"

Uhura chuckled. "Honestly? No..." She looked at the antigrav cart of assembled duotronic components. "Have you finished?"

"One last item, Commander." He disappeared around the corner and came back with the main unit. "I saved the Mark Seven itself for last."

"I appreciate you doing this for me."

"I appreciate the opportunity," Peter answered honestly. "Now, let’s not let me overstay my welcome."

Uhura smiled. "Agreed."

Pushing the cart into the corridor, they walked to the transporter room without conversation. The doors slid open, and Peter stepped up to the platform. He smiled at Uhura. "Be careful out there, Commander."

She looked at him with concern of her own. "Let’s all be careful. I hope to see you soon, Peter."

Peter nodded and looked around the transporter room.

"Destination, sir?" asked the transporter officer, a tall woman he didn’t know by name.

"Mac’s on Bay Street, Ensign."

She smiled. "Aye, sir."

It was the next to last time Peter Kirk would stand aboard the Enterprise-A. "Energize."

It was the last time he would be happy to see it, as well.

Materializing on a public transporter pad in one of San Francisco’s finest bars, Peter muttered a prayer. "God, please let this day get better-and fast."

"How about it if we bypass the good Lord, Peter, and see a princess, instead?" came a voice filled with a Southern drawl.

Peter turned with a start to see a smiling Leonard McCoy. "Doctor, it’s good to see you!"

McCoy chuckled and led the younger Kirk to his table. "Since Spock seems determined to prove all my old comments about him are one hundred percent true, I’ve been thinking. What if we sent a certain frustrated young man on to Serenidad?"

Peter smiled. "Sounds like...just what the doctor ordered, sir."

McCoy laughed heartily as they arrived at his table. "That’s good to hear, Peter. I was afraid that this little surprise party Spock’s throwing would have you as bad off as Jim. Your uncle’s not a happy man, right now."

Peter dipped a chip in salsa, munched it, then nodded. "I know, sir. I saw him not long after Captain Spock informed him of your mission."

McCoy shook his head. "Then you saw him in his white-hot stage. Not a pleasant sight. Believe me, I know. I’ve been on the receiving end of that glare."

Peter asked a question he wasn’t sure he had the right to. "Doctor, are you upset with Captain Spock?"

McCoy shrugged. "With his approach? Yes. About who he’s seating us with? Hell, yes. My wife was destroyed repeatedly by the Kh’myr Klingons. So were better than half the people of her planet. I was there for the worst of it. But upset with Spock? No. This action proves my point, a point I don’t think Jim’s ever fully gotten: Spock and his people are different from us. The many differences between our peoples can be transcended. They can be overcome. They can be celebrated. But they cannot be ignored. Vulcans are no more Human than...than you are Jim."

The doctor saw Peter look a bit downcast, and moved to calm him. "I didn’t mean anything by that, son. You’re just not Jim Kirk. Heck, nobody is ever going to be Jim Kirk except Jim Kirk. All that we need to be is what we’re capable of being. But back to our pointy-eared friends...

"Do Vulcans need us? They most certainly do. Their thinking is all inside a box that dwindles in size geometrically if left unchallenged. Captain Spock tells me that you made a suggestion that no Vulcan would have entertained. Heck, when we encountered that space-going amoeba, the Intrepid was destroyed and its Vulcan crew killed because they could not conceive of what was killing them.

"Do we need Vulcans? Our planet’s history is practically a how-to file on unrestrained lunacy. A little self-control never hurt anyone. And I hope that if we do get peace with Qo’noS, somebody remembers that even a good Klingon has views on war and combat that a lot of us couldn’t even start to understand. Every time Spock proves he’s different, Jim takes a while to adjust. But he will. He always has."

Peter saw McCoy look as if he’d realized something.

"Please tell me that you are not planning to speak to Jim on this," the doctor drawled.

Peter nodded. "He’ll listen to me. I’ll urge him to forgive Spock, just as he forgave me. This time, I can help them. I can help all of you, instead of hurting. Because watching all of you so upset—even angry—with Spock is tearing me up inside."

McCoy’s eyebrows canted. "Lieutenant, I am officially ordering you to stay out of this. Get in the way of Jim and Spock, and I might just have you up on charges. You will do what all of us are doing: hanging back and letting those two settle what in many ways is the dispute of their lives. It’s all about differences, Peter. If you had never committed a single crime, if you were about to get your own high-caliber command, if you were on the verge of making the galaxy think of a new Kirk, one thing would remain the same: we care for you. But you’re not one of us. Again, I don’t mean anything by that. It’s just the plain truth. There’s some heartaches we seven plus people wouldn’t wish on anyone. Some of those were caused by being who we are. Some...were caused by...each other. Your intentions are good, I know."

Continually thrown by just how much he had to learn, Peter nodded a bit weakly. "And you know what they say about good intentions..."

McCoy nodded his head. "I do. So do you. Now, if someone could just explain that to Spock...aw, what I’m doing? It’s this kind of talk that put that fool notion in your head. Now, let’s get you on the transport. My stepson will be piloting you. He was supposed to grab me and Jim—and maybe another couple of the command crew for good measure—but you know what happened there."

Peter shook his head. "I still have to speak to Jim. I just want to say goodbye."

McCoy raised a hand. "There’s no time. And he’s still in no mood. You can talk by subspace later. We were already supposed to be well on our way, if you’ll recall. Teresa’s transport can’t stay docked too long."

Peter wondered why this was, but McCoy kept right on. "Son, I have a few ground rules for you. One: find out where the sidearms are kept at the palace, memorize every route to the armory, remember those routes like you know your own name. Two: if Teresa or the boys cry out, run—don’t walk—to them. I don’t care where she is when she cries out. You go to her. If she tells you everything is all right, ignore her and look for assassins, pirates, I don’t care what. If she tells you to get out, you tell her you’re under direct orders to do what you’re doing. Three: allow no one—and I mean no one—into the palace complex unless they are cleared by Connor Randolph, her chief of security, in person. Connor’s a former student of Jim’s; she’s a great gal, and she’s from Xartheb. You can count on her. Four: don’t confront a Klingon directly. Even the Segh vav are plenty tough and plenty cunning. Just get her and the kids away from any attacker. There are people on Serenidad whose treatment of her makes what you went through at the Academy seem like Basket-Weaving 101."

Peter appreciated the nod to his own past, but raised a few points. "Sir, she’s the absolute ruler of that world. If she tells me to get out or not to bother her, what choice do I have?"

McCoy broke out in laughter that seemed damned near on the verge of hysteria. "Peter, don’t let anyone ever tell you that you don’t have a sense of humor. Sita? Absolute ruler?" The doctor snorted. "After her father’s death, she created a Ruling Council and gave most of her power to them. She still rules because she is so beloved by the people of Serenidad. But sooner or later, she’ll step down and end one of the Federation’s few remaining monarchies."

McCoy took a sip, and Peter was about to ask another question, but something in the old man’s eyes silenced him. It was clear he wanted no more questions. "You’re going to Serenidad as my guest, Peter, and I want you to have a good time. Just stay alert." The doctor looked at his wrist chrono. "My stepson Miguel had to finish up his liaison work at the Klingon Embassy before this mission. He’d requested to be at the main conference when it convenes, but he got disqualified by some Vulcan girl with a hair up her ass. She said his presence constituted a security risk."

Peter twisted his lips. "Oh, geez, I guess I wasn’t the only one."

McCoy shook his head and chuckled. "No, you weren’t." The doctor slapped his wristcom. "McCoy to DeSoto." He waived at Mac, the proprietor of the establishment, and she gave him a thumbs up and a friendly wave as she punched in McCoy’s credit code, one she obviously knew well enough to have committed to memory.

"This is the Serenidad Royal Barque DeSoto," came a gruff voice.

"Two to beam aboard."

"Identification and authorization?" the gruff voice growled.

"Leonard McCoy and Peter Kirk. Authorization: Do No Harm."

"Acknowledged. Activating transport beam now."

Peter found himself on a transport pad aboard a small starship with a Klingon behind the transporter console.

"Leonard, is this Peter Kirk?" the Klingon asked.

"Indeed it is, Miguel. Peter Kirk, may I present Crown Prince Miguel Morales de la Vega Ruiz-Mendoza?"

The Klingon bowed deeply, and Peter followed suit. "I am honored, sir," he said.

"The honor is all mine," came the gruff voice again. "Welcome aboard, Peter Kirk."

Peter looked at the Klingon in amazement. Yes, he knew that Teresa’s son was half-Klingon, the progeny of her rape by the Klingon Commander Kral. But knowing something is not the same thing as having seen something with one’s own eyes. The cranial ridges of the Kh’myr were subdued but still present. The eyes were like charcoal, and the skin was the color of dark olive. But the smile was genuine, Peter decided, despite the sharp canines present in Miguel’s mouth.

Peter would be traveling a long distance in the company of a Klingon. The day had gotten better, but no less interesting, it seemed.

The two younger men waved as McCoy beamed off the DeSoto. Peter felt the doctor had other things on his mind. Probably among them was him going and doing exactly what he had warned Peter not to do. But then, the doctor was part of that tight inner circle, and had experience confronting Jim and Spock. If that was the case, Lieutenant Kirk could only wish him well.

"Come with me, Peter Kirk," said Miguel, spinning and making his way out of the transporter room.

Following wordlessly, Peter’s thoughts briefly turned to Spock’s compliment. That a seasoned officer would accept such a suggestion from a relative rookie with a dubious past only made the Vulcan even more remarkable in Peter’s eyes. At times, it almost seemed as if Spock understood him better than Jim did. That thought of course raised the question of why Spock didn’t more fully comprehend Jim’s anger over the surprise diplomacy. But by this point, they had arrived at a hatchway.

It slid open, and the two entered the bridge of the barque. It had an elliptical layout, with a large throne-like center seat, the helm and navigation stations at the fore, a communications bay rear aft, an engineering station rear starboard, and a clear dome over the control center. Looking back, he could see the long cylindrical engineering hull and could see the triangular arrangement of the three warp engines, common in ships designated as barques.

Peter was amazed. "This? This...is a starship? Wow! It looks like something out of the old twentieth century pulp magazines."

"Yes, it does." Miguel’s smile told Peter that this was a common, even an expected reaction to the splendor of the royal barque. "I take it that you are impressed with my mother’s barque."

Peter was just about speechless. "I’ve never seen such a large transparent aluminum canopy on a starship!"

Miguel raised an eyebrow, perhaps copied from a certain Vulcan ‘uncle.’ "Mother dislikes enclosed spaces."

"Miguel, this is going to be a decently long journey. I have a feeling that laying down parameters of polite conversation might be in order. I tend to step where I shouldn’t."

Without comment, Miguel nodded and did as Peter asked. "I will not speak of my conception. I will not speak of the media reports about my mother. And your restrictions?"

Lieutenant Kirk was surprised at how easily his two came out. "Deneva and Dianas. I can’t change what happened to me as a child. I can’t change my crimes as an adult. Add to that, I’ve never been truly comfortable talking about myself. From the brig on Enterprise to my debriefing after the Marseilles incident, that feels like all I’ve been doing for six years."

Miguel smiled yet again. "Counselors mean well, Peter. But they do tend to go on past the point of diminishing returns." He offered his hand. "We have come to terms."

Peter glanced at the empty stations. "Any crew?"

"Not on this trip. It’s a rather sophisticated ship and can be flown by a single pilot or even the autopilot." He gestured to an empty station. "You may sit anywhere except the center seat. That is reserved for my mother."

Peter eyed it skeptically. "It doesn’t look terribly comfortable."

"It isn’t," Miguel admitted. "This ship was originally commissioned for my grandfather. Mother is loathe to change anything he designed."

Peter sat down at the communications bay as Miguel sat down at the helm. "Let’s get underway. Raise Traffic Control, if you will, please."

Peter inserted the earjack and tapped a few keys. "Earth Traffic Control? This is the Serenidad Royal Barque DeSoto requesting departure clearance for Mu Herculis."

"Acknowledged, DeSoto. We’ve got two departures ahead of yours. We estimate five minutes’ delay."

Miguel chuckled. "‘They also serve those who sit and wait.’"

They sat silently, Peter monitoring communications and Miguel running his preflight check.

After a few minutes, Traffic Control contacted them. "DeSoto, this is Traffic Control. Departure clearance granted. Please set a course of 172 mark 0 and use the Neptune alley for departing this system. Godspeed, DeSoto."

"Neptune alley acknowledged," responded Peter as Miguel nodded. "Thank you."

As Miguel piloted the Royal barque out of the Sol system through one of the largest commercial traffic lanes, Peter briefly realized anew that there was a Klingon with their lives in his hands. His feelings were mixed. Yes, it was because of Kh’myr Klingons that he would never meet his cousin David. And it was impossible to be in Starfleet without encountering endless stories of depredations dating all the way back to first contact between Terrans and Klingons. The Segh vav were a bunch of bastards in and of themselves, and the Kh’myr were the squaring and cubing of those qualities. It was like a built-in parallel universe where Khan Singh had won, and was still alive on a planet full of potential Hitlers, Stalins, Maos, Pol Pots and Greens.

Yet he knew of Miguel’s harsh origins, and no one, sane and not, of Serenidad would try to hold him responsible for his father’s people. Also, Peter’s only real contact with a Klingon had been his own fault, a part of the mess he made of his life at Dianas. Not Tom Cooper. Not Koloth. Just Peter Kirk.

Peter would never say this to Jim, but he found he just couldn’t hate Klingons. Mistrust? Hell, yes. But if David Marcus had lived, his use of protomatter would probably have caused Peter and him to meet on Tantalus Five. So Klingons, while dangerous and in need of watching, just didn’t excite raw hatred in him. He knew this view was likely naive. Yet for the moment, it was his.

For the moment.

"Peter, we’re now leaving the Sol system. Our ETA at Mu Herculis is five days. I have engaged the autopilot. It is more sophisticated than some. We will not need to disengage it until we reach Serenidad unless we are attacked or pursued."

Peter shook his head at Miguel. "There’s a distinction between the two?"

"Indeed. Enemies will attack us. The media drones will pursue us."

"Again: there’s a distinction?"

Miguel nodded in appreciation of the humor, and led them from the bridge to the royal suite below. It was massive, having at least two private bedrooms and baths, a common entertainment area and even an exercise room.

"Yours is the bedroom on the starboard side, Peter," Miguel explained as he headed to the exercise room.

Peter smiled, thoroughly impressed, yet said nothing.

Miguel then picked up an odd weapon, one shaped somewhat like a crescent moon. He began to swing it in a precision arc, a movement that never faltered in its balance and grace. After ten minutes, he was done.

Peter lightly clapped. "I’ve never seen that sort of weapon before. Is it from Serenidad?"

Miguel offered the well-built sharpened weapon to his traveling companion.

Peter had expected its weight. He had not expected the feelings that touched him when he held it. It was a weapon that nearly cried out to be used.

"No. It is from Qo’noS. It is a batlh’etlh — an ‘honor sword.’"

"Honor? Among Klingons? Seems unlikely..." Peter was skeptical.

Miguel raised an eyebrow in unspoken warning. "Perhaps we should change the subject."

"Agreed." Peter chuckled at that and so did Miguel.

Miguel wordlessly resumed his workout, and Peter donned his own gymsuit and completed a workout of his own on the resistance apparatus. Afterwards, they went to their private rooms to shower and change.

After the two viewed some holovids and the news from I.N.S., they tried talking once again.

Peter would have a hard time reminding himself of the bigger man’s youth, but he would do it. "It’s going to be a long five days."

Miguel nodded. "We have little in common."

"We’ll find something. But I guess we have to exclude certain subjects, just to get by. Your stepfather made me very aware of that when I offered to broker peace between Jim and Spock."

Miguel looked at him askance. "Indeed? Uhura and Chekov gave me similar warnings. I suppose we are too young to know things as they do."

Peter smiled. They now had the workings of a subject that could take them all the way to Serenidad. "Or maybe....maybe they don’t know either, but need to keep that secret at all costs."

Miguel raised a finger. "Leonard keeps insisting that his exchanges with Spock are never juvenile. But there was this one dinner. Spock declared that the Enterprise’s actions over..."

By making respectful light of their elders, the two found all conflicts and nightmares receded for the remainder of the journey.

July 25th 2293

Under Connor Randolph’s clearance, the DeSoto assumed stationary orbit above the Serenidad Royal Palace and Peter and Miguel were beamed down to the royal estate. Princess Teresa stood before them, smiling warmly. Two little boys stood at her side in amazement.

"Mommy, why did Uncle Jim dye his hair all black?"

The Princess smiled. "This isn’t Uncle Jim, Davie. It’s his nephew, Peter." She stepped forward and hugged him, kissing him on his cheek. "Welcome to Serenidad, Peter Kirk."

Lieutenant Peter Kirk was a man overwhelmed. The estate was just impossible. It had to dwarf the whole of Riverside, Iowa. It seemed to rival Deneva’s capital city—that he could see.

The royal residence looked like an admirals’ retreat Peter had once gofered for, and there were over two dozen people staying there, not five. Even so, that retreat had symbols of high office all over it. This home was exactly that—a home. La Caudilla and her family lived there, but it was still a home, and that made it seem yet grander still.

The air was warm, and the sky was utterly clear. Obviously, Princess Teresa’s forebears had chosen this location for its climate as well as view. Perhaps, like Martha’s Vineyard on Earth, this place never really saw much bad weather.

But like a grand centerpiece was the Princess herself. Her beauty had been endlessly spoken of, but in each curve and every part of her he couldn’t see, Peter knew why so many had gone on for so long about it. More than that, she had the presence of a ruler. It was how a young orphan had imagined Gueniviere to look, when Uncle Jim made one of his magic visits and read to him of might that served right.

"Your Majesty, I am deeply honored. You are as charming as I’d heard. I have gifts, if you don’t mind."

Davie McCoy jumped and shouted. "Oh, boy! Uncle Jim has gifts!"

Teresa gently covered her little boy’s mouth. "That is Peter, David. Peter is the son of Jim’s brother Sam. They looked very much alike, so Peter looks like Jim, too."

"So is Peter our cousin? And can he give us gifts?"

Now, she looked at Peter. Her gown slightly hugged her breasts as she turned. Peter forced himself to make eye contact, and fast.

"He can give them later. And only if he drops that tiresome Majesty stuff. I’m Teresa. Understood, Lieutenant?"

Her smile was both genuine and gentle. He thought about the long list of people that had hurt her. Peter wanted to hunt them all down like dogs, if only to see her smile at him again.

"Understood, Teresa. And thank you."

As she walked away, Peter looked up at the sky, forcing images of Kh’myr-laden transports from his imagination. Turning and seeing that the boys had ditched the newcomer in favor of Miguel, Peter entered the residence and was directed to his room by a servant who obviously thought highly of Captain Kirk. Thanking the man for his words, Peter decided to take in the place later, fearing that otherwise he would be so dumbstruck, he’d never reach his room.


There was a small but subtle difference between stowing one’s gear and unpacking one’s things. Peter’s leave was long enough that he could unpack his things and not have to care precisely what drawer he put them in. After sending out a standard arrival message to Starfleet on subspace, Peter looked around his unbelievably large accommodations and plopped into a bed the size of his Academy dorm room.

He realized as he stared at a highly ornate ceiling that this was his first real leave since graduating the Academy. No working vacations, or probations. No criminal stupidity, and no prison time. In a trend that continued to disturb him, he couldn’t remember what his last leave had been about. It wasn’t amnesia, to hear Doctor Noel tell it. It was just the tendency troubled people like Peter had to blend certain years together. It was partly a defense mechanism, but it left a hole in him he could no longer completely ignore.

Well, he could completely ignore it then and there, and that’s just what he decided he should do. The bed was so comfortable, he just nodded off. And he dreamed of better days.

His rest was interrupted by a small visitor who clambered up into his bed. "Unca Jim."

It was Jimmy McCoy. "Unca Jim."

Peter had to smile at the tender sight. The little one honestly thought he was Jim. "No, pal. But thank you."

Princess Teresa came around the corner, her middle son Davie in tow. "There you are, my little explorer. Peter, I’m sorry. They both worship Jim, and I can’t seem to make his namesake here understand that a strong resemblance doesn’t make for the same person."

Peter nodded, and grabbed up a delighted little boy. "Stubborn, huh? Darn it, Jimmy—you’re a McCoy, not a Kirk!"

Davie laughed like it was the best joke ever. "Mommy! Peter sounds like Daddy!"

Now Davie joined his little brother, and both went down in a ruthless tickle-fit administered by their new ‘cousin’. Before gently shooing them off, he looked intently at Jimmy. "Peter. I’m Peter, okay?"

"Pe-ta. Pita."

Now, Lieutenant Kirk’s mind flew back a quarter-century. His own little brother had called him that, just learning to speak before the events of the parasite disaster. Peter tousled Jimmy McCoy’s hair, and smiled. He would not allow the past to eat him alive yet again. "Close enough, pal."

Davie started as he remembered something. "Peter, we’re going swimming with Mommy. Wanna come?"

The Princess nodded. "He’ll come. By royal decree. It’s a private lake, Peter. So far, not even the vidarazzi have found it on their flyovers."

She walked out with Jimmy and Davie.

Peter watched her go, a good deal more intently than he had been taught by his grandmother was polite. Then, he reminded himself that this curvaceous, well-built beauty of a Princess had another title: Mrs. Leonard McCoy. But if awkward staring were the extent of his troubles, Peter Kirk would still find himself loving Serenidad. So far, this vacation had been the very best thing that could have happened to him, apart from Jim not being there.

Walking the path down and reaching the lake, Peter saw that his donning of bathing trunks had been a good idea. Everyone else, including a frankly stunning Teresa, had a suit bottom, though Teresa had gone topless. This was hardly a shock, but he was still glad he had braced himself for the sight. Though he and Miguel had as agreed avoided discussing them, Peter was well aware of media reports about Princess Teresa. On the off chance that the sensational reports about the Princess’s public habits were dead on, he didn’t want to offend her by looking somehow disdainful. Peter had suffered enough traumas to know how they can force a person inward. If Teresa, as a rape and kidnap victim, had turned either prudish or wanton as a result, no one would truly blame her.

But she was indeed neither, as her next comments revealed. "You and Jim both tend to keep in good shape, I see. I have a lot of very good exercise equipment in my home."

His mouth spoke without consulting his brain. "Which you obviously use."

As Peter gulped, Teresa smiled. "Thank you, Peter. Consider the compliment returned."

Peter smiled as well, but shrugged. He had a good physique, but that was partly genetics, after all. Also, any advantage his looks might have given him in the past had been negated by both his attitude and the perceived danger of being involved with a Kirk.

"La Caudilla honors her humble guest."

Teresa turned to make her routine check of the boys, playing in the far shallower water near the shore. The shape of her behind through the suit bottom showed that no workout equipment went unused, whether in her house or on her barque.

Peter whispered as she wiped mud from Davie’s face, "Lord, give me strength."

She dove beneath the water, looking good as ever. Peter watched the two boys play. Davie was holding two plastic figures, one an odd looking creature and one looking vaguely like a Constitution class ship. Little Jimmy listened intently as his brother wove an epic tale. Peter ferociously fought off memories of Deneva and his older brother Georgie before things went very bad. He saw the tender scene merely for what it was, and dove under.

Besides keeping in shape as part of his long-term therapy to work out stress, Peter had excellent lung capacity. He’d gotten it as a child, when he would play head games with the therapists who had him swim to regain full use of his legs. The clear water provided him with an excellent view of the now-surfaced Teresa’s half-clothed body. She saw him, and smiled once again.

After a nice swim, Peter resurfaced. He had pushed his limits, but not so that he was gasping for breath. He did see that the boys were no longer by the shore.

Teresa spoke. "I sent them back up, Peter. I didn’t want them to see me do this."

He was now officially nervous. "Do...what?"

She came back and waded in the water. He found he could get used to her topless state quickly, but her body itself was another story. "I saw you holding your breath. Up for a contest?"

Peter felt relief, and allowed himself to relax. She hadn’t wanted two small boys to play at holding their breath. Entirely innocent.

"Anytime, your Highness!"

A little competition, he reasoned, was the perfect way to get over his dumbstruck admiration of her beauty. Breathing in very deeply, they both descended. Even more than her buoyant breasts, he found watching the hair on her head float up over her like a crown the most alluring sight.

For what seemed like minutes but likely wasn’t, they ran about even. As both their cheeks began to puff out, Peter felt like Teresa was about to give up. As she removed her hand from her mouth, this seemed the case. But when Peter saw that hand dart between his legs, he felt a squeeze and then yelped, giving up his air—and losing the contest.

He surfaced, not sure whether to feel angry or flattered.

Teresa surfaced, her smile now seeming eternal. "You lose!"

In a heartbeat, she had swum over and given him a kiss on the lips. It wasn’t deep, but he felt it, especially the brief touch of her chest against his.

She began to walk out of the water as he composed himself. This time, he let a little anger show.

"Are you crazy? Your kids are not that far away."

She merely turned and shrugged. "We’re both of us crazy, Peter. You can’t have seen what we two have and not be. This was just a little crazy fun, shared by veteran survivors. Didn’t you enjoy that?"

Peter gave it up. He didn’t have time to waste on being angry. Not over something like this. He walked up to her. "Of course, I did. But you’re married to my uncle’s best friend."

She chuckled and shook her head. "Do you think Leonard would leave me over giving you a squeeze? The man knows how competitive I am. So long as it went no further, he’d just laugh."

She pulled his cheek. "You are very cute. And you have Jim’s looks as well as his almost prudish morals. But I absolutely adore my husband, Peter. No one is cute enough to make me forget that. I’m not shy, as you can tell. But whatever the media says, I’m just not a crazed wanton. Any more than you are a serial arsonist. We’ve each had our moments. But our sorry luck and bad choices aren’t here, Peter. So I grabbed you where it counts? So your eyes are fixed on a certain part of me?"

Teresa smiled, and Peter was glad he had his trunks on. "Here, we have fun. Here, we relax. We can even look—and think to ourselves whatever we want as we do. And in all that—there is no harm done."

Peter felt like he understood. "I need to learn to have fun."

They started to walk back. Peter saw Teresa scoping him out—in a friendly but appreciative way. "I have some friends—alumni of my finishing school— they’d love to get their hands on something like you."

"Who am I to deny a royal matchmaker?" He now felt very comfortable around this woman. "Teresa? About us being survivors?"


"What if I said I had no desire to discuss anything I’ve been through?"

She put her arm around him, and this time, he didn’t feel at all awkward touching her. He did wish she had a robe on, but that’s life. "I’d say that such a desire proves that you are a survivor, Peter."

For the immediate present, the names of dead family, the places of shame, and the identities of numerous fiends would have no place in this very new friendship.


Two hours later, Peter sat down to dinner with the family. The boys both sat down next to him. If Peter knew anything about kids, he assumed they were doing so to have close access to the packages he’d brought with him.

His attraction to Teresa he’d dealt with as he’d been taught. He did not repress it, but waited until he was in a locked shower room and moved to release his sexual tension. If he was attracted to her, he reasoned, far better to just live with it than deny it. She wasn’t his. She wasn’t ever going to be his. But as Teresa herself had said, he could dream, even if he knew in his heart that those dreams were not reciprocated. Occasionally calling the beauty ‘Mrs. McCoy’ in his thoughts also helped matters, he found.

He was by now used to Miguel, but took pains to memorize his exact face, far more Human of course than that of a full-blooded Kh’myr and yet still very much Klingon. If an assassin somehow got by the stalwart Connor Randolph’s impressive security net, a second’s delay would be fatal if Peter thought the attacker was Miguel. Not that his chances would be all that great in any event.

"Enjoying your lobster, Peter?"

Peter smiled at Teresa, allowing the attraction to rise up for a moment to reinforce that smile. He hadn’t wanted to tell her that Doctor Noel had advised him against rich foods like lobster and rarebit. There was a distinct possibility that alien foods that were similarly rich could bring about mood swings, and so it was better for Peter’s long-term stability if he just as a rule avoided them all. "Oh, very much. I don’t eat like this very often. Certainly not in a dining hall like this."

She nodded. "Leonard thinks it’s overdone. I wish he were here to complain about it."

Perhaps, Peter reasoned, this was the reason Doctor McCoy had asked that he go on to Serenidad without them. Everyone was telling him how much he resembled Jim nowadays. Perhaps his face was meant to calm a woman who missed her husband. If so, he could live with that quite happily. For his earlier thoughts of her as Lady Gueniviere worked well if he were a knight in her service, permitted to pine but never to touch or to speak of touching.

"I wish he were, too. I brought gifts for everyone."

Dinner was finished, so Teresa nodded and allowed the boys to circle Peter, jumping up and down as they went.

"What did you get us, Peter?"


Davie began to sound less coherent than Jimmy, out of sheer anticipation. Peter was glad that Miguel had quietly corrected him on the source of Davie’s name. Until the Klingon Prince had told him that Leonard’s father was named David, Peter had mistakenly assumed it a tribute to his own fallen cousin, David Marcus. But names like Peter and David were common enough. Scotty’s heroic young nephew had been named Peter Preston. Peter Kirk wished that his hasty departure had allowed time to speak to Captain Scott. Ever since the chief engineer had finally forgiven him for Dianas, he had acted very much like another uncle. Jim had urged him never to ask about Scotty’s own family, vaguely indicating a distance that rivaled their own, as it had once been.

"Okay, guys! Calm down."

Perhaps he was inheriting more than Jim’s looks, for the two responded quickly to his voice and did indeed calm down. He handed them the packages. "Now, fellas, I was in Japan with Commander Chekov fetching the contents of a storage bin Captain Sulu had forgotten about. I saw these in a shop. I really hope you like them."

Jimmy opened his. It was a figure of a silver-and-red warrior of sleek design and eyes vaguely like golden crescent moons.

"Pita, thanks you!"

The little one gave him a hug and kiss, then ran to show Miguel and Teresa. Miguel actually seemed intrigued. "A fine warrior, obviously of superior stock. I imagine many stories will be told of his exploits."

Kirk smirked. "Actually, my understanding is that there were quite a few vids featuring him."

"Does he have a name?"

"Ultraman. And he’s a defender of Earth from monsters of all kind."

Davie was almost ready to shake apart as he opened his present. He gazed at it in awe. It was the figure of a green-grey dinosaur that looked like a cross between a stegosaur and a T-Rex. It had a vaguely canine mouth and head, a long tail, and a set of protruding dorsal fins.

"Peter? What’s his name?"

The lieutenant chuckled. "You know, you wouldn’t believe it, kid, but his name is Godzilla."


"Close enough." Peter smiled. "He and Ultraman were really popular three hundred years ago. When they made those things out of plastic, I wonder if they knew they’d last this long."

"Is he a good guy or a bad guy?"

"Godzilla? Well, he’s both. Sometimes he’s good, sometimes he’s bad."

Davie squealed with delight. "Like me!"

Now next to him, Teresa whispered to Peter. "You got that right."

But he now went for Miguel’s gift. The Klingon shook his head. "Peter, it is hardly necessary..."

But Peter wouldn’t hear of it. "I only hope its appropriate, amigo."

It was a lithograph of what looked like a Renaissance painting. An archangel with a sword had run through a horned beast which clung to a great precipice. Miguel looked as dumbstruck as either of his little brothers. He spoke almost haltingly. It...it is the Archangel Michael. The imagery...Peter, thank you."

The Klingon stared at his namesake, and Peter was very grateful that his intuition to buy something based on a man’s name had panned out. He had originally thought to reproduce an image of Kahless based on Jim’s mission to Excalbia, but besides possible offense, Spock warned that the image might be wholly inaccurate. He’s so cognizant of me, Peter thought. So why didn’t he know better how Jim would act?

Now it was time for Teresa’s gift. He had hopes to truly impress her. He had fears of greatly offending her. "Again, I just took a chance."

Teresa opened the framed piece and smiled. "Again, you took the right chance."

Miguel looked on as she held it up. It was a printed copy of a headline taken from the Intergalactic News Service, dated just over twenty years before:


It was probably one of the very first headlines on that subject. Beneath it was a picture of El Caudillo, his wife and daughter, and Carlos, the tragic young man who would be Teresa’s first husband. "I have many possessions, Peter. But very few I cherish. They tend to be like thoughtful, dear friends."

She kissed him on the cheek, and Peter felt a balance restored. By hook or by crook, he would be able to handle Teresa—so to speak.

Possibly to encourage the energetic boys, an early night was called. Peter found to his delight that his room could be audio-sealed, although he suspected the security staff had found some way around this, for very obvious reasons. He played an eclectic mix of Mozart, Joplin, Lennon-McCartney, Granz, Jtarok, and a few treasured random bits from his late father’s obscure music files. He had kept those since Deneva. He’d even brought them with him to Tantalus.

"...would there suddenly be sunshine on a cold and cloudy day? Oh, babe....what would you say? Cause, oh, baby I know....I know, I know...I could be so in love with you...and if I could only hear you say you do...but anyway...what would you say?"

As a horn solo began, Peter heard a knock on the door, and got up to put on his robe. "A minute."

Lowering the volume, he opened the door to find Teresa in a nightgown that thankfully didn’t hug her body.

"Too loud, Princess?"

Her eyes were a little teary.

"Peter, please restart this selection. I was scanning the boys’ rooms, and heard yours instead. Who sings it?"

Peter scratched his head. "Sam always described this as being from his ‘One-shot Wonders’ collection. ‘One-shot Wonders’ were recording artists who, due to the vast financial restraints of pre-digital recording, charted once popularly and then never again. A lot of the names were lost in The Post-Atomic Horror."

Teresa nodded, and Peter restarted the selection. As it played, she held out a hand to a surprised Peter. "Dance with me?"

At least she had a robe on this time, he reasoned. "By your command, Milady."

Peter knew in his heart as the music played that Teresa was likely morphing his features from those of a confused ex-Iowan farmboy to those of a charming old country doctor from Georgia. But as the music played, he held her and she him, always in a friendly way, and he found he just didn’t much care. There was something about just being with her that maybe didn’t require—being with her.

And he didn’t even step on her feet.

July 26th 2293

Peter arose especially early in the morning. He was surprised to hear a certain message in his morning starmail:

"You don’t get any points for merely doing what you’re supposed to, Lieutenant. Had you failed to break up a potential brawl between cadets, I’d be forced to question why you were ever given that uniform in the first place, let alone why you were given it back. Also, I know Cadet Sulu to be well and fully capable of fighting her own battles and taking care of herself. That is my considered opinion as a starship commander in Starfleet."

The man’s features then softened considerably, and he allowed a very friendly smile. "As a father, though, I can’t thank you enough. You don’t know what she put herself through to get into the Academy, Peter. I hope one day that she and I have the kind of renaissance that you and Jim have obviously had. That anyone stood up for her makes me a happy man. That it was you—a good young man with so many past troubles, both those self-inflicted and otherwise —makes me a very, very happy man. I am both grateful to and very proud of you, Peter. The resilient young boy who was our guest for that month after Deneva has at last come back as the kind of person I hope my daughter is able to emulate—"

The smile widened. "All my best regards, Lieutenant Kirk, as well as those of Commander Rand. Sulu out."

What a long strange trip it’s been, thought Peter. That a man of Hikaru Sulu’s caliber would be thanking him was once simply unthinkable. They had all praised him, of late. Yet the toughest road lay directly ahead. When the shine was off his reform. When no one would compliment him merely for being better than he once was. When ‘those bars of his’ would seek the ultimate company, and have to compete for it with the best and the brightest, people who had never missed a step or had a mark against them. Only now, in the wee small hours of the morning, did he even dare to whisper his secret dream, one never directly revealed, even to Jim.

"I, Captain Peter Claudius Kirk, do hereby joyously and proudly assume responsibility for the lives and well-being of my crew and my ship. So do I assume the post of Commanding Officer—"

Dream or no, the last words were always the hardest for him to utter.

"—of the U.S.S. Enterprise."

As he dressed for his workout, Peter saw most of them there in his mind. I’ve proven you right. You were right to trust me. You were right to believe in me. I will be worthy of your legacy, Uncle.

Peter always found it odd that he could never see Jim in this daydream. Perhaps, then as now, he would be away on an important mission. For now, Peter concentrated on walking to the workout room.

Once again, he ignored the splendor of the place in favor of his destination. The workout room was Spartan in its layout but decidedly advanced in the array of equipment available. Miguel and Teresa were already there, as was a large newcomer Peter correctly took to be Connor Randolph. Holding out pads while a sweatsuit-wearing Teresa kicked at them, she looked at Peter, and then Miguel, who was now practicing wielding his honor-sword with just one hand.

Peter, who had started using a grav-suspended heavy bag, heard the Xartheb-born security chief say something to the crown prince. "You win. The resemblance is very pronounced."

A silver button, probably the symbol of countless bets between them, passed from Randolph’s to Miguel’s hand. The prince smiled at his guest. "Thank you, Peter."

Peter switched to open-palm thrusts. "Always glad to help, Miguel."

Peter finished with the heavy bag by kicking very high and to the side. Not wishing to smash his feet or toes, he did this merely to keep limber, and not for power.

But before he could seek the vacated weight-resistance chair, he was stopped by Connor Randolph. "Mister Kirk, it’s always a pleasure to meet someone you’ve heard so much—and so many different—things about."

They shook hands. "Likewise, Mister Randolph. Anyone who can confront Jim the way you did and live has my respect."

She looked towards the middle of the floor. "Respect is fine. How about giving me a round?"

Peter darted his eyes about. "You’re from Xartheb. You’ll clean my clock."

She looked back at him. "When did you graduate?"

"Um, twelve years ago."

"You mean before they reduced the physical ed and Security training requirements for Science-track cadets?"

She had him there. When Jim Kirk had been a dean at Starfleet Academy, one of the rules changes he had bitterly resisted had been a reduction in all physical training for non-Command and non-Security cadets. As Peter had recently found out the hard way, almost the instant Jim had left due to the Genesis affair, the amount of daily physical education for many cadets had been halved. Also, half a semester of basic security training had been almost tithed. Peter was in effect one of the last graduates to go through a physical program similar to the ones that had produced his seven heroes.

"Care to throw down, Mister Kirk? What’s your fighting style?"

As they entered the matted ring, Peter answered, "Jeet-Kune-Do."

Connor Randolph nodded. "Mine’s an evolving style. Ready?"

They bowed, and she came at him. Peter knew his only chance was to obey the letter and the law of his lessons. Those lessons he now recited mentally.

Be as water. Water becomes that which it enters.

Her effort to flip him failed as he shifted his feet into the mat just enough to gain purchase.

Water flows along the river bed, too quick to be held.

Connor’s foot-sweep was narrowly avoided by his quick jump.

Water will, given time and opportunity, wear down even a great mountain.

Using the momentum from his jump, Peter pushed his open palm into her solar plexus. The Xartheb staggered back about an inch, then spoke. "Good. Very good."

Water’s flow can be dammed.

Peter barely registered the three blows that sent him flying to the mat, flat on his back. No effort. It hadn’t taken any real effort for her to kick his ass. He hadn’t even really made a showing. Then, he heard laughter.

Water boils, and its steam can scald.

How dare she laugh at him? His face began to contort in open rage. He hadn’t bragged. She had asked for this match. He had conceded her strength and training from the start. Who the hell did she think she was?

"May I ask just what’s so funny?"

Still laughing, she extended a hand up he might soon make her regret. "You. Your face is the exact same color of beet-red as your uncle’s. He was pissed, too—and that’s being mild."

Through his rage and shame, Peter made some connections. "You...beat Jim?"

Water may quench the soul. Water may put out a fire.

"Often," she answered, laughing. She thrust the hand at him again.

He took the hand up, suddenly not feeling so bad. He wiped his forehead. "Connor, has anyone ever beaten you?"

She nodded. "Of course."

There is always a stronger river.

"Peter, my people hate to lose, but it does happen. A Kh’myr got past me, but only just. He was so wiped, by the time he got to Miguel, he was wide open for a blast from a Mark Six Disruptor Carbine. The stain he left on the front walkway is still there. La Caudilla has forbidden us from cleaning it. It’s her way of reminding us to keep vigilant."

She was the one for the job, no doubt of that.

"Sorry I didn’t give you much of a match."

She shook her head. "You knock me back a full inch, and you call that not much? Peter, my style is like I said, always evolving. I add things as I go along. Well, guess what? I’m adding yours. I’ll show you how not to leave an opponent so many openings if you’ll show me what you know about Jeet-Kune-Do. Deal?"

They shook hands to end the match and seal the deal. For the rest of that session and for their next few matches, Connor gained an advantage one of her size and strength sometimes overlooked. The ability to maximize force with a minimum of motion. Peter, for his part, still struck the mat with his back, just less often and in a longer time-frame.

July 27th 2293

Peter was, like everyone else, waiting for word that the Enterprise was passing through the Serenidad system on its way to Qo’noS. With Miguel and the boys in town shopping, Peter went down to the lake after an afternoon solo workout session.

Seeing Teresa in it already, he called to her. "Do you want to be alone?"

She shrugged and smiled. "The lake is a democracy."

Her smile seemed more of a grin, but he was getting as used to that as the sight of her topless. Peter dove in, and went as deep as he could. Teresa joined him for an underwater swim. It was only then he noticed something odd about her bikini bottom. Her...bottom. Gasping for air as he resurfaced, he heard her gentle laughter. Despite how far he’d come in readying himself, Teresa had gotten him once again.

Wading to the shore, Peter picked up a triangular piece of cloth that he had missed seeing before. He shook his head at Teresa. "You know...you could have told me."

Still half-covered by water, she seemed to find his embarrassment highly amusing. "And miss the look on your face? Besides, we’re adults. What’s the difference in simply seeing a few more centimeters of flesh than before?"

Peter said one word as he smiled and walked back to the residence. "Location."

While walking, he began to realize that his private thoughts while on this leave would consist of images of being with Teresa and reminders that this would never occur. Peter decided he could live with this. He had seen her with very little on, and seen her with nothing on at all. She had grabbed his privates. None of which had led to them betraying Doctor McCoy. Maybe flirtation was in them, but adultery was not.

He hoped. The problem was, Teresa kept upping the ante, seemingly for the fun of seeing him squirm a bit. He’d seen and swam with nude women before, even beautiful ones. But Teresa was very different. She was a princess, in every sense of the word he had ever imagined. It was getting so that he was wondering if he was on the verge of doing something stupid. Peter desperately did not wish to offend Teresa. He also didn’t want her to laugh off a clumsy proposal. But how far could his feelings go without him at least telling her? Well, she couldn’t up the ante any more, at least. She loved her husband too much to cross any sort of line. If he had been a telepath, Peter was sure he’d see a love between them stronger than death itself.

He entered his room and threw himself on the bed. A few minutes later, he dozed off. That he slept for over twelve hours would not surprise him, as he had been promising his body this kind of heedless sleep for over a year.

His body’s desire for Teresa’s bed he could handle, to some extent. But when no threat or duty was about, and it wanted sleep, his body’s desire for his own bed was like a juggernaut. He remembered not being horrified by his early solitary confinement at Tantalus. For his weary soul knew that now, no pranksters or Kirk-hating officers could take pleasure in rousing him. He would find out though, that someone else must have been concerned by his missing dinner.

Oddly, his dreams as he slept were of the usual things, and not the beautiful princess. In one, he misbehaved at Tantalus. Van Gelder had him dragged screaming before the Neural Neutralizer. In another, he moved like lightning and killed Tanith Brok before she claimed a single head. In a third, he found and met that woman of his dreams he had described to Laurel McCutcheon, the one who was almost as big a screwup as he. But she only said one odd phrase in a level voice: ‘You are Peter Kirk?’ But as he moved to shake her hand, his arms suddenly felt like lead weights. ‘An odd way to greet someone,’ the unseen woman said as she walked away.

July 28th 2293

The lead weights were quite real. They even had names. He had forgotten how small children were. They had clambered into his bed, seeking the protection of their new cousin from the things that stalked a little one’s room. Jimmy seemed contented. Davie looked relieved, the burden of being the oldest one in the bedroom temporarily lifted. Peter could only find one fault with the beautiful moment: "I have to go to the bathroom, guys."

Though his need was not yet pressing, he knew that could and would change. But disturbing these two angels seemed almost as grave a sin as lying with their mother would be. Yet these things have a way of working themselves out, on occasion.

"If you pull your arms out quickly, they’ll never know. It’s like removing a plastiskin bandage," came their mother’s voice. Teresa knew her children, that much was clear to Peter. And he had not been surprised by her presence in the room.

Peter laughed softly, and quickly rolled out from underneath the kids. He strolled into the lavatory for a moment, and then came out, shaved, showered and dressed in clean shorts and a shirt. The boys were still curled up on the bed, but Teresa was already gone.

He walked downstairs to the kitchen and found Teresa sitting at a table, a piping hot breakfast waiting for them. She was dressed in a long sleepshirt which hung down her legs to her knees, but which also clung very nicely, he decided, to her figure.

She smiled at him. "It’s good to see you so relaxed, Peter. I was afraid I’d thrown you off by what I threw off, yesterday, at the lake."

He nodded. "You did. But only because I thought of the suit bottom as your personal line of demarcation." He sipped his pomegranate juice and helped himself to a biscuit. "Never doubt that in my eyes, you are the most beautiful woman in this galaxy, and certainly the most beautiful that I’ve ever seen. seen. Plus—you’ve shown me a rather high level of trust. And if I say a word more than that, I’ll risk something even more beautiful—our friendship."

She blushed. Finishing her own omelet, she placed the dishes in the sink for the staff to handle later. She came up behind him and wrapped her arms around him. "Thank you, Peter." She walked out of the kitchen, and he couldn’t help but watch her shapely form.

"Damn," he said to the empty kitchen. "I need a cold shower. Or a workout. Yeah, that’s what I’ll do."


Peter was surprised at first that Miguel was present in the gym. "Good morning! Are you up for a battle?"

The Klingon seemed serious, so Peter responded, "Sure. So long as you don’t laugh too hard."

"You have my word, hombre."

Miguel handed him another honor-sword. It felt odd to him, and not merely for its relative lightness. "Is the weapon not to your liking?"

"Miguel, is there a difference between our weapons, aside from the heft?"

Miguel seemed to hint at something with his next words. "Describe the difference you claim to feel."

Peter tried for a minute, then finally found the words. "Captain Spock once allowed me to touch a laser pistol that had belonged to Captain Pike. I’ve handled dozens of phasers and such—but nothing ever felt like that one."

Miguel nodded in a happy realization. "Then you have a warrior’s instinct. For my weapon was a gift from Ambassador Kamarag of the Klingon Embassy on Earth. Made by hand, and with as much ritual as construction. Yours is merely a replicate. The same materials—and yet it can be said to lack a soul."

Peter shifted his grip until Miguel said he had it right. "Jim is the warrior. I’m a scientist, like Sam."

The weapons met in the middle, and Peter was secretly glad that the much stronger younger man was not holding back. He felt that he would rather know his prospects right from the start. They weren’t great, but that beat a sucker-punch any day.

"Is there any reason you cannot pursue both paths?"

Pushing up from a position of seeming defeat, Peter regained even ground with the prince. He was actually close to holding his own. "No, I guess there isn’t. Tell me, does your Klingon half confer fighting skills as well?"

Miguel caught Peter’s blade as it arced downward, but Peter was able to slide it out in time to negate this advantage. The honor-sword was not an easy weapon to use. But it seemed a vastly patient one.

"There are those who say these ridges," he pointed at his forehead, "confer wisdom, and recent science seems to bear that out. Yet, there are even those Kh’myr who feel that since they are born with them, the wisdom is unearned, a replicate as soulless as your weapon."

Perhaps it was gaining some of Peter’s fighting spirit, though, as a jumping movement reminiscent of his hand-to-hand fighting style forced Miguel back, stopping the opening of a movement that might have ended the fight then and there. But Peter failed to quickly press his advantage, and Miguel rapidly had him again on the defensive.

"So the path is as important as the destination to these individuals? Maybe Uncle Jim has a better chance than I thought with Gorkon."

Miguel surprised Peter by duplicating almost perfectly the jump from before. It nearly had Kirk, but he used a squatting motion to force himself back up, nearly causing Miguel to lose his weapon.

"Impressive. Connor may not be the only one asking you about this style. But Gorkon is for real. I am only a low-level liaison officer, yet those who are for peace speak to me openly. To those who are for war, I am a reminder that even brute force has limits."

Peter came to realize that while Miguel was not holding back in terms of strength and skill, he likely was doing so in terms of overall speed. Besides that, he could not match the Klingon prince for stamina—though he could come closer than most might think. The Shenandoah had proven that. By inverting his sword suddenly, Peter forced Miguel back yet again, although in the process, he almost cut himself on the pointed edges.

"So do those ridges help in battle?"

Peter couldn’t tell how much he was surprising Miguel, and how much he was just being shown kid gloves. But he didn’t care either way. For every second that he battled was a second that he didn’t relive Teresa’s underwater surprise. Trust or no, she had to know somewhat how that would stay with him. Somehow, he would get her for that—in a friendly way, of course. Miguel was now using a sort of chopping motion that was neither as dangerous nor as vulnerable to a counter as it first looked.

"The scientists created what the Empire wanted; living, walking war machines. But they are often one-dimensional in their thinking, even in battle."

For a moment, the two fell into a motion that, if it had been the entire battle, would have had its viewers claiming the fix was in. For each countered the other’s every motion without fail. This broke up after five minutes, and they circled one another.

"But with their sheer power, isn’t that one dimension enough?"

Miguel rushed Peter, who pulled away as the weapons met. He almost lost his footing to the Klingon prince whose speed had just casually tripled. Peter chose to take that as a compliment.

"Often, it is enough. But I have seen footage of battles in which Kh’myr literally forgot to use their weapons. They even seemed to forget they had them, so sure were they in their power and its intoxicating feelings of invulnerability."

Peter felt the endgame was close, and so tried to prepare for literally anything as the circling resumed. "Sounds like Kh’myr could even sit on a supreme advantage for years on end. But the way they tear into their victims still leads me to believe that the power more than compensates." Miguel swung out, but never struck Peter, who surmised that he was being somehow herded.

"I feel that my Human qualities of intuition and forethought place me well above all but the mightiest Kh’myr warriors."

Things are moving too slowly, Peter thought. The weapons were meeting constantly now, but with no pattern that he could discern.

"I won’t disagree with you, but which aspects of those qualities are you referring to?"

Miguel picked up the pace, leading Peter to believe that his friend was trying to wear him out. For all that, Kirk held on.

"Well, as to forethought, I would use as an example..."

Miguel stopped talking and looked past Peter. "Mother? I had thought you were with Connor, arranging the CommPic calls’ secured frequency."

Peter saw her—all of her—again in his mind. "Teresa?"

Miguel knocked the honor-sword from Peter’s hand, and caught it as it fell. Had Teresa been present, she might have gotten quite a laugh from it.

"Miguel, you tricked me! Using your own mother?" Peter’s smile belied his shaming tone.

Miguel seemed glad for this. "What can I say? I beat more opponents that way."

Perhaps, Peter reasoned, this was the prince’s special revenge upon the visitor. After all, Miguel would soon take the two boys out for yet another day of shopping, seeking more plastic figures like those Peter had given them. This had also caused a run on whatever such things existed on Serenidad. The princes’ spending habits were closely scrutinized.

"Miguel, why don’t I take Los Hermanos Diablos out today, and give you a break?"

Miguel hung up the honor-swords and shook his head. "I appreciate that, Peter. More than you could know. But I treasure these times with the only two who have never seen me as a Klingon first. Besides, Serenidadian Law only stops the press from harassing legal minors. You are well of age, not to mention the only living blood-kin of Serenidad’s greatest hero. You would be asked savage, shocking questions. They might even try to imply any number of loathsome things about you."

Peter could think of at least one such thing, at least since Miguel’s ruse had so handily reminded him of Teresa’s little joke. The battle was done with, and no longer able to keep those images out. Going back to his room, Peter checked for any visitors and locked the door. He then told the computer to awaken him within two hours. His lengthy sleep earlier had done wonders for him, but he didn’t want the exhaustion of the battle to eat up another day. Especially since that day was to culminate with CommPic calls to the passing Enterprise. He had missed Jim once, and he wouldn’t allow it again.

But a new twist came as he slept. This time, his dreams were of Teresa. He dove below the water. He saw what he had seen before. His face went where it shouldn’t have. So did his hands. She never once objected, but only smiled as he touched her. When the coupling occurred, it was all too much, and he felt the climax occur immediately.

"The alarm."

He woke up, and quickly realized what had happened. Depositing the sheets in the dirty linen bin, he hoped that the servants didn’t check them too closely. A bit flustered, he jumped into the shower, sweaty from workouts both real and imagined, and needing a thorough cleansing. He also spoke out loud.

"That hasn’t happened since I was fifteen! I have to say something. I have to do something."

Not to save the galaxy but to protect a very special friendship, the mind of the last of the Kirks went to work. He found a possible solution.


In what was becoming for him an afternoon ritual, he headed for the lake. Swimming already was Teresa, her work with affairs of state and the securing of the CommPic frequency obviously done for the day. He approached slowly, careful not to make this obvious. When he did not see Teresa dart for the rocks or shore, he knew that his chances of this working had hit 50-50.

"Mind if I join you?"


She was working far too hard to hide a grin. Just as yesterday, she hadn’t set this up, but would take full advantage of the opportunity to get a seemingly harmless laugh. While Peter would never hurt her, he would answer her boldness by being even bolder in a different way. Faking a diving motion, he pulled back at the last minute and saw that same piece of cloth. He picked it up as she giggled.

"I almost got you again."

He nodded, setting her up something fierce.

"Yeah, you did. Now, I’m heading back up. Call me when you’re done."

As he had guessed and hoped, she shook her head.

"Peter! You can talk about ‘location’ til the cows come home. But I don’t care how you see me, and I fully trust you. Fully."

The trap was sprung. He took the suit bottom, and put it over his shoulder like a captured pelt.

"No. I don’t think so. Talk to you later."

He picked up his pace before she called out.

"Peter, my bottom?"

He turned and nodded again.

"Yeah, I saw that, too."

He continued to walk away. She got a bit arch. "What makes you think I won’t get up out of this lake, chase you down, and kick your cute ass?"

He turned around again. "Thanks for the compliment. But you see, you may not be overly concerned how I see you. Back at the residence, though, some of the older servants, people you’ve lovingly described as being like family— well, they just might be scandalized. La Caudilla fighting in such a state!"

Her cocky look vanished. It had been a bluff on his part, but obviously there were such people on her staff. Her next words were more conciliatory. "What do I have to do to get that back from you?"

Peter Claudius Kirk’s mind edited his words like it never had before. He handed the bottom over at the water’s edge, and looked directly at the only part of her that he ever could touch—her eyes.

"You have to accept that I’m not mature enough to handle seeing you this way. My heart and my mind say that you are my friend, and that you are the wife of a dear friend. My body and its accompanying sensations, which don’t have all that much real experience, only see this gorgeous creature with nary a stitch. Forgive me, Teresa. I don’t wanna reduce your freedom. But I need that line of demarcation. Will you grant me it?"

She put the bottom back on, and if Peter saw anything more as she did, he reasoned it would be the last time he did so. "A line of demarcation kept the peace between Spain and Portugal, way back when. If it grants peace to someone I’ve grown so fond of, well, then what’s a little restriction? Peter, did I offend you?"

He stepped in with her. "Never. You could never offend me. Teresa, I’m not complaining about what I saw. The problem is not you. It’s me."

She shook her head, and he felt the difference the bottom made. Her breasts were beautiful as they shook, but they could never convey the inadvertent signal his body took from seeing her nude. "No. It’s me. I like playing with you, Peter. I mean, literally playing with you. Like we were kids together, or something. I have Leonard. I have my boys. I have employees to whom I am very close. But I have so few friends that aren’t a structured part of my life so close to my own age, without even broaching how similarly life has treated us. Being around you, I feel like maybe I am eight years old, before all the boy-girl stuff starts. Am I making any sense?"

He let his eyes wander down to her chest, then back up. "Everything except the eight year old part."

He finally said it. "I find you enormously attractive. Whether or not that’s mutually felt doesn’t matter. Because I know where our relationship is not leading to. I don’t know a lot of things for certain, but I know that. Your every fifth word is ‘Leonard’. That says it all."

She caressed his cheek. "You do realize that ‘cute’ is a euphemism on my part? And there will be a woman saying ‘Peter’ just like you described."

He shrugged. "When?"

Her eyes now took on a sexiness that no private part could hope to. "Tonight. I set you up on a blind date!"

She had gotten him yet again. "Okay. But before then, let’s work on some more rules."

She nodded. "Such as?"

He turned, waded into the water, and then splashed her full in the face with a small tidal wave worth of water. "Rule Seventeen: I can splash you, but you can’t splash me!"

She turned her head slowly to mock-glare at him. Apparently Connor Randolph wasn’t the only one who hated losing.

"You wanted to act like eight-year olds."

She splashed him back. "I’m La Caudilla! You can’t make that kind of rule in my lake!"

Now, both were smiling. The lines were now clear.

"Uh-uh! You said the lake was a democracy!"

The afternoon swim ended with another breath-holding contest. Teresa even played fair, this time.


At 1900 hours, Peter in his room saw a familiar face appear on his wall-sized BellComm screen. At seven, he had thought that she might be an angel. She would always have his respect.

"Hello, Peter. I just hooked up Princess Teresa and Doctor McCoy. How are you?"

He said what he honestly felt, now that the air had been cleared. "I’m great, Commander Uhura. Yourself?"

"Miserable. I pulled some muscles in my arm trying to install those components without competent aid. You are missed, Mister Kirk. Ah, the captain is now ready to speak with you."

Peter prayed that this was a literal statement.

Jim Kirk appeared on the wallscreen. The captain was obviously in his quarters, wearing those old reading glasses McCoy had given him, a bound copy of The Odyssey in his hands.

To Peter’s well-hidden disappointment, he still did not appear to be a happy man. "Jim, how are you doing?"

The captain of the Enterprise shrugged noncommittally. "Considering that I’m not sparring with you or Miguel, playing with the boys, or sunning and swimming with Bones and Teresa, all so that I can sit down with a bunch of Klingons—Hell, I’m just fine, Peter. Yourself?"

Peter knew then and there he was going to misstep. The awkwardness he’d felt about unclad Teresa was as nothing compared to what he felt at that moment. "I know you’ll pull it out, sir." Peter felt the slippage begin.

"So you’re with Spock? You think that peace can be pulled out of this?"

Don’t get in between them, Peter thought. And don’t let Jim’s anger make you respond in kind. You’re past that.

"Not being a diplomat, sir, I have no opinion there. But whatever comes up, Uncle, I believe that you and your crew can see matters to their best conclusion."

Try and fight me on that one, Jim.

"Spock says you’re quite a diplomat. He’s giving you glowing praise. Says you handled your removal from the ship’s roster with all due dignity and remarkable logic for a Human. He even said that I could take a page from you. Funny, huh?"

Actually, Peter thought, it’d be downright hilarious under any other circumstance. Just not right now.

"I—didn’t want to make a scene, Captain. I was very angry about it. I still am. I’m glad I’ve had a chance to relax, here. I was pretty wound up about it."

"We’re all of us wound up, Peter. Besides our common distaste for this mission, the fate of the whole damned galaxy rides on what we do at these meetings."

Peter saw an opening, and quipped, "Well-worn territory for you, sir."

The opening had been all in his mind.

"Do you think that this is funny, Lieutenant?"

Peter then realized with horror that no words of his, no matter how carefully selected, could have stepped around Jim in this instance. So he stopped dancing around, and went for broke. "No, I don’t think that this is funny. Jim, when I was recovering after the Orion attack, you told me that you could live with honest failure or even having no chance at all, but that you hated never taking a chance for victory and how it would eat at you when you didn’t. Jim, if you don’t try here, if you don’t give peace a chance, you’ll never know, and I think that that would be something you’d come to regret."

Jim looked at his nephew as though he was Davie McCoy, speaking cute irrelevancies to an adult. "Peter, I love you. But you’ve never—and I mean never—been so very, very wrong. Kirk out."

Peter wandered out of his room, in a daze. Was this mission to be the Waterloo for his heroes? He knew the analogy was skewed—but it still had frightful resonance.

"Peter?" It was Miguel.


The Klingon looked not much better than the Human. "I am taking the boys to the chef. He will prepare them a dessert to their exacting personal specifications. We may be a while."

Peter spoke without thinking, not that Miguel seemed to mind. "I take it Teresa’s CommPic went as badly as mine?"

Miguel nodded. "The boys know when Leonard is not in a good mood. He hides it well—just not from them. They know things—without knowing."

Miguel gathered himself. "Comfort her, Peter. I have never been one for giving solace. I’m just not capable of it."

"And you think I am?"

"I have confidence in you. In your affection for her, you will find the words that will soothe her."



The CommPic screen was shattered, having been suddenly introduced to a bronze sculpture of Don Quixote. Teresa had sprawled herself face down on the leather sofa, a huge dent and rent in one of the back cushions indicated where she’d been taking out her anger.

Embarrassed, she looked up at her guest and new friend. "All I said—all I said was that if Gorkon was serious about purchasing Federation techniques for better utilization of dilithium, then maybe the Klingons’ practical reason for targeting my world and my people would vanish. I never once said that they would all become angels and apologize. I never once said that I or my family or yours would suddenly stop being targets for their madmen. I was just trying to find some silver lining in a mission I have one hell of a lot of problems with. I was just trying to make Leonard feel better. Well, he up and accuses me—me—of being newly naive about what Klingons are like. My God—that crew must be going through sheer hell right now. Even when we’ve had arguments he’s never—"

Forgetting about bikini bottoms and water that was too clear and friends that were too playful, Peter opened his arms and a crying Teresa ran into them. "I’m scared. Something bad is going to happen to them."

Peter grasped the sides of her head, and made her look into his eyes. "Jim Kirk never gave up on me, even when I deserved it. Leonard McCoy rebuilt you, Teresa. He worked himself to exhaustion doing it, but everyone knew you’d make it because you had the very best doctor around. They are coming back to us. No ifs, no ands, no buts—period."

Teresa looked into his eyes and, to his complete surprise, kissed him lightly on the lips, then pushed him away, gently reestablishing their distance. "I hope you’re right." She smiled, and pushed him further away. "I have to let you go."

He smiled. "Because of appearances?"

She grinned. "No, dummy! Because your blind date is here."

As she ran for the door, Peter felt the wave of nerves that all people feel when a blind date comes around. "Damn."

Peter had dressed well but casually for his almost heart-breaking call to Jim, so the only thing to do was wait in the hall while the sounds of women’s laughter came back at him in his sightless remove. Then, a few words became crystal clear: "Teresa?! What did you do?"

Teresa’s voice seemed to go into a slightly defensive mode, though Peter couldn’t make out the exact words. Had the house not been so very cavernous, his hearing, once paranoically tuned to make out such chatter, could have easily discerned at least most of it. At the Academy, it had been the difference between being ambushed and walking away. The price for that had of course, been hideous in terms of lost trust.

The other woman’s chatter had given way to a resigned sigh, and Peter readied himself for their approach. Barring deep physical scars or personality problems, Peter felt he had never really met an ‘ugly’ woman. But personal taste still played a role, and so he braced himself to avoid offending Teresa’s friend. This would prove wholly unnecessary.

She wasn’t Teresa’s twin, nor even close, and for that Peter was secretly a bit grateful. He needed his ‘Uncle’ McCoy’s wife off his mind. If Teresa was classically a hormonal overload, then this woman was classically provocative, especially to the imagination. She was thin without being at all gaunt, just dusky-skinned enough to show a difference in heritage, with curves that were somehow more visible for not jutting out in every direction. Her hair, as dark as Peter’s own, was partly bound up in back in a tight ponytail that could easily have folded into a bun. Her nose was a Mediterranean aquiline, the center of a face with high cheekbones and soft brown eyes. She was thankfully no more well-dressed than he himself was, wearing a white dress-shirt and black slacks.

Teresa smiled and gestured at the newcomer. "Peter, this is Doctor Calita Iberez, my dear friend almost since the day I assumed the throne. Calita, meet Lieutenant Peter Claudius Kirk, the next great Starfleet captain from the state of Iowa."

Peter’s face turned beet-red. "Teresa! That’s more than a little premature, don’t you think?"

The always-lively princess shrugged. "If you don’t make it—I’ll just buy you the Enterprise-A if they ever dare to have it decommissioned. I hate being proven wrong, you know."

Doctor Iberez was looking him over, and nodding. She then turned back to Teresa. "I forgive you—this time."

Peter smelled a set-up—beyond the obvious one. "You’ll forgive our royal pain—for what?"

Calita, as she preferred to be called, pointed a finger at their host. "This wonderful person with the pronounced evil streak told me that I was going out with, and I quote, ‘A certain Starfleet officer named Kirk.’ The rest she didn’t specify. I should have known something was up."

She then fingered her ponytail. She smiled and looked suddenly happier. "But since that officer was you, Mister Kirk, I’ll choose to let it go. What did she tell you about me?" she asked, dreading the answer.

Teresa was still squirming a bit, and Peter couldn’t resist the opening. "Oh, nothing. Teresa hasn’t spoken to me since I stole her bikini while she was swimming."

For once, it was the unflappable royal who blushed. "That’s not the way it happened! Peter, you’re—"

But Calita stepped right in. "Oh? And what did she do to deserve that?"

"Calita! I didn’t do anything. It was all a bit of harmless fun. You two have no sense of—"

"Well, I dived in at her invitation, and got a real eyeful."

"Which we resolved, Mister. You know, you’re cruising for a bruising, the both of you."

Calita smiled at her new partner-in-crime, and kept right on. "So? What did you think of the Lady of the Lake?"

"Me? I was amazed that she could even remain underwater. The displacement alone—"

The punch to his arm was well worth the price of admission. "Not another word—I mean it!"

Calita nodded. "She is amazing. We’ve had physicists in to study the whole phenomenon, but most of them get stuck on just how it is she can stand up straight—that is, when she’s standing. There’s been some speculation about secret Federation antigravs—"

Teresa covered her mouth, but Calita kept talking, until all three laughed out loud. "Okay, okay—you got me. Now, take your grand tour of the estate—and then we’ll have dinner."

Peter had yet to see all of the estate, but was a bit confused. "But—aren’t we going out somewhere? Dancing, holovids—something?"

Teresa cupped his cheeks. "Peter, didn’t Miguel make it clear? The media would pounce on you. My estate is beautiful, but you should not leave it."

Calita took her date’s hand. "They’d eat you up, and I may just want that option to remain open, qué?"

While grateful for the concern, Peter bristled a bit inside. Being unable to leave a large, yet very comfortable estate was not something that sat well with a former resident of Tantalus, all other factors aside. But with the sun setting, he kept his attention on the present, the tour of the estate, and the perfectly lovely Doctor Calita Iberez. Walking past the active lake and out towards the estate’s limits, the two quickly fell arm in arm. Things were at least quickly getting comfortable between the two.

"Peter? While Mrs. Matchmaker McCoy was setting all this up, she left out more than a few things. I know Captain Kirk is your uncle, but where are you from originally?"

He tried not to stiffen up at this, but felt she surely noticed. "I’m from Deneva, Calita."

Her face told the rest, as her pretty eyes went wide, and her jaw dropped, just a little. "Wow. In Med School, in epidemiology class, we had to study that for a whole month. I’ve never actually met a fully mobile survivor before. Well, except for Captain Spock, but he’s damned near indestructible."

Not if Jim gets him alone in the Briefing Room, thought Peter. "That may be. But I had no Vulcan disciplines to see me through. Sometimes, it showed worse than other times. Calita, I’ve made some very serious, even very hurtful, mistakes."

He felt he had to be that honest with her, even if that ended things then and there. "Teresa doesn’t let anyone she doesn’t fully trust near the boys. Despite what the media sharks say, she is not the sort of person to let you see her in the raw—unless she really likes you. End of that discussion."

"Thanks. That helps more than you know."

Silent for a minute as they took in the landscape, Peter quickly realized his faux pas. "So tell me about yourself. How long have you known Teresa?"

She gave him a look that seemed to indicate he was almost too late in asking this, but not quite. "My family is of heavy Morisco descent. That basically means that when The Inquisition knocked on the door in ancient Spain, my ancestors, depending on your point of view, either had the brains to convert to Catholicism or they had a lack of faith and morals which made them abandon Islam. Either way, they were still watched closely, since some Moriscos converted only for public appearances. For a long time, we didn’t intermarry with other Spaniards, too. Then, in the 19th and 20th Centuries, it no longer mattered. Later, when my more immediate ancestors came here to Serenidad, it mattered again for a time."

Peter knew about that. Many colonies that were founded by seemingly homogenous ethnic groups from Earth often found themselves early on reviving old divisions. Some colonies, much like ancient Yugoslavia, had not survived the tensions that followed.

"Thanks for the history lesson. Now—how about you?" He put some emphasis on ‘you’, a fact that she seemed to like a great deal.

"Well, let’s just say that if it weren’t for Teresa, I’d be dead or worse. I’m from her finishing school, but about five years behind. When Teresa went there, the headmaster was a letch, and by that I mean a child-rapist. Nobody would listen to a bunch of schoolgirls, though."

Their walk was through peaceful glades and rolling hills that were neither too high nor too low. The sky showed the setting sun in all its brilliant colors. The air was competition for Calita’s mild perfume. But at her words, Peter felt his anger rise. Certain things just stirred grim emotions that no amount of beauty could keep down.

"He went after El Caudillo’s daughter?"

"No, the bastard was too smart for that. But Teresa knew her classmates and friends—even some friendly enemies—were being used. But her father knew the man, and refused to believe her unless she herself was in jeopardy. When I was there, the jerk was even more blatant, taking us right in his office, as per a schedule. For me—raising my skirt was what happened on Wednesdays. But after the assassination of El Caudillo, Teresa came back—on a Wednesday. She pulled that slimebag off of me, and let me stay with her here until my parents believed. I found it hard to forgive their ignorance. So Teresa sent me away to college, and then to med school."

Peter felt very close to this woman, as Teresa must have known he would.

Her eyes sparkled as she looked at him. "She is my hero. And your uncle, by way of saving her, is my hero, too. That’s why I was hoping it was him I was going out with." She then leaned over and kissed him. "But I’m not disappointed, Peter."

He was feeling really, really good. "Tell me some embarrassing stories about the McCoys, and I’ll dish some Kirk dirt, all right?"

Her eyes narrowed. "Gossip?"

He shrugged. "Its either that, or talk about ourselves all night."

She winced. "Good point. Lets not turn this into a counseling session. But you first."

He thought back. "Because of Jim, I saw my first fully naked woman when I was twelve. She was an admiral he had hooked up with, and she chose to answer his apartment door wearing nothing to indicate her rank."

Calita smiled. "That’s what I call a thorough debriefing. Ok, now, our wonder couple had just had a wedding rehearsal that went so badly, I thought she was gonna declare war on the Federation! Leonard stood way too near an ancient work of...."

It drifted away from gossip, and back to their lives, and into their work. They however remained together—and walking ever more closely.

"...so when Commander Chekov uses that quote, I realized my mystery interrogator must have been none other than Jim himself!"

She looked up. "We’re back at the house. I’ll take you on a tour of the inside, after dinner."

Peter nodded. "Oh? So you’re a frequent guest here?"

Davie McCoy appeared at the door, well-groomed and well-dressed. His smile was half his head. "Hi, Calita."

As Teresa took the enamored boy back inside, Calita shook her head. "Oh, I’ve eaten here once or twice. I even helped deliver your competition, there."


Davie would be disappointed for that evening, anyway. But the young prince seemed to take losing his crush rather well, considering that his well-liked ‘cousin’ was the one he lost to. He even tried to help out, in his own way.

"...so then Peter threw rocks at the Orions, and they ran off scared, and Uncle Jim was really proud of him."

Not quite how that happened, but close enough, thought a grateful—if amused, Peter Kirk. But Davie wasn’t quite done yet, to Teresa’s regret. When the dishes were cleared, he looked over at his mother.

"Mommy, where’s the Padre?"

Teresa was sopping up her au jus with the remainder of her baguette.

"The Padre isn’t coming here, Davie. Why do you ask?"

The little boy folded his arms. "You said that you’d have Peter and Calita married off by the time dessert was served, but the Padre’s not here!"

Teresa moved quickly to recover. "First one of you two makes any more lake comments gets summarily executed—and I mean business!"

Having already gotten their hostess back in spades, Peter and Calita kept silent while the talkative boy and his giggling younger brother were sent off to bed. Teresa opened a small bed in their room, and nodded at her dear friends before joining her babies.

"I’ll keep these two from wandering out. You take in the residence. Oh, and, by the way?" Without actually touching her breasts, she made a motion underneath them as though she were pushing them up. "You’re damned right it’s hard for me to stay underwater." With a sly wink, she closed the door to the boys’ room.

Calita sighed. "It must be hard on Leonard."

Peter shrugged. "Being away from Teresa?"

Calita chuckled lightly. "No. Never getting the last word with Teresa. She will one-up you no matter what she has to do."

A fact Peter had become intimately familiar with.

They walked from the living area into the main hall. There was a dining hall the size of the kitchen and common eating area combined. Miguel had explained that both Teresa and her father preferred smaller meals, even during most major functions. So the fancy-looking dining area was not the centerpiece one might have thought. The room next to it, though, was huge, and well-crafted chairs dotted its considerable span. It was every inch the rival of a Hapsburg or Bourbon royal court. In fact, two of the area’s walls had once belonged respectively to the Hofburg and Versailles palaces. El Caudillo had been very, very excited about the dilithium found on his world—and he splurged.

"Come on this way, Peter."

They went through a door that was not hidden, but called no attention to itself. Were they headed for a cloak-room assignation, he wondered—and hoped?

But a different kind of surprise awaited him. For this little door led to what was almost another royal residence entirely.

"How? Did someone perfect tesseract technology and not tell me?"

As Peter looked about, Calita shook her head. "El Caudillo loved the old stories of The Masked Fox, Don Diego De La Vega. Well before the wealth came into the picture, he had been directing the underground construction of this other house. It’s literally a mirror of the main one, with a few notable exceptions."

Those he could see. This second house was decorated with touches that bespoke a free-spirited young woman and a plainspoken country doctor. The pieces ranged from the exquisite to things Peter had once heard called ‘kitsch’. One very nice piece was a painting of an 1837 jousting tournament held in Decatur, part of an odd historical trend among the wealthy in that antebellum era.

Then, Peter winced outright. There was no mistaking it. "The Voyage Home. In Commemoration of the Whalesong Crisis and the Enterprise Seven. Not time, nor space, nor even death can stop them."

On the small printed plate were pictures of the captured Klingon ship, H.M.S. Bounty, the Enterprise crew, Doctor Gillian Taylor—and the venerable Enterprise-A itself.

Peter pointed. "Calita, I have one of these!"

She nodded. "So did everyone, after Whalesong. You and Teresa are probably the only two who still do."

With that unnecessary reminder in his head, Peter continued to take in the place with his lovely date.

"When the boys are older, Teresa intends to move herself and Leonard back here. Privacy—freedom from the front door, and prying hyper-range vid-cams. You’ll love this—there’s even a small ship port in back—totally hidden by a movable facade of boulders. They only use it for those times they absolutely need to get away unnoticed, though."

Peter and Calita sat down in what was once called a reclining love seat. A question then reoccurred to him. "Calita, are you the royal physician?"

She shook her head, and he felt aroused by how her ponytail shook with her. "No, that’s also an inherited position. No, I give Leonard his once-a-month physical because he feels he can’t yell at a woman. We doctors make lousy patients. As for Teresa, I take care of a—"

She was now clearly hesitating. He would never call Calita Iberez a liar. But her next words lacked her seemingly usual natural sincerity. "I take care of a condition that Teresa developed while held prisoner on Qo’noS. A kind of—a kind of nervous tick, if you will. She absolutely hates to talk about it. I hope you understand."

"Sure. Of course."

Actually, she needn’t have mentioned that at all, mused Peter. Whatever it is, Teresa’s "condition" surely put this calm professional off her mark. Citing doctor-patient confidentiality would have ended all queries, as well, if he were of a mind to make them.

"Well, that’s in addition to some intense shifts at the hospital. We’re low on resident interns, so guess who just came off two shifts?"

She was yawning as she spoke, and by the time Peter understood what she was really saying, Calita was dead asleep in his arms. The urge was strong. He wanted to place her hand on his crotch. He wanted to sneak a peek at her chest. To his credit, though, he simply allowed that he had done a lot worse in his life than to have a lovely young lady fall asleep in his arms. So what if nothing had happened? In his life, that was almost a plus. He did stroke her pretty hair a time, before falling asleep himself.

July 29th 2293

Calita was gone. But someone else stood in front of his chair.

Teresa was smiling. "Congratulations. You passed her gentleman test. She wants to see you again. And she left this note. Take it very seriously."

At first, Peter was annoyed. Do people on Serenidad do anything but play dumb games? Then again, Calita had confided in him about her past. Maybe in that light, not having someone paw her while she was asleep meant much more than usual. Like Teresa’s swims, it was a matter of trust extended to one they thought worthy. He read the note.

I-O-U 1 Wild Time. Be Prepared.

Teresa then handed the dazed Kirk a second sheet.

"What’s this?"

"This is the good news. The Council unanimously passed a special bill granting you the same protection from the media as the boys. When I invoked your family name, even the anti-royalists went along with it."

Good, he thought. Here at least, Jim is a hero without qualifiers. No idiots on chatvids crowing about how he ‘broke faith’ on this or that. I’m not even sure my uncle knows how to break faith.

"What’s the bad news?"

Davie and Jimmy rushed in. "Mommy? Is Peter gonna take us to the city? Cause we only need the one more figure!"

They ran out again, and Peter just smiled. "You call that bad news? Its just another Kirk-McCoy outing, is all."

He got up, and looked her in the eyes. "This is just a small repayment. You’ve given me room and board, relaxation, exercise facilities, a terrific lady as my date—" He then kissed her lightly on the lips, and his smile turned slightly predatory. "—not to mention a sight that will stay with me until I’m one hundred and fifty."

Teresa put her hand over her mouth, a look of pride entering her face. "Oh, Peter! You are learning."

"Always from the best, my princess."

Peter showered and dressed while a Teresa read her boys a very long ‘be good for cousin Peter or else’ speech.

One of the worst nights that Peter had ever gone through at Tantalus occurred early on, ironically spurred by a good dream he had. In it, he was a boy again, on a Deneva that was never allowed to be. Georgie was kind, and protective. Marc looked up to his big brother Peter to explain the weird strange universe. David Marcus was there, too. A tall figure in a commodore’s uniform could only have been Granpa George. The Federation flag blew freely behind him.

It had taken Peter time with Doctor Noel to realize why this serene scene haunted him so. Glimpses of heaven may taunt a soul even worse than those of hell. But in the present, on Serenidad, he merely drank in a glimpse of heaven. Davie was munching on the waffle-cone. Jimmy was licking his frozen-juice bar, happy as happy got. This scene would one day haunt him as well.

"Ready, guys? That one shop said they have it."

Jimmy looked up. "More?"

Peter picked him up. "More tickles? Okay."

He folded his arms. "Pita!"

"On our way home, Jimmy. Not before."

Davie chuckled. "He’s such a little kid."

Peter sighed, and continued to walk with them, holding their hands from time to time. They never strayed far from him. They were both good kids, and they were already very fond of this formerly secret relative. He was equally fond of them, and of their mother. Despite the sexual tension he felt around Teresa, the thought of eventually not being around her was getting hard to take. Of course, he thought, life at the palatial residence didn’t hurt either. But he could do without the armed security officers shadowing their every move as they walked down the street.

"Peter, do you like being with us?"

"Of course I do, Davie. Why do you ask?"

The little boy shrugged. "It just looked like you and Mommy would rather play with each other than us. Is it cause of you’re the same age as her?"

Peter fought off peels of laughter, but just barely. He imagined that the back-and-forth between himself and Teresa must have looked a lot like two little kids—and maybe it was.

"Davie, your Mommy just wants a friend to talk to, until your daddy comes home."

"But they never talk just after they get home. Usually, it takes a few weeks."

The sloping market road made San Francisco’s famed Lombard Street seem like the Wolf Express Route, just past Earth’s solar system limits. But with Jimmy’s hand in his own, and Davie staying at his side, Peter Kirk felt tired not at all.

The toys they sought after were quite rare, exceedingly so, in fact. After all, what child of the 23rd century could possibly believe a hitherto undetected 150-meter-tall, radioactive reptile could occasionally come up out of the sea into Tokyo’s harbor (which at deepest was only 30 meters deep) again undetected, rise up and lay waste to the cities of Kyoto and Tokyo despite the combined efforts of the Starfleet Marine Corps and Earth’s Defense Force. He chuckled at the thought. But Teresa’s children liked them, liked the holovids. And the shop keeper on Serenidad had found some wonderful replicas of the originals being manufactured on Andor where the giant moth-like Mothra had become extremely popular about a century ago. Davie and Jimmy’s figures were originals, though, and worth every credit Peter had paid in Tokyo.

"We’re here! Jimmy, we’re here!"

Peter saw it, just over the hill. "Teresa, how could you do this to me?"

The wealth on Serenidad was obviously not restricted to the nobility. The shopping mall dwarfed one he had once visited in Vancouver, one known as The Mall of the Americas, which was reputed to be the largest on Earth—although the Russian’s disputed that claim, citing The Mall of Moscow was much larger, without any proof, of course. The largest Peter had seen had been The Guurfghak Mall on Tellar...until now.

The Nuevo Castillo Mall was swarming with little ones, pushing huge anti-grav carts as weary parents and guardians walked blankly on. As they arrived, a door-greeter spoke to Peter. "Oh, are the infantos here for their semiannual shopping spree? Don’t worry, boys. Princess Teresa has already arranged your unlimited budget. You have all day."

Peter’s heart nearly stopped. "Unlimited? All day?"

"Si. Enjoy!"

Peter groaned, as his day became a flurry of ice-cream, pretzels, running, pizza, frankfurters, tacos, and more goods than he ever knew existed. Finally, only one more thing remained. Peter went to the customer service desk and had waited in line for an hour. At long last, he picked up his package: inside the clear box was handed a three-headed, bi-tailed, golden dragon named Ghidorah. He looked at the butt-ugly collection completer. "You better have been worth all this trouble, pal. Okay, guys, that’s all. Let’s go home?"

He turned to see Jimmy and Davie McCoy with a small troop of about thirty children, probably their pre-school classmates. The security guards were pacing back and forth around the group in an attempt to contain or at least minimize the risk.

Davie pointed at their guardian. "Everybody, this is our cousin Peter Kirk. He’s our Uncle Jim’s nephew. He’s really cool."

While little faces smiled and took in the adult visitor, Peter saw a group of about ten adults push past the children and walk towards him, checking datapadds as they went and a flotilla of floating holovid units hovering nearby.

The first one began. "Lieutenant Kirk, Mafs Gioy, Galactic News Network. Do you support your uncle’s peace trip to Qo’noS?"

"Mister Kirk, is it true that your uncle had to be forced, almost at phaser-point, to make this journey? Has this affected his relationship with Captain Spock?"

"May I call you Peter? I have a source which says you traded blows with Captain Montgomery Scott. Care to confirm?"

"Is La Caudilla aware of your felony convictions?"

"Relationship with..."

"But is she merely a mentor to you? She was once quite fetching..."

"Surely you must have received extensive medical surgery and physiological enhancements in some way. Denevan survivors aren’t known for their longevity or mobility..."

Peter drew a line as the security officers stepped forward, phasers drawn. He raised a finger to stop them. "Ladies and gentlemen, by mutual decree of the sovereign authorities of this world, I have immunity from your...attentions. You are currently in violation of the law."

The seeming leader of this bunch shook his hand dismissively, almost in Peter’s face. "Wholly unconstitutional. Our lawyers are appealing it as we speak. Now, in your case, isn’t nephew really just a euphemism? Isn’t Captain Kirk in fact your fath..."

Peter looked him in the eye. "No. He isn’t. Never was, never will be. Now go away."

They didn’t, and another one made a verbal lunge. "But isn’t it fair to say that he neglected you, during your formative years, leading to..."

Where are they getting all this? Peter thought. He was at best a third-level player in the long saga of Jim and his crew. Surely, no one was quite that obsessive.

"Have the parents of your Academy roommates ever forgiven your involvement in the Tanith Brok rampage?"

Peter had had enough, and signaled the guards that. They stepped forward with Jimmy and Davie and their packages in tow. The guard lifted the helmet visor, and Peter saw that it was Connor Randolph herself who’d accompanied them on this shopping spree. "Ladies and gentlemen, it is illegal on Serenidad to ignore a royal decree while it’s being appealed, as you well know. Secondly, clear this area, or you will be incarcerated for obstruction of free commerce."

"And thirdly," Peter began as he felt the transporter lock tingle begin to take himself, Davie and Jimmy, "I’d like you all to understand this one simple thing."

The press all leaned forward.

"My uncle is James Tiberius Kirk, Captain of the United Star Ship Enterprise. And if you want to know how he feels about his orders, I suggest you go ask him yourselves. Good day."

The transporter beam engaged, and Peter, Jimmy, Davie, Connor and her other security guard disappeared in a shower of sparkles.


Back at the royal residence, Teresa greeted them in the courtyard. She stood smiling at the door. "You handled the puercos well. I’d’ve jumped them after that comment about Jim’s relationship to you."

The boys ran up, hugged their mother, and left to prepare for the delivery of their main haul. Teresa asked Peter a plaintive question. "Please tell me you got something for yourself, after all that."

He smiled, and slipped on some thick gloves. "I sure did. These are anti-grav gloves. They can make a large boulder as light as a chair..."

He then put his hostess over his head. "—And they can make a full-grown woman as light as a feather. La Caudilla de la Agua?"

"No! Peter Kirk, you put me down. Put—put—PUT me down. Do not—I mean—do not—throw me in that lake!"

But his journey continued, passing Connor Randolph as they went.

"Connor! He’s going to throw me in the lake!"

The Xartheb nodded. "Peter, be sure and throw her in the deep end!"

"Oh, you are soooo fired, lady! Peter, I’m sorry I didn’t mention that this was the boys’ day to go wild at the mall, but I had to get you back for those comments, last night."

At the lake’s edge, Peter looked up. "Teresa, you are an angel."

"Why, thank you, Peter."

He threw her into the lake. "But some angels can’t fly."

Wet, and of course looking gorgeous as she emerged, Teresa glared. "You—just earned duty tomorrow, holding my workout pads, Mister!"

"I still got you."

She pushed him in. "Your turn."

Things went like this for another hour with the kids joining in as well.

July 30th 2293

The next day came and found the two new friends actually sparring. Peter’s method and style seemed to give him the upper hand, and he handily blocked most of Teresa’s blows. To her credit, she didn’t try any tricks, like doffing her sweatsuit or some such nonsense. But something in her nature refused to accept any defeat that was not due to overwhelming force. As Peter watched in stunned amazement, her leg rose almost a full meter as she jump-kicked forward, her foot catching him full in the chest, knocking him flat. But as she descended from this difficult jump, Peter swept her feet out from under her, causing her to fall forward, onto him.

Peter grunted, "You use a move like that in a friendly match?"

She looked dazed, and not from exhaustion or any fall. "I had to beat you, mi amigo. Get you off of my mind. I hate your type. You have no idea just how really good you look, and what that can do to a woman."

She pressed herself onto a shocked Peter, and kissed him long, hard and deep. It was his every fantasy come true—and it was all wrong. "Teresa— mmfmfmf —get off of me!"

He wanted her to remain, and just keep on going. Desperately. But Peter Kirk was a man who had vowed that he had already fallen as far as he ever going to allow. Those strong morals helped the ache he felt not at all. Teresa sat up, and looked outright horrified. "Oh, my God! Peter, I’m so sorry! I-I miss Leonard so much! I’ve got to see Calita!"

She was beginning to cry. Peter tried to take her hand, but she pulled away.

"No! Stay away from me. Peter, for your own sake, stay away from me. I’m not right!"

Teresa ran out.

A wholly flabbergasted Peter ran for his room, just ahead of the curious Davie. There was no need for the little boy to see the obvious physical evidence of what his mother had aroused in Peter. He removed his clothes, ran for the shower, and didn’t even bother to be subtle as he finished in his imagination what Teresa had started. This time, the fantasies were a great deal more graphic.

As he finally emerged, a call came from Calita Iberez. "Peter, I’m just calling to let you know—"

"Calita, is Teresa all right?" He didn’t wish to offend her by asking about another woman first, but as a doctor, he felt she’d understand, and in fact she did.

"She’s fine, Peter. I gave her...a special blend of medicines meant to resolve this situation. We’ve been running low on it, so we were trying to stretch it out. But she needed a full dosage, here and now."

Peter made a leap. "Is this that nervous tick you spoke of? Does it make her more impulsive?"

Calita’s face seemed to shift—just as it had the previous night. "I’m glad you’re a scientist, Peter; yes, that’s exactly what it does. You wanna maybe pick her up? I already warned her about touching you again." She was smiling, but that couldn’t shake his feeling that she was again clouding the truth.

"I’ll be right over."


At the Palace clinic, not only did he pick Teresa up, mainly as a supportive gesture, but he and Calita Iberez exchanged padds. Calita’s contained her lengthy research into the genetics of birth control after the Kh’myr incursions. Peter’s contained his nearly life-long studies of the many possible origins of the Denevan parasites.

A calmer, naturally together Teresa teased her friends. "When two scientists exchange padds, it must be serious."

Calita pulled Peter to her, and one-upped her royal friend in the deep kisses category. "No, it’s not serious, Teresa. Not yet, anyway."

Peter shrugged. "You call that not serious?"

"Nope. Not when you compare it to where I wanted to be kissing you."

When Doctor Iberez left, Teresa whispered to Peter. "I’m sorry. So, so damned sorry."

He gave her a sibling-like squeeze. "Hey, don’t apologize. I’d been meaning to have those tonsils out, anyway."


"Yes, Teresa?"

"You think we’re gonna end up killing each other?"

"Señora Caudilla, por favor! We’ve only just met!"

Peter felt safe with her, now. He also thought that she perhaps felt the same— and he was right.


Things passed a bit too slowly for Peter’s taste. The media were not respecting the protection bill while it was on appeal, so leaving the estate was out. Miguel was with Connor Randolph, reviewing the planetary defenses as they both reasoned that the Kh’myr might try striking during Gorkon’s conference. And though he had come to hold her very dear, the kiss Teresa had given him could not just be written off as a playful tease. She had truly meant business, at least in that moment.

What manner of ‘nervous tick’ made a woman so in love with her husband make a play for a friend, especially one who was also the nephew of her old friend? For the time being, he had to try and avoid her. Passing by her bedroom door, it took a ridiculous amount of raw willpower not to barge in when he heard the shower running. Would she scream, and call Connor? Would she moon him, cheerfully directing what he should kiss? Or would she....? He kept on walking.

The boys were playing with their enormous pile of treasure, watching the ancient monster vids, and of course finding them utterly brilliant. To Peter, the only one of any value was a 1989 offering involving a genetically altered plant based on ‘Gozollo’s’ DNA. He imagined that it must have been a very topical offering in the time of the approaching Eugenics Wars.

So it was that before his second date with Calita, Peter Kirk was feeling lonely, confused, cooped up, horny, and generally quite vulnerable. He decided to spend the afternoon watching a vid with the boys from 2015. Their hero-lizard was oddly fighting another hero, some sort of tortoise that flew. He chuckled at the sight of the flame-throwers coming out of each of the tortoise’s shell openings. Peter dozed off during some manner of summoning ritual involve a girl who was singing in Japanese and a boy named Ken and the prerequisite comma-shaped amulet.

Falling asleep like this was a mistake, as Teresa’s boys now showed their impish heritage. He woke with a start as the two monsters began their epic struggle, waves of volume overwhelming his eardrums from the nano-subwoofered speaker pods that were placed strategically all around him. His eyes nearly burned from the glare of the screen that had been remotely positioned directly in front of his face. How they’d accomplished this without waking him was beyond his comprehension.

"Who whatwhenwherehowwhy? AAAAAAGGH!!!" Peter jumped and yelped and saw his two assailants laughing heartily. He was caught between the desire to laugh it off, and the desire to replicate a paddle. "All right, you little monsters. You got me. Must be pretty darned tired to doze off during such an exciting movie..." he said somewhat sarcastically. "Behave now, and good night."

"Goo’ night, Petey."

"Nite-nite, Peter."

August 1st 2293

He awoke late, past everyone else’s regular exercise session. So he took advantage of that, and his pent-up anticipation of the second date with Calita.

"Computer--adjust geo-readings in the gym to Vulcan norm: The Outer Forge at late day."

Gravity and heat pushed him to near his limits, but he kept on for a full hour, kicking higher, punching harder, and moving ever more quickly. He then spent a half an hour in the Outer Forge at early day. When he then tried for the Inner Forge at noonday, large hands grabbed his.

"Do not make me explain to Calita why her date dropped dead, Peter. Now hit the showers. You’re on in six hours." Connor Randolph looked not so much angry as concerned, and perhaps even a little impressed. As he limped away, he heard the Xartheb mutter, "Crazy Kirks."

A glaring Teresa awaited the luck-pusher. "Get your trunks on. You’ll chill out by swimming."

"What’ll you wear?"

She tapped his forehead. "Like you’d notice in your condition, estupido!"

She seemed to understand, in that way she had. But she still couldn’t resist one last dig as he left the lake.

"Peter, what’s that on the rocks?"

"Your bikini? But I didn’t see—"

She emerged from the lake—a second bikini covering her lower body quite nicely. He groaned, and she laughed again.

"Still can’t see how you stay under."

Which got him splashed.


Peter was again relaxed and ready by the time Calita arrived. Teresa was glowing, and this reminded Peter that to some women, matchmaking ability rivaled giving birth in sheer importance. And after all, most women could do the latter.

When Calita walked in, she kissed Peter again full on the lips. Two ooh-ing young boys were silenced by a pair of snapping royal fingers. But after a minute, she felt safe in intervening.

"Should I break out the water hoses?"

They stopped, looked at her, and then again at each other.

"Yeah, hoses."

"Get the hoses."

Miguel quickly turned Davie around, quietly informing the heir presumptive that the request was all part of a joke.

"Ohhhh....I don’t get it."

"Me needer."


In the boys’ room for the next hour, Calita and Peter quickly wore out their welcome. "Grrr...Gozollo will fall to Rodano’s wings!"

Calita smiled as she made the plastic pteranodon bump the theropod Peter was holding. "Nooo! Gozollo swipes at Rodano with his invincible tail!"

Before Calita could retort with carefully-worded innuendo, the toys were grabbed away from the overgrown children by the not-yet-grown children.

"You guys are too silly!"

The couple stood up. "Your assessment, Lieutenant?"

"Well, Doctor--the enemy is four times smaller than us--I think we can take them."


As Davie and Jimmy ran, screaming in delight, the two adults watched each other handling the children. Was there a look of assessment behind Calita’s eyes? Peter thought so.

With the dinner--which suspiciously included oysters--finished, the new couple left for Calita’s house, just past the royal clinic. It was the home of a professional who spent less time there than she would have liked, but who wanted that time to count. In fact, Teresa had modeled the house after a luxurious suite at one of the finer hotels. Yet it was uniquely Calita’s, and a painted map of Moorish Spain took up a whole wall behind her couch. Taking his hand firmly in hers, she led Peter to her house’s rear exit, and a walled yard which also held a porch-style patio. The night air was chill, and it drove them together as they sat down in the swinging bench.

She knew, bless her. Somehow, Teresa knew that I’d fall hard and quickly for this incredible woman. Maybe she can even make me forget you, my princess.

A smile came over Calita’s face. "Teresa’s been playing with you a lot, hasn’t she? What did you see underwater?"

"What do you think I saw?" No way was he going there. This had to be another test.

"Tell me."

Was this a not-noticing test or an honesty test? He sighed, because he did notice, and not at all by his own choice. "At first, I saw her pubic hair, and thought maybe it was a transparent or gray-and-black bikini. Then she turned around, that damned smirk fixed on her pouty face. That’s when I gasped for air. There was no mistaking that bared backside."

Where was she taking this?

"And as she swam away, what did you want to do to that---bared backside?" Calita was grinning and was almost shaking, seemingly in--anticipation?

"I’m with you, now. There are no other women. Especially when you consider my track record."

She pulled on his collar, in deadly earnest. "I’ve waited quite some time to be with you. Now, show me what you wanted to do to Teresa. One thing she’s good at is lathering guys up. Comprende, gaucho?"

For once not over-analyzing his good fortune, Peter grabbed up a laughing Calita, re-seating her with her back turned. With the appropriate clothes raised and lowered, he took in her bubble-like butt, a serene area he quickly undertook to invade.

She wasn’t married, and he didn’t have to pine for her. Through her blouse, he felt her breasts as he went. Their lips met, and to Peter’s surprise, he held out a good long while. When they were done, they made for her small but well-furnished bedroom.

Calita continued to surprise him. "That bastard headmaster used to take me that way. Every time I’m with a real man like that, of my own choice--I erase his stain."

She was quickly on top of him. "This time, though--I wanna see your face."

That he didn’t fall asleep--some sage advice from Jim--after each time seemed to impress her. "How long has it been since last time?"

He groaned as he girded himself again for another round. "Too damned long."

She went for his crotch, after adding, "The joys of a professional life. By the way--you return this favor, got me?"

"You think I wouldn’t?"

"Some guys..."

But then her mouth got busy. Very busy. And when she was done, he kept to his promise. For Peter, an instance of mutual attraction this strong had simply never occurred. He allowed himself to feel complete happiness.

In the afterglow of it all, he spoke certain words. "Calita?"


"If I say something, will you promise not to hate me, think I’m promising perfect bliss, or run?"

A look that was equal parts fear, joy, shock, surprise and anticipation came over her pretty face. "Say it."

She feels it, too, he thought. This could be the biggest mistake of my entire life, replete with the potential to burn down not a cabin--but two Human hearts. Is this why you never settled down, Jim? Because I would rather face Tanith and Director Brok in an arena than risk hurting someone like Calita Iberez. But I must speak. Because it is what I feel right now.

"I think I love you."

She fell back, seemingly lightly stunned by his words. But he would not take them back. She had looks. She found him attractive. She had a sharp scientific mind. She too, had known pain. She liked kids. Maybe it was all wrong. "Peter, I think I love you too."

They spent an hour going over the whys and wherefores and pitfalls of such early declarations. He then climbed on top of her and pushed full force until he did fall asleep--with her joining him seconds afterwards. Awakening hours later, they showered. Peter and Calita ended this session in the position they began it in, pressing her against the shower wall.


Finally making his way back to the palace, Peter saw almost everyone he had met at the residence somberly gathered in the main living area. Time seemed to slow down to a crawl as he studied each face in turn. When he saw that Miguel’s eyes were reddened, as though from hidden tears, he asked, and cursed himself for proclaiming his happiness to the jealous fates.

"What’s happened?"

Connor Randolph answered. The Xartheb actually looked vulnerable. "Chancellor Gorkon has been assassinated. The Klingons are preparing to try those they believe killed him: Doctor McCoy and Captain Kirk. The trial will likely take place on Qo’noS itself. And we may be going to a state of total war."

As Peter felt numb and sat down, Jimmy rushed into his arms. He wasn’t going to fall apart, he promised himself. That would be a victory for whoever set Jim up. He needed to be strong, for himself and for Doctor McCoy’s family. But he still felt more anvil than hammer, right then.


Many hours and three uneaten meals later, Teresa came again to Peter’s room. She was like a ghost, so overcome with fright that she was frightening herself.

"Peter, it’s all bubbling up on me. I know we agreed not to talk about things, but I need to, and you’re the only one who might understand."

He bade her sit down, and they spent a long night speaking of ugly pasts.

"...told me I was the troublemaker, when they had made my life at the Academy..."

"...I had one wild night, and now the galaxy thinks I’m a common slut who opens her..."

"...Grandma gave up. With the house gone, the disease took hold so very fast. Then, when they made jokes..."

"...but the worst would occur when Khalian would leave, and give me this look that one would give a home furnishing..."

"...something was wrong with my older brother. Even Sam knew it, now. I still don’t let someone else lower my pants..."

"...they just erased Carlos..."

"...Aurelan’s dying screams fill my thoughts..."

"...clear that Carlos’ sister blamed me for Kral..."

"...roommates’ parents blamed me for Tanith..."

"...Leonard can be a real..."

"...Jim pushed me away..."

"...and they all don’t know what pain is..."

When all was done, she fell asleep in his bed, while he took the chair. The catharsis they gained would have been amazing at any other time. At any other time, it would have been cleansing. But for then and there, it was merely a short-term technique they used to keep from climbing up to the roof and jumping off. For the ones they loved best were still firmly in the hands of the enemy.

August 2nd 2293

If things had gone correctly, Peter and Jim would have been boarding the royal barque back to Earth, right about then. Jim would have been anxious to see what awaited him on Earth, after he no longer had a ship. It was never anything he would look forward to. But it was to be his fate, and like any good explorer, he just had to know what lay around the corner. It was who he was, and it was what he did. Peter was going to go off on another ship as soon as possible, hoping that another Shenandoah or Marseilles was not around the corner, but like any good explorer and scientist, he was fully prepared for that possibility, at least to the extent any one could be.

In short, things had not gone correctly. And even more than the very real possibility of seeing his uncle and Doctor McCoy viscerally executed by their most rabid foes, Peter C. Kirk feared what experience told him must follow. Princess Teresa knew this as well. Really bad fortune did not occur once or twice, or in threes. When it came, it came in a goddamned cascade. Like a warp core failure, or aftershocks from a devastating earthquake, the disaster itself was only the beginning.

In one day, Teresa was filmed having a very wild and scandalous time at a brothel, had a purely hellish argument with her beloved uncle, and was kidnapped by Orion slavers, leading to her unholy enslavement by Khalian. In one day, Peter lost both of his parents, much of his world, all contact with two brothers, and the use of his legs. He had been set up by fate to become a very, very bitter, angry and unlikable young man.

But now, both were well spoken of for their resilience, and they would need that resilience for what was to follow the assassination of Klingon Chancellor Gorkon. In the days that followed, the relationship between the two survivors would alter in ways that would sorely test their quick and deep new friendship.


She didn’t understand. She really didn’t understand, or perhaps she simply chose not to. Either way, Teresa was determined to make this difficult.

"Princess, I took an oath. There is nothing else."

"So you’re just leaving me? Grabbing the first flight out, and that’s it? Peter, I need you...here. The boys need you. Even Miguel needs you, to reassure him that his family has an anchor. He’s still a boy, you know. Fierce looks, fierce strength. But he likes having his older cousin around. So does his mother."

Peter had already fought this battle in his gut. He knew what he had to do. "You think I want to leave? I fought hard to get this extra furlough. My God, Calita and I have discussed....I don’t want to go. But I am Starfleet. As is my Uncle. As was my grandfather. As is your husband. We are facing war. I will not stay in a warm safe palace while my brothers and sisters lay down their lives!"

She glared at Peter, and he knew somehow that this glare was not merely for him. "I make you an honored guest in my home. I let you ogle me, and dealt with how you squirmed when you couldn’t handle it. You revved up my boys, who are going to be heartbroken when you go. I even fixed you up with a fine woman. Got you..."

She turned away and walked out of his room. "Screw you, Peter Kirk. Who needs you? Just go. And don’t bother coming back."

When she left, Peter closed the door and looked up. "Just once, God, could you make it so that I can dump on someone who has it coming? Because this is getting old, fast."

Times like this forced the memories up. His first deliberately scathing remark had come when a girl at the Academy had cited personal security as a reason for refusing him a date. He then bit down and reminded her that since she was in his class, a really crazy killer would likely target her anyway. By the time Dianas came around, he had perfected the art of verbally crushing others for fun and sport. He remembered this because his mind had started to construct sharp things to tell Teresa in response to her grief-driven words. As had become his new custom, he fought that dark urge down. But only just.

In any event, another blow was not too far off. "Peter, you’ve got an incoming transmission from Starfleet."

"Thanks, Connor. I’ll take it here." Normally, Peter’s messages and mail came through unfiltered, but on a possible war footing, the Xartheb security chief was obviously taking no chances whatsoever.

"Lieutenant Kirk? I’m Commander MacGregor of Personnel."

The man on the screen was not known to Peter, although there was something about his face that seemed familiar.

"Aye, Commander. Is this about my reassignment?"

MacGregor’s face betrayed that it was bad news, though obviously that gave no details. "Lieutenant, Starfleet appreciates you terminating your leave before the recall notices were even sent out. That speaks well of you. But since Enterprise is currently out of Serenidadian space, we have no place for you to go. I’m sorry."

Now, Peter was confused. "Sir, begging your pardon, but what does this have to do with Enterprise? I’ll go wherever Starfleet says. I don’t need to serve aboard my uncle’s command, although that is obviously my preference. I do not understand why I can’t just board another ship, at least for the duration."

MacGregor nodded. "I thought you might say that. Lieutenant, a war looks like it is about to break out with an enemy that has always hated your uncle, and now thinks that he killed their leader. Except for Enterprise, which would be a Klingon target in any event, there is simply no safe place to send you."

Peter began to stiffen, sensing perhaps where this was leading. "A Starfleet officer has no expectation of safety, sir. In peace or in war."

"Yes, Lieutenant. But I speak not of your safety. I speak of the safety of your crewmates. The Klingons have resources, spies, probes, even dupes. They would know where Captain Kirk’s only living heir was. They would target that ship accordingly. We would have to recalibrate our battle plans to compensate. That is not acceptable. So, we are placing you on indefinite, involuntary, non-disciplinary leave. It will be fully noted in your record that you desired to serve, and why this was not permitted."

Peter tried pleading. "Sir, I took an oath. I must serve. I was once a disgrace. I need to be part of this. Besides, I am always going to be Jim’s nephew. Always. I will therefore always be a target."

Actually, this was only true for the Orion Syndicate. To all but a few Klingons, Peter Kirk would become a non-entity upon his uncle’s passing. But the commander understood his meaning. "I’m sorry, Lieutenant. This odd, untoward circumstance is one of two reasons I called you personally."

"Sir, what was the second reason?"

MacGregor clearly was smiling. "For years, my wife and I have tried to break our son of his little habit of name-dropping to avoid trouble. I don’t know how, Mister Kirk, but you put the fear of God straight into him. For that, you have our sincerest thanks. MacGregor out."

Just as he was trying to get his head together after that mixed message, Peter heard Teresa cry out. The sound was from her room. Running as fast as the imprisoned Doctor McCoy had told him to, he grabbed a stashed weapon and opened the door. She was sprawled, naked, on her bathroom floor.

"Teresa! Are you—?"

She moaned, lightly, pushing herself up. "Soap! I slipped on a bar of soap! I haven’t slipped on a bar of soap in....shouldn’t you leave? Aren’t you afraid of what you might see?!"

He smiled, helped her up, and helped her get to her robe. She was limping, slightly. "I think I’ve seen it all, by now. Besides, I’m not as...tense...as I was."

She seemed in a great hurry to cover herself, and this Peter attributed to her embarrassment over her clumsiness. Oddly, seeing her do something as simple as slipping removed her aura of untouchability for him. She was still beautiful, but she was now also Human again. "So when is your ship coming?"

He shook his head. "It’s not. I’m here for the foreseeable future. If you’ll have me."

She clasped his hand. All was forgiven. "Sure I’ll have you. But won’t Calita get upset?"

He smiled, now knowing that she was kidding. "Nahhh. We were discussing experiments, anyway."

Helping her to her bed, Peter moved to leave when Teresa spoke up. "You talked about your brothers and sisters in Starfleet. Well, Jim has sometimes been like a father to me, and you’re the closest thing he has to a son."

He nodded as he looked at her. "If you were my sister, I’d’ve been in daily therapy since the day you hit puberty!"

Forgetting the galaxy of pain that lay just outside, she smiled once again as he closed the door. "Same here, Hermanito."

August 3rd 2293

The acting-captain of the Enterprise was a busy man, fending back a maelstrom of conspiracy and heartbreak. That he called Serenidad at all was remarkable, even for a remarkable man like Spock. "Then she will not come to speak to me herself?" the Vulcan asked, perplexed.

Peter tried to find the right words, but began to wonder if the right words even existed, in this circumstance. "Sir, she’s been up and down. We’ve asked Connor’s staff to monitor the media for us. Half the reports have us at war already."

Spock shook his head. "Hopefully, Lieutenant, we never will arrive at that state. But I fear the worst for those we all hold dear. Starfleet has ruled out a rescue mission. Jim and Leonard’s trial is therefore imminent."

Peter tried to be as rational as the man on the screen before him. No rescue mission was good policy, when you were trying to stop a war. But there was a part of him that simply said: Bring my Uncle Jim home. "You’ll see it through, sir. I know you will. I only wish you weren’t operating at such a disadvantage, staff-wise."

When Spock’s eyes narrowed at these words, Peter feared another argument, like he’d had with Jim. "Explain."

Peter fought to keep his calm as he responded, "Well, the needs of the conference forced off anyone who had relatives killed by Klingons. But it occurred to me later, on the royal barque here, that those people would also be those with the most practical experience dealing with Klingons. Less apt to be unnerved, more cognizant of the Klingons’ behavior patterns, not to mention more alert by definition, being also simply more experienced, period."

Spock’s eyes went a bit wide, and his mouth dropped open slightly. He almost mumbled. "Yes, being rid of those people served a need, reduced our readiness, kept us looking elsewhere. A feint, then. All of it—"

Spock snapped back to reality. "Peter, you once told me of a commanding officer who bid you never give your opinion at any time. I say to you again: this person was greatly foolish. I must go. But again, in your words I have found a large piece to this puzzle."

The screen quickly snapped off, and Peter briefly got a glimpse of an Uhura just as confused as he. Without meaning to, he spoke out loud what he was thinking. "That’s great. Someday, you’ll have to tell me just what it is we talked about."


Later that day, as yet another meal was only lightly touched, Miguel read a text message from Spock that told all.

"We have been ordered not to attempt a rescue. The Enterprise will follow its orders."

The meal was eaten, after that. For they all knew well that Spock would move heaven and Qo’noS to reclaim his oldest and dearest friends--when the time was right. For those left behind, that time could not arrive soon enough.

Peter and Teresa both knew better than to discuss what was eating them alive. A survivor knew first and foremost that some things were never ever spoken of, perhaps even when they were done with. Talk, they knew, was chiefly notable for its complete inability to alter harsh realities.

But small children are always another story. The same sense of wonder and awe that keeps the world around them fresh can just as easily make it scary and weird and evil and just plain wrong. To Davie McCoy, the equation was blood simple. The bad people who looked like his big brother but who were so mean had taken away Daddy and Uncle Jim. Mommy couldn’t talk about it. Miguel wouldn’t talk about it, and Jimmy was just a baby, more confused than him.

Davie walked into Peter’s room, and saw him talking to a girl who wasn’t Calita on screen. She looked kind of like grumpy Uncle Hikaru, only she smiled. "...there’s even talk of mustering us Senior Cadets forward, if war comes. Are you sure you’re all right, Peter?"

Peter Kirk nodded a weary nod. "Despite neither sleeping nor eating properly, I’ll get through, for myself and for these people. But I’m under constant attack by—"

Peter grabbed Davie up, and held him before the screen. "—little monsters like this one! Davie McCoy, this is our ‘cousin,’ Demora Sulu. Say hello!"

"Hi, Demora!"

"Hi, Davie! Oh, aren’t you precious?"

"I sure am!"

"Peter, I have a class. Please be well. Bye, Davie!"

Davie returned Demora’s little wave as the screen went blank. He then turned to a cousin who seemed in his eyes to know everything. Peter only wished that were so.

"Peter, is my Daddy coming home?"

Kirk’s answer came without hesitation. "He sure is! Daddies all love their little boys, and they won’t ever not come back to see them. Your daddy especially."

Davie’s face then formed a deep scowl. "You’re lying to me! I thought you loved me, Peter! But you’re nothing but a dirty liar."

Peter’s face seemed to fight off a scowl of its own, but only just. "Just why am I a liar, Davie? That’s not a nice thing to call someone, you know."

Davie folded his arms and looked down. "Because you fibbed big. Daddies don’t always come back. Yours didn’t."

Rather than immediately address how Davie had overheard this—he assumed no one would just up and tell a child such a thing—Peter went in the other direction. "No, no, he didn’t. Neither did my Mommy. But that’s not what I meant by come back. Davie, I lost my parents when I was only a little older than you. Then, I discovered something important. I never really lost them, and never really could."

"But they’re not living any more. You can’t see them any more."

Peter shook his head. "Of course I can, silly. They are always with me. In every good moment, and every bad moment. When I was shimmying between decks on the Shenandoah. When I was...sent away...for being bad. When I met you guys, and went all around with you and your Mom."

He reminded himself to avoid subjects that needed euphemizing. "And when I learned that I might never see Uncle Jim again, they were still there. Because they and their love live on in my heart and my memories. So I don’t care if the bad things are a thousand times stronger than me, I don’t care if they’re a million times stronger than me. Because I know now what I didn’t then. My Daddy is always with me. And it is because of that man—who was Uncle Jim’s hero—that I can never really be beaten. So don’t you call me a liar, Davie McCoy. ‘Cause if you do, you’ll have to answer to my Daddy, and then to yours, when he does come home."

Davie then did something immensely sweet, as he spoke to empty air. "I’m sorry, Uncle Sam. I won’t call Peter a liar ever again."

And for a moment, George Samuel Kirk, Junior, was really and truly there, standing by his little boy.

"The song, son. Use the song. It always helped you."

"I...remember it."

Peter picked Davie up, and began to rock him to sleep for his delayed nap. "The stars will all shine...tomorrow. Bet your final credit that tomorrow... you’ll see stars..."

The little orphan from Deneva found that his words to the little prince were even truer than he knew possible.

August 4th 2293

Peter had lasted longer than ever against Connor Randolph. He even felt he might gain that one victory his ego needed to feel a bit more balanced. But invariably, she would unleash those same three killer finishing moves. He found them no easier to deal with for being able to see them coming.

"C’mon! A Klingon would have you gutted and roasted by now."

Throughout the long day of emergency training, his ever-expanding prowess netted Peter Kirk no victories whatsoever.

Thiel, Connor’s Andorian lover and subordinate, was not quite as victory-obsessed as her...but nor was he any easier to beat. "Those jumps are long and powerful and high, Peter. But a good Andorian knife could take your foot off in mid-leap. A d’k tagh could take off your leg."

So it went. Everyone, it seemed, had a favorite body part the attacking Klingons would chop off, should they come. It was Miguel who crossed the line. Again, the batlh’etlh flew away from Peter’s hand. "Do you actively desire to see your head in a Kh’myr trophy case?"

In a maneuver he had only pulled off a few times in his post-reform life, Peter reversed the anger into brainpower. But he would make Miguel regret mentioning his head. "All three of you. En masse. I want to see how many seconds above five I make it."

They surrounded him, and, as he predicted, Thiel and Connor came at him first, with Miguel hanging back for a bare moment. His leap showed that the Vulcan-environment training had paid off spectacularly. It was not a superhuman jump, but certainly it broached the high Human average, especially for a standing jump. Each foot kicked out, taking out attackers slowed by the need to avoid colliding with each other. By placing extra power into the foot hitting Connor, he used her weight and momentum to accomplish a flying kick and avoid Miguel’s lunging hands. The Klingon prince fell. Peter then made a gun-sign with his hand, firing at each one.

"Zap! Zap! Zap! I believe that puts me at one win and one hundred-fifty losses."

Connor got herself up, and looked at Peter. "The only thing I hate more than losing is someone who sandbags me by holding back, Mister Kirk!"

Thiel, for his part, honestly seemed concerned that she would go all out. "Beloved, let it go."

Peter shook his head. "That was one win, Connor. And not one on one, either. Besides, it’s Miguel’s fault you lost."

Miguel started suddenly. "Me? Why me?"

Peter smiled. "You mentioned my head being cut off. That’s what they call a hot button."

Connor, who seemed to be adjusting well enough, pointed Miguel to the center of the mat. "Peter, I will get you for this."

"Miguel, is that your mother I see?"

Thiel now regarded Peter on the next mat. "Now, remember what I said about knives."

Peter kicked the weapon from Thiel’s hand. "If they have their d’k taghs drawn. I won’t be able to fight hand-to-hand. So show me how to fight if they’re without it." The fun-and-games drained from the young Human’s face. "Please, Thiel, I want to live."

August 5th 2293

Despite the Federation’s calming words, no one on Serenidad seemed willing to believe that a Klingon strike wasn’t imminent. Teresa’s address to the Council was going places that even the word disaster couldn’t describe accurately. To make matters worse, the trial on Qo’noS was about to get started.

"Please! We have assurances from Starfleet that seven Soyuz-class starships will be available to defend Serenidad at a moment’s notice! We still have the starship Wasp in orbit above us as well."

Sweating in his full-dress uniform, escort and honor guard Peter Kirk could tell what that answer would do.

"Wholly inadequate!"

"While our children are raped, they will only send seven tiny starships?"

"Once again, we see that the Federation places more value on our dilithium than our people!"

"Where are the great ships in all this? Where is Excelsior? Where is Enterprise? Where is Hood? Or is it too much burden and trouble to ask that they help us once again? Perhaps our heroes have gotten old and lazy. Perhaps they simply don’t give a damn anymore!"

Another day, another hot button. As Teresa pulled back, Peter stepped forward, and protocol be damned. "You want Enterprise? It’s right here. I’m far from its best representative, but I will take on and take down anyone who calls the courage of its crew into question. They almost all died for you. Now show some respect to Her Majesty La Caudilla, or I swear to heaven above, I will go out there in the lobby and tell those media vultures that Serenidad’s council attacked the reputation of Captain Kirk’s crew, friends and family."

A noisy man pointed. "You are bluffing!"

Peter held a finger above his wristcom, and the man sat down.

Teresa resumed her address after adding, "Kirks don’t bluff, Mister Chairman."


Later, as he escorted her home, she managed a weak smile. "It’s good to have a ‘brother.’"

To his surprise, Peter found Iberez waiting in his room. She had been crying. "Calita? Are you all right?"

She clearly wasn’t. Peter closed the door to his room, respecting Teresa’s wishes that the babies not see them together around a bed. "Calita, what’s wrong?"

She grabbed and held onto him for dear life. She was shaking, the way Peter imagined a pretty schoolgirl must have done as she ashamedly pretended to friends that her backside was only sore from a recent paddling. He liked being her strength, he decided.

"Peter, some parents brought their daughters to the hospital today. For elective surgery."

She began to cry again. "They-they wanted me to sterilize the girls so a Klingon couldn’t get them pregnant! We tried to send them away...it got ugly. Bad ugly."

Peter shook his head. "Why not just max out their birth control or perform tubal ligations? Why so extreme a measure?"

She shrugged. "Because those processes can be undone or reversed. There are Kh’myr doctors who specialize in making sure those beasts leave their mark on women. Even the very word Kh’myr has some kind of phallic meaning in Klingonese. Even in sex, they are designed and bred to destroy."

Peter kissed Calita, and then spoke again. "What they asked of you really hits you where you live, doesn’t it?"

She closed her pretty eyes. "The headmaster left his own mark on me. On lots of girls. A virus. He would have died of it in prison if the guards hadn’t tipped the other inmates about what he was. He was found butchered..."

Peter tried and failed not to feel good about that, as Calita continued, "It’s gone, now. But by the time we found out I had it, it was too late. Peter, I’m never going to have children of my own."

He saw the shame in her eyes, and wanted badly to dig the bastard headmaster up, and use him as a sparring dummy. Peter also decided to end her tears, by saying words that were very premature, but straight from the heart. It was a risk. But this, Kirk had decided, was a woman worth risking for. Sometimes you simply had to cross the Neutral Zone and take back the Kobayashi Maru.

"Children aren’t the reason I want to marry you, Calita Iberez."

Of course, he remembered he had failed the Kobayashi Maru when he taken the simulation. Though well out of his track, the ‘hissy-fit’ he threw was legendary. He swore he would handle it better, here. She would say it was too much, too soon. She would say that she just didn’t feel the same way. She would say that he shouldn’t joke about such things. She would say goodbye. She would say...

"Yes! Sweet Jesus, yes!"

She threw him down, and began to smother him with kisses. So much for the no-win scenario, he thought. But then it all flew back at him. Jim! Jim was still a prisoner on Qo’noS! How could he allow himself to be happy at a time like this?

"I want you to be happy, Peter. That’s all I’ve ever wanted from you." He remembered his uncle’s words.

He’s going to come back. He always does. And Jim will dance with Calita at our wedding, while Doctor McCoy ribs me about keeping my eye on those two, and Teresa instructs Ringbearer Davie, a little sad that I beat him out, but happy for us.

His pipe-dreaming was interrupted by Teresa, who carefully entered his room after a quick check.

"Guys, the ninos aren’t supposed to see certain things, okay? So please break it up. Sorry, but that was our agreement."

Calita kissed Peter yet again. "Does La Caudilla take such great objection to a woman kissing her fiancé?"

Teresa’s eyes lit up, and for a moment, thoughts of Qo’noS were as distant as the planet itself was by impulse. "All right, but let’s have a nice, long engagement. The way you two are moving, you’d think it was the end of the world—"

Her words caught in Teresa’s throat, and the new couple calmed their sponsor by talking of a hypothetical wedding many, many months off. In the kitchen, Peter let the two talk, and vowed anew that Jim would dance with his new niece.

Oddly, when he and Calita made love that night, she held her man not like someone about to claim her life-mate, but like someone who soon would have to give him up.

August 6th 2293

The day of the trial had arrived, and Teresa was taking no chances. To protect two pieces of her heart, she was tearing them straight out of her bosom.

"Nooooo!!! I don’t wanna go. I wanna stay here with you and Peter and Miguel!"

Despite what Peter had said, McCoys were in fact a stubborn lot. So it was with Davie and Jimmy.

"Not go!!"

Something beyond the unbearably obvious was wrong with Teresa, thought Peter. When he and Calita had slept and made love in his own room, she hadn’t reminded them to go to Doctor Iberez’s house. Not that it was her responsibility to do so. But it was damned odd. Luckily, Calita knew how to spirit herself out with the little princes none the wiser.

"Look, boys—don’t make this more difficult than it is. You go with Connor, and be safe. Pedro and Michael will protect me, here."

"Guys? When I was a kid, I begged Uncle Jim to let me live aboard the Enterprise. But he wouldn’t. I hated him for that, then. But he did it because he loved me. He wanted me to be safe. Well, I want you to be safe. So go with Connor, okay?"

Davie merely seemed to gulp in acquiescence, but Jimmy needed more.

"C’mere, you!"

So it was that with a hug, an adult named Peter comforted a little boy named James, as he was sent away.

"Love you."

"Me, too, Jimmy."

The transport beam took them away ten minutes before the trial began.

"Thank God they’re away."

She seemed relieved that her babies were gone. Of course, she wasn’t—but Peter was still confused. Somewhere, somehow, the Kh’myr Klingons had an ace in the hole, information-wise. Connor all but said so. Too many incidents, too close, too often. So were the boys actually any safer from attack with Connor and Thiel? Was it even the Klingons that they were being shielded from?

As Teresa made arrangements with the BellComm terminal, Peter drew her son aside. "Miguel, we must talk," he said sotto voce.

The use of ‘must’ rather than ‘have to’ seemed to force the half-Klingon prince into quick recognition of Peter Kirk’s need. "Yes, Peter?"

Peter tried speaking as a friend, and as a man a bit intimidated by the half-Kh’myr’s power.

"Why were Davie and Jimmy sent away?"

Miguel’s look was of one feigning confusion at the question. Peter knew the look from a thousand wholly innocent pranksters at the Academy, their clothes smelling of the combustibles they just used.

"To...prevent their destruction by any invading Kh’myr forces, of course."

‘Destruction.’ Now there was a euphemism for murder Peter Kirk had never wanted to hear again. The very thought badly upset him, and he took this out on Miguel. "Are you telling me the whole story?"

Peter’s face was now that of an older cousin. The kind that never cared how big you’d gotten—he could still kick your ass.

For some reason, this worked on Miguel. "All that I am permitted to, Peter."

But for how much he treasured the look on Miguel’s face, Kirk was still no closer to some of the underlying secrets of La Casa de Morales de la Vega. In a short time, though, he would be close enough to be burned by them.

He looked across the room at Princess Teresa.

Looking ever more detached, as though losing out to a bad strange dream, she flipped the switch which activated the wall-sized holovid viewer. INS came on, just as the footage was joined to that from the live Qo’noS feed. Miguel avoided Peter’s gaze, now so full of questions. But for some reason, he also avoided looking at his mother.

Peter saw both his uncle and Doctor McCoy, raised up by a platform. The Klingons’ ultimate trophy display, minus one. They chanted his name endlessly. Yet—it was almost as though they expected, wanted, needed him to put up one last fight, then and there. An ultimate battle between James Kirk and every single Klingon in existence. He knew that, in some ways, both sides would welcome such a chance. Your father died at Kirk’s trial, some Klingon mother would probably tell her children, and they would feel fierce pride when this was said.

"Give him back," a Peter not thirty-three, but eleven years old said mentally to the vid-screen.

The spotlight shone down on them, and Peter was reminded of ancient legends, where a lone warrior would ascend, surrounded by light, and unleash energies beyond comprehension at sneering enemies. He then shook off this thought, wondering if Miguel was right about his warrior’s instinct. There was something about a fight, though.

"Miguel, who is their defense attorney?"

"He is Colonel Worf. A fine man, and very easy to underestimate. His task is too great, though. He will not prevail. Not in that court. Though for him to do any less than his best would disgrace his clan, even to his infant son, Mogh."

Which seemed odd to Peter. The whole damned thing looked so scrupulously—fair. He had no doubt of its outcome, either. But except for the opening statements, full of blood oaths and salt and fury, it was all business. No one said ‘that dirty Kirk cowardly fired’...or like that. Doubtless, this was cleaned up for UFP consumption. But no Klingon proceeding could be cleaned up this much—unless it were pretty much always like this? No, he thought. This is a show. A sham. This is Klingons trying to prove to the galaxy that they’re not barbarians, not animals.

"Well, except for a touch of arthritis..." McCoy laughed heartily at his joke, his laughter echoing in the chamber.

When McCoy said that, Peter, Teresa and Miguel could not help but laugh softly, but not a single Klingon present at the trial did. Not Chang. He was dead sober. "You have a singular wit, Doctor..."

Teresa bit her lip as Chang determinedly tore apart McCoy’s competence, willingness to save a life, and ethics. "Bastard’s gonna need a seeing-eye dog, when I get through with him!"

Half-Segh vav plus half-Kh’myr means complex treachery plus brutality, thought Peter. Yet Miguel had all but stated that in Gorkon’s case, this had meant pragmatism plus confidence. Were Klingons just like everyone else? Different factors, playing themselves out in different ways, depending upon the individual?

"Now, we come to the architect of this tragic affair: James...Tiberius...Kirk!"

Fuck that thought. Let’s take Davie’s suggestion and drop Godzilla on Qo’noS. I’ll breed it myself. Here’s some Eugenics, mighty warriors!

Chang was building, and building. Trying very much to appear like a rational man on the verge of losing control. "Answer the question! Do not wait for the translation!"

Miguel pulled back from the screen. "Well struck."

Peter nodded. "The American Ambassador during the ‘Near War of 1962’ thought the same thing when he said it. Chang’s been doing his homework."

"...I’ve never forgiven them for the death of my boy."

Teresa was utterly silent, almost a thing of stone.

Miguel leaned over to Peter. "Uncle Jim’s private journal in the hands of his enemies? Has he been betrayed?"

Peter whispered back. "In Iowa, we had a saying. Don’t hire the fox to guard the hen house."

Miguel seemed to pick up his drift. "Should we not contact the Enterprise?"

Peter shook his head. "Miguel, if we suspect conspiracy, then Captain Spock already knows."

"...I am responsible for the actions of my crew."

As one, Kirk and Morales spoke at that. "Like he’d say anything else."

It was, as Colonel Worf was saying on-screen in his final pleas, all hearsay and speculation. But Spock had spoken of the experienced officers’ removal as a feint. Who, then, had been placed over that list?

"...the dilithium mines at penal colony Rura Penthe, where you will serve out the remainder of your natural lives..."

It was over. Jim was alive, and Spock was free. The Klingons would regret both mistakes, he knew. But Peter did not say this. Nor did he comfort Teresa. Instead, he headed for the gym..


There were twenty durite tiles piled up on a good stiff board. As a stunned Miguel watched, both tiles and board fell to pieces beneath an opened palm and one shouted word.


Peter Kirk’s hand was fine. His heart, as always, was another story. Nonetheless, Miguel grabbed a cold compress. Peter only lightly pressed against it, though.

"These tiles—how?" asked Miguel.

Perhaps Kirk looked as bad as he felt, for Miguel’s evident concern did not diminish. "Water strikes in many forms. When it strikes as a great wave, nothing will its power withstand," explained the lieutenant.

Regaining himself, Peter flexed the smashing hand. "I had a lot of negative chi built up. Perhaps more than I’ve ever had since Dianas. It can make me forget my center, my lessons. It can cause me to forget my parents’ faces. Or even that I love Jim. That happened once. I will not permit it to happen again."

Miguel nodded, as though he understood. What he had to say next, though, was beyond Peter’s comprehension. "I must go from here, Peter. My mother’s special medicine must be procured and very soon."

Peter thought that this was a lot of bother for a mere nervous tick, but sought not to question the younger man’s honesty again. "I’ll take care of her, Amigo. You have my word."

Now, Miguel’s more intimidating aspect resurfaced with a vengeance. "You must do far more than that. Swear by your parents’ graves that you will do whatever is necessary to protect my mother’s life—no matter how repugnant you may find it. Swear it to me."

Peter felt somewhat annoyed. "I think I already have."

"No, you must swear upon your parents’ graves. I will accept nothing less."

To Peter, oaths were something rarely given, for the difficulty and pain involved when they could not be fulfilled. In the Enterprise-A’s brig, such a violation had been among his very first recriminations. But Miguel wasn’t just demanding. He was begging. If Kirk had a single doubt of this, what the Klingon Prince did next erased it.

"Will you swear this to me?" Miguel sank to both knees, and Peter had not seen a sight that shocked him more since the on-air decapitation of a reporter in his native Iowa.

"You’re a crown prince of the blood. Get up."

Miguel was as steadfast as the meaning of Peter’s name. "Swear it."

"I...I swear upon the graves of my parents that I will do whatever is necessary to protect the life of Teresa Morales De La Vega Ruiz-Mendoza McCoy. No matter how disgusting I may find it, there is no measure I will not undertake."

Peter saw his friend remain where he was. "Get up."

"No. Answer me first. Let us say that Jimmy has been mind-sifted, enhanced, and programmed to kill Mother. What then?"

"How can you even talk about...?"

"You will answer me."

Peter felt his blood run cold. Surely, this was not happening. "I would stop him."

Miguel was yet unrelenting. "Inadequate. He is unstoppable. An innocent angel, corrupted and made a demon by those that know how. Now, what would you do?"

Peter said the words. "I would kill him. I would kill a little boy who thinks I’m seven steps removed from God Himself, and who is named for my uncle. I would burn him to ash or cut him to pieces, if need be, to end the threat he now poses. Now get up."

Miguel did as he was asked. "Peter, I—"

Peter was furious, although he well understood why this burden had been placed upon him. "Go. Get your mother’s medicine."

Miguel tried again. "Please. There is a possibility we may never see each other again."

Peter turned away. "It’ll be too soon as far as I’m conc..."

In an almost physically painful act, Peter Kirk fought down the rage that had dogged him his entire life. Pain ripped at his face, as he extended a hand in friendship once again.

Miguel gladly took it. "Someday, you will have to show me how you do that."


With Miguel’s departure, the boys’ evacuation, and the servants leaving to be with their families in this time of crisis, the palace was empty, except for the weary, grieving princess and her sworn protector.

Early that next morning, she appeared in his bedroom doorway. Calita had called from the hospital, sending her regrets. The local forcefields filtered the area’s natural sunlight an odd shade of blue.

"Wanna go swimming?"

He couldn’t believe his eyes—again. "Do you mind if I wear my trunks?"

She smiled, despite the forced absence of her entire family. This, Peter decided, was not playful resilience. "Only until I can peel them off you!"

She ran like wildfire, and her ass looked good as she did. But tender thoughts of his Calita helped immensely—or at least enough to keep his trunks from showing otherwise.

Where was the talk of her Leonard? Her boys? Her people, and their world?

"How in the hell can she be this free and breezy—now of all times?" he asked himself aloud as he followed her at a snail’s pace.

The vulnerable lake was out of the question—too far from the complex—and so they headed for the pool in the second residence. Teresa did a running jump, her long legs tucked up underneath her. She made one gorgeous cannonball. She was also safe, and for the moment, happy. He allowed that to keep him happy as he went in the pool.

"Teresa—I’m going to swim laps while you—"

But she was nowhere to be seen. After five laps, he checked for the all-clear signal on the local security monitor, then double-checked. Like a siren of old, Teresa broke the surface only on occasion, a vision by any standards. He jumped back in, and began to swim once again.

Suddenly, hands were grabbing at him, and his trunks were quickly and skillfully peeled off his body, just as she promised.

Teresa waved them in the air, like a trophy. "Skinned and sheared both! And now—a kiss."

"Lady, I love you. But as to that, you can just kiss my ass!"

Peter felt he was no worse off than before, and would simply grab the trunks back when she wasn’t looking. He really hated being wrong this often. Pausing between laps, he felt it. "That wasn’t what it felt....she..Teresa isn’t...I’m not getting a...."

How she had snuck up on him in a pool was not important to him right then. What was important was that he looked down—and saw. Though procreation was not on her mind, only a fool would say that the two weren’t having sex, right then.

"Teresa—how could yooooo..."

He tried to push her off, but confusion, shock and worry meant he didn’t try very hard. Soon after his feeble struggle became moot, she surfaced, grinning a cat-canary special.

"I tried to kiss your ass, but I missed. Instead, I kissed your lovely d...."

Like Robert Louis Stevenson’s afflicted Henry Jekyll, her face shifted. The wanton vanished entirely. The princess wiped her mouth, and knew without really looking what was there. She was plainly horrified and disgusted.

"No, I am faithful to you, Leonard."

Running for the toilet area, she made sounds that Peter knew as retching. He moved to help her. But first, he got his trunks and two robes.

As Teresa looked up, she pleaded with her new, dear friend. "Please don’t hate me!"

"I never could."

Peter covered her up, then helped her to her room. Calita would have to come over and help her, even if it ended their engagement. For he had given his word, an oath sworn upon his dead parents. But this time, he wanted the full story—and he would have it.

He knew he just wouldn’t like it.

February 24th 2267
U.S.S. Enterprise

The seven-year old boy with the haunted eyes asked his doctor a pointed, even a painful question. "Why can’t I walk anymore?"

Kindly eyes tried to make things right, when really only time could. "Peter, when those things tried to take you over, they hurt your body."

"But they’re gone. Like Mommy And Daddy. Like everybody is...except me."

McCoy knew the statement was inaccurate, but at that moment, details didn’t matter all that much.

"When someone tries that hard to hurt you, sometimes that hurt can last longer than the people or things that do the hurting. You’ll walk again. Heck, if you’re anything like your uncle, you’ll probably learn how to fly! "

August 7th 2293
Serenidad Royal Residence

Peter Kirk, who could only occasionally fly, sort-of, watched as a woman who he had every intention of spending his life with sedated a woman he had grown to love almost as much.

Teresa pleaded as darkness took her. "Calita, you’ve been my dear friend. I didn’t mean to...your man. He...don’t blame Peter. It wasn’t his fault."

Doctor Calita Iberez kissed her sponsor on the forehead, and gently stroked her hair. "Nothing to forgive, Teresa. You pulled that monster off of me. Gave me a home. My love is not so easily thrown off."

Calita tugged on Peter’s shoulder. "Give her the twelve hours of rest that the sedative will allow her, Peter," she whispered. "She’s going to need it."

Setting the sound dampeners so that noises would get out but not in, Peter left Teresa’s room, buzzing with questions, and perhaps even answers. A little upset at his now-plainly secretive intended, he sprang his first guess on her as soon as they had sat down in the living area.

"Forgive me, Doctor. But you gave her Lethenol, am I correct?"

She still seemed like she was holding back on him, as though her best friend seizing hold of her fiancé and absently giving him a blow job in the pool was an everyday occurrence.

"Yes. Yes. It wasn’t... it isn’t wholly contraindicated in a case such as hers."

I hope I sounded a little more convincing than that on Dianas, Peter bitterly thought. Scotty would have ripped my arm out, and I would have had it coming, for such a lame performance.

"Lethenol is the strongest sedative medical science has developed for Humans."

She began to get a trifle defensive. "Peter, have you read the Merck Federation Physician Disk Reference in its entirety?"

He smiled. "Yes, I have. I had a lot of down time on Tantalus. Tell me, Calita, have you read the 2292 update on illegal Kh’myr Klingon aphrodisiacs? They’ve been known to use them on prisoners."

She put her head in her hands. "I wanted to tell you."

Realizing he couldn’t really stay angry with her, he crossed over and sat down next to a woman whose touch made him feel alive, after so long a time. "Tell me now. Because I still don’t know. I’ve only guessed at some of it."

Before answering, she kissed him. "You’re not angry because of the deception?"

"You’re not angry because of what she and I did?"

She studied his face, and admitted, "Somewhat."

"That’s my answer, too. But my indiscretion is over now. Is yours?"

Perhaps she knew the gamble she had made and lost by keeping Peter in the dark, because Calita seemed to be keeping in a like response. "I suppose I deserve that. I just never thought she’d go after you this soon. All the signs were there, though."

"Signs? What signs?"

Iberez gulped, looking just a little like Davie when Peter had warned him off of another prank like the one with the old vids. "She fixated on you, Peter, almost from the moment you came here. She often will do that. Fixate on a man she can’t have and who wouldn’t reciprocate. It’s a device for getting her through the rough spots."

He waved a hand in the air. "No. Start at the beginning. In fact, start before the beginning. I need a chance to get past what happened in that pool."

Despite everything, she chuckled very mildly and hugged her man. "Oh, Peter. You are so sweet. You are the only man I’ve ever met who’s more tense after an event like that than he was before."

He found he laughed a little, too. It was all so damned surreal. But obviously Teresa’s illness was no laughing matter. "The story?"

Iberez nodded, unconsciously grasping his hand for comfort. "It was in 2276 when Orion slavers kidnapped Teresa and took her to Qo’noS where she was handed over to Admiral Khalian. Once he took possession of Teresa, he set out to destroy her. Only with a Kh’myr as brutal as he could rape be honestly described as a lesser offense, by way of comparison. He tortured her mentally. He killed one of Kral’s sons, cut off his head, and showed it to Teresa, saying it was Miguel. She knew it wasn’t her son, but in her drug-induced stupor, she could also never be sure. That was how he liked it."

Peter silently mused that at least the monsters that had killed his parents had the excuse of actually being monsters.

Calita continued, "He called upon his doctors to cook up an especially potent form of the Klingon aphrodisiacs. Those damned things were manufactured in ways that boggle the mind. Klingon pharmacology wasn’t developed to cure or treat patients. It was developed as a tool of war, developing nerve toxins like theragen, aphrodisiacs like what we’ve named libidogon. Kh’myr Klingons made that fact even truer. Khalian made it gospel. Of course, he’s dead now, but his accomplices are carrying on his evil ways."

Peter nodded, wrongly thinking he had the rest. "So what you called a nervous tick is actually what some call a drug flashback. The body’s recalling of an earlier, intense toxic reaction. Does she have them often?"

Iberez shook her head. "No! It’s no flashback. Peter, the final twist of the knife was that at some point, Khalian must have been dissatisfied with merely getting Teresa ready for his depredations. The trace elements in her tissues changed over. The new drugs were not merely aphrodisiacs, but highly addictive. For his sick pleasure, Teresa was now ready to be used at any time. The drugs still had their terrible effect. But now, if she was not fed them, her sexual hunger would grow even greater. It would leave her begging for the drugs, and begging to be used. It made her own body Khalian’s best ally."

Peter felt his stomach and his surety drop out of him. A victim’s last refuge—the right to not like what was being done to them—had been breached. In Teresa’s name, Kirk now found he hated Klingons with a bloody and savage vengeance. "So she has to take these drugs or be like she is right now?"

"No, the actual drugs would make her worse. But, using the ingredients of the drugs themselves, we’ve managed to cobble together a suppressant for the symptoms. Being a true addiction, there is no cure. And the suppressant agents can only be obtained at the Klingon border itself, by dealing with some of the lowlifes that trade over that way."

Peter felt himself sinking into another person’s private hell. Well, I wanted to know. "But the Klingon border was sealed immediately after Praxis exploded. So where has Miguel gone? Even for his mother, I can’t believe he’d risk going to Qo’noS."

"He would if there was any hope of success. But there is none. Instead, Miguel has gone to barter with a black marketeer who is known to deal in Klingon aphrodisiacs. We hope he’ll be back before too long."

Peter looked back at Teresa’s bedroom. "The Princess doesn’t have much time. She’s already fit to shake apart. Let me see a blood work-up and such. I’m not a doctor, but I do know neurological disorders, particularly those that override voluntary systems."

Calita squeezed his hand, gently. "Peter, I love you. But you’re not going to find a cure. We’ve tried everything."

He tried and failed not to glare at her for that. "I haven’t been Ensign Eager since I first graduated, Calita. I’m not looking for a cure."

"What, then?"

He thought back to a vicious but creative saboteur aboard the Enterprise-A, a mere six years ago. "Dirty tricks."


With Teresa still sedated for the first cresting of her addiction, Peter spent the next three hours in McCoy’s private lab, making his study, despite Calita’s objections. On a magnified scan, he found something he thought noteworthy. "Calita, what’s this?"

She sighed a sweet, but condescending sigh as she walked over. "That, my heart, is a Klingon rhinovirus, quite harmless to either Kh’myr or Human, capable of harming only Segh vav by way of giving them the sniffles. It shows up in Teresa’s blood when she’s like this. Then it quite happily goes away."

He inverted the scan and increased the luminescence of this particular virus. A purplish tinge appeared inside the blue. "Not the virus itself. I’m asking about that creche hiding inside of it. That’s not natural. It looks engineered."

Absolutely hating this moment, Iberez was seemingly caught between slapping or kissing her fiancé. "Peter, take a nap. I need you to be rested...to care for Teresa. Please? Let me find out what this thing does. How did you know it was there?"

Peter frowned. "Once upon a time...that’s where I would have put something like that."


He took his nap, and found that his dream version of Deneva now included a sexy, ultra-cool older sister who teased him unmercifully and loved him dearly. So long as she was happy, he was happy. But then an image of the pool invaded—just as Sam and Aurelan walked in on them. Needless to say, he woke up then, mumbling.

Three hours had passed. Going to his lady-love, Peter found her shaking her head.

"You called it, my love. The virus was a facade for something fairly nasty."

"How nasty is nasty?"

She pointed to the readout, and then a hard copy. "It was a manufacturing creche. Not very efficient, but then, it didn’t have to be, for what it was making. Brace yourself. It was manufacturing, in trace amounts, a chemical compound designed to heighten the effects of the original aphrodisiacal drugs that they gave her as well as manufacturing the aphrodisiacs themselves."

Peter thought he knew dirty tricks, as both perpetrator and victim. He was, in a word, wrong as the readings proved. "What could they have hoped to accomplish? A prisoner with a severe addiction is already helpless. Increasing the effectiveness seems redundant!"

Calita nodded in grim agreement. "Si. But there are levels of helplessness. You asked what trace amounts of this garbage can do? It can unbalance a person who’s on the road to recovery from these drugs. They activate when the level of the aphrodisiac in her blood falls below a certain level. This is why we cannot cure the Princess!"

Peter sat down, and ceased his own struggle to fully understand a condition technically outside his own area of expertise. His long, multi-discipline thesis gave him a passing familiarity with almost everything. It did not make him a master of anything except perhaps exobiology. "I don’t understand..."

Her smile made him wonder why he hadn’t proposed to her at first sight. She answered, "Good to hear you admit it. See, for years, we’ve been at a loss as to why Teresa’s addiction arced the way it did. The nature of the drugs made them a hundred times more addictive than say Tellarite flame snuff. But we could never account for why she needed the suppressant every day. It should have been strong enough for just once every week. Maybe twice. This creche was the missing link."

Peter now understood better. "How does that help? It doesn’t end the addiction. It proves it’s unstoppable!"

She took his hand. She somehow knew that his words about just wanting to help masked his true efforts.

"No. But it gives her a few more two days in this crisis she didn’t otherwise have. For the future, it will reduce or eliminate our need to go outside for the suppressant’s materials. Now that we can draw out these crèches, we can excite them to provide the raw materials. It also means her metabolic swings won’t have the same edge."

Peter took this in. "All I bought her was a higher circle of hell."

She looked at him with pity. "Some people would be happy with that. I know Teresa will. In her life, a higher circle is a flat miracle, Peter."

He tried to draw strength from the hope he had unwittingly shown her. But a hard question wouldn’t go away. "It’ll take you days to replicate from the creche, or for Miguel to get her medicine from the black market. Teresa is dying, here and now."

Calita visibly looked down, and said words she had been obviously dreading. "Only you can save her now, Peter. You are the only hope Teresa has to live more than the next few days."

"How? I’ll do almost anything."

She shook her pretty head, looking very sad. "You already promised Miguel you’d do literally anything."

Peter breathed in, anxious and now perhaps a little angry. "Why, Calita? Haven’t I proven my love for this family since the moment I got here?" Now, he found himself weakened by it all—and definitely very angry. "Or is playing with the naive Iowa hick simply proper sport here on Serenidad?"

That he stopped her slapping hand would have been no surprise. That he did so with two fingers on her lower forearm was. His glare was reminiscent of Miguel’s. "I love you very, very dearly. But people who have lied and set other people up don’t get to slap. They don’t get to hit, or kick. They barely get an apology for my current attitude."

Her arm was neither damaged nor sore. But she did get up and walk away from him, turning around only at a remove.

"You think that we didn’t want to let you in on it all? Simply ask you up front? You’re too damned moral, Peter. Even at the lowest moment of your life, you placed someone else’s life above your own. We couldn’t be sure how you’d react to a request—like the one I have to make now."

He closed his eyes. He did not want to hate her. She felt like his home, found after so many years.


She went back to him, and tried to find the words. "Before I say that, know a few things. She cannot be sedated through this. No device can help her. And no one else exists here and now who can be trusted to do what he must, keep his silence, and not think any more of it, when all was done."

He was silent, but did not nod. "Peter, she needs you to be with her. As a lover. Sex—constant, and deep—is the only thing that can keep her alive. The only other choice was the young man we sent off to fetch things on the black market. Psychologically, he wouldn’t survive."

Nor would Peter want him to have to endure it. How odd to finally hate Klingons, he thought, just as he gained a friend, and a sort-of protege, who was undeniably Klingon. "I will do it. On several levels, I have no choice. But I have questions."

She nodded, his tone saying quite well that it all had better come out, this time. "I never wanted to be at this moment. But ask."

He tried to be more sympathetic, but it was hard. Tricks, even ones played for a good reason, never sat well with him. "Why isn’t the royal physician even a tangential part of any of this?"

He was not questioning her competence. Nor was he letting her off easily. "The royal physician by law must report on Teresa’s health to the Council, every January. He is her father’s friend. So what he doesn’t see, he can’t report on."

"Why were the boys sent away?"

Her answer was not quite what he expected or feared. "Being sexually immature, they almost wouldn’t interest her. But she wouldn’t care how they saw her. She almost wouldn’t know them, as things progressed. At the last, she might even become a threat to them."

His final question was the most telling. "I don’t want her. I want you. To have and to hold. Forever. So can what we two have survive my sleeping with a woman we both regard as a kind of sister?"

"Could you fail to do this if she were your sister by blood, and a few days’ awkwardness could keep her alive?"

He turned and looked at her. "This isn’t awkwardness. This is Teresa and me screwing like rabbits to hear you tell it. Now, will you be able to look past all that?"

Her eyes teared up, just a bit. "I don’t know. Will you?"

Peter knew his words would fail the test. So he spoke only truth. "It’s the one of the few lines I’ve never willingly crossed. Adultery. You were my first real lover since a fellow prisoner at Tantalus. She didn’t tell me she was an undercover reporter. Or that she was married, with a family."

Calita held him, tightly. "She betrayed you. I never will. I lied only for Teresa."

He kissed her. "I know."

Despite her schedule and his upcoming duties, so to speak, Peter undid Calita’s blouse, and kissed her chest before pulling away her bra, suckling each of her smallish but pert breasts in turn. Cooing, she undid his trousers and grasped at his crotch, rubbing like a madwoman. Her own pants and panties were next, and Peter entered her standing up. Her legs arched around his back, and they began in earnest. When all was done, they took separate showers at Calita’s insistence.

"We need to save you for her. And I wish I were joking when I said that. Keep her alive, Peter. She is the center of so much love. A love I know you feel for her, too."

When his shower was done, she was gone. Locking the house down, he even activated the shield that Connor had set up between the first and second residences. The windows were reinforced by a hi-grade transparent aluminum. The air was now being recycled, as it could do safely for up to a month. Sophisticated filters would play hell with any media attempts to gain the slightest scrap of information. Peter then took a nap he knew would not be enough, if his dear friend had truly become sexually rapacious.

August 8th 2293

Peter was by Teresa’s side as she awoke. She was herself, for however long that lasted.

Teresa looked up at him. "She told you."

He nodded. "Yes. I’m here for you, Teresa. I’ll do whatever I can, whatever I have to."

She seemed to know whereof he spoke. "Khalian is dead. But he keeps on hurting me, Peter. Keeps taking from me, laughing while he does. You and I, we had something precious, better than sex. Now that’s ruined, too."

He sat next to her, and took her hand. "Like hell. The parasites, Calita’s headmaster, Khalian. They all die after they sting us. Like the insects they are. If I have to violate my moral code to defeat Khalian’s legacy, and risk the nature of what you and I and Calita have, then that is what I will do. Sex can’t make me love you any more, Teresa. Or any less."

She smiled, and made a choice. "Be with me now, Peter. Let this first time at least, be my choice, and not the drugs. Let me know your touch—before I lose all touch."

Removing his robe, he slowly climbed in with her, nerves on fire. She was shaking, too. Both had not wanted this thing, however much harsh necessity demanded it. "I do love you. Not like I love Leonard, but I do."

"I have a beautiful woman, who loves us both. I am crazy in love with her. But I am haunted by a face and a form and a spirit of a true princess. I love you too, Teresita."

Her request to start before she was overwhelmed made sense from a victim’s standpoint, he knew. Control was important when it had been robbed from you. But he wished that she had waited until the wanton showed up again. Peter had wanted to be able to say to himself there had been no choice. But mutual friendship plus mutual attraction had caused them to make use of an opportunity neither had wanted.

As Peter and Teresa began to make love, there were signs that it all felt as good as they had both hoped and feared. Peter’s nerves overrode him, and the first time was over almost before it began.

Before he could speak, Teresa covered his mouth. "Don’t you dare apologize for not being some kind of super-stud. You’ll get better." She then added weakly, "In that, you’ll have no more choice than I do."

He squeezed her hand. She was fading fast, and his next time might not be with the Teresa he knew. "I want to make you happy."

She smiled, and it was still her smiling, if only for now. "You have. Just finding out there was someone else like me did that. You’ve stood by me, Peter. Do you know where I’d be right now, if not for you? Seeking a damned brothel. Uncaring. Shameless. A true slut, rutting away like there was no tomorrow. You’re being here guards not only my life, but my dignity. So are you ready?"

The sudden question was anxious, and bespoke her need, arching greater with every passing hour. Peter nodded, and Teresa mounted him on top, this time.

"You’ll last a little longer, this way. Just pace yourself. You’ll know when I need more. And you’ll be ready."

His hands darted up, and took in her gorgeous breasts as they moved together. A quick kiss, a quick suckle, and the beginnings of a couple’s rhythm all helped Peter to bypass fear, guilt, and even pure, nervous animal lust, to an extent. For he had wanted Teresa, and although to a lesser extent he was certain, she wanted him, since they had met. Now, the lines were erased, albeit for the very worst of reasons. He could have fun while performing a very necessary duty. At least for now.

As Teresa’s need was fed, Peter felt her relax. Perhaps this was natural. But he hoped that part of that calm came from knowing that the person she was with would never hurt her, who in fact loved her. So his own calm increased, but on occasion certain things would still throw him. As their second time neared its climax, he briefly saw her vagina bulge from the inside out, and realized with an odd pride that it was part of himself doing that. As she bent back in approaching ecstasy, he arched his back up while keeping inside of her. Their crotches now met with a kind of fusion, and the yelps of pleasure that followed were not faked, that he could tell. She actually began to fall asleep after this, however briefly her illness would allow such rest. Teresa looked at him, grinned wearily, and faded out.

"Told you you’d get better..."

While he doubted she was physically exhausted already, Peter speculated that this progression could and would exacerbate mental fatigue. Choosing to take what rest he could, when he awoke only a few minutes later, his Teresa was gone. Whether the wantonness had arrived was debatable. She was underneath the blankets, face over his crotch, engaging in what he now took to be her favorite position. While firm, he didn’t come just then, so she gave up and got out from under the covers.

"Very nice! Where’d they dig you up from?"

He stared at her dumbly, not realizing yet what had occurred. Teresa shook her head, and shrugged. "Hellloooo!! Who—are—you?"

He gulped. "I’m...Peter Kirk."

She scratched her head. "Jim’s nephew? Yeah, I can see it. Wow! Is this what he looked like, at your age? Yum!"

Peter felt very damned odd introducing himself to someone he knew so well, who only a month before, he hadn’t known at all, and who now no longer knew him.

"Listen, Teresa..."

She lightly brushed him off. "I know, I know. I’ve been here before, Peter. Not as often as the media says, but its happened. How drunk were we?"

He lied with grains of truth. "Well, last I remember, we stole each other’s bathing suits, then I get kind of fuzzy."

She laughed out loud. "Heh! I knew I’d seen your other face before. Did I do you right in the pool?"

He half-lied again. "I think that you were as surprised as me."

She then looked about. "Where’s my son, Miguel?"

I’m getting a little too good at this, he decided. "With Connor Randolph, training."

She asked another one. "Where’s your uncle? Is...Doctor McCoy with him?" Her face flushed at the mere mention of her husband’s name, memory problem or no.

"They were...called away. Umm, some kind of action..."

She snapped her fingers. "The Kelvans! Boy, would I like to see them punished. Do you know what they did to this one girl?"

Peter didn’t lie, this time. "I’ve seen her fate in my nightmares since I was eleven."

She cupped his cheek and kissed him. "That’s very attractive. Many men couldn’t admit that. Jim told me all about you. You don’t blame him for what happened to you at Starfleet Academy, do you?"

"No. Those people were jerks and fools, and if I hadn’t been a Kirk, they’d have targeted me for something else. It was who they were, and what they did, and really, all they knew."

His stomach was starting to drop out, as the surreality crept ever onward. It also lurched forward. "Yeah, well what about that one psycho cadet who stabbed you, when she thought you were having an affair with Spock?"

Peter would later be given a clarification by Spock himself. In two years time, he would even meet the young Vulcan woman who was the real stabbing victim.

But for now, Peter Kirk just muttered along. "Well, she was...arrested. And Spock and I, we never...we never."

She chuckled. "The Lady T’Liba will be glad to hear about that."

She clambered on top of him once again. "But I think I need some proof."

Confused but more than somewhat enjoying himself, Peter reversed their positions, almost literally nailing her to the bed. He kissed her, and smiled down upon her. Jerking his torso hard, he then began to pump. "Oh, so you want proof?"

She giggled a bit, and to his shock, Peter found that he was casually moving as hard on her as he had when Calita and he had ceased their first session. It was no longer winding him. Was it adrenaline? Or was he discovering new sexual limits? My God, what if all the myths about the family prowess aren’t myths?

By the time of their third session since her partial amnesia kicked in, Peter was the one under the blankets, only capable of seeing Teresa’s pretty eyes grow ever wider as he tugged, licked, pulled and caressed her most tender spot. "Don’t you stay there all day, Peter! I want my turnnnnnnwwwwoooaa!!"

Her turn was long, and Peter felt his own memories fade, so lost was he in this impossibly vivacious woman. After another face-to-face session, she again succumbed, however briefly, to mental fatigue, saying words not far from his own mind. "Y’know, there are other positions."

As he got up, he considered many of those other positions. Downing almost a gallon of cold water and three good-sized protein wafers, Peter decided that now was the time to indulge such fantasies. His reserves, so to speak, were still abundant, and indulging them when he was at his weakest would drain him just when Teresa needed him to keep going the most. Entering the bathroom to relieve himself, he sensed no soreness as yet, but only two arms that grasped around him from behind, grabbing his member as he finished up.

She laughed. "I’ve always wanted to do that. But my Sweet Carlos thought it was disgusting. So tell me..."

Peter felt the bottom drop out once again.

"...where did they dig you up?"

With a borrowed set of bedroom eyes, Kirk turned and looked at her. "Does it matter?"

She held up her thumb well opposite her extended forefinger. "Hell, no!"

Picking her up, he placed her on the bed, smiled, and pushed her breasts apart. Standing above her, he placed himself in the large valley between her fulsome mounds, and moved like a wild man. When he was about to finish, her mouth darted up and took him in suddenly.

After she finished, Teresa looked at whoever she now thought Peter was. "It’s the hair. That stuff is impossible to get out."

She still smiled, though, as he turned her on her stomach, and raised her up to all fours. As he took her ass, he thought very briefly of his beautiful, beloved Calita, and shocked himself by almost wishing she were there with them. Giving in to this amazing fantasy, he lasted even longer than he had with the woman he wanted sorely to make his wife.

As he lay briefly recharging, as it were, she gained a contrary position over his crotch, and they sucked long and mutually. Finally, pushing her legs back, he gained rear entry while molding her breasts into one, two sets of powerful, well-built legs pushing people once paralyzed in various ways to heights people who spent their lives uninjured could never have dreamed possible. They had known immobility; they now knew almost savage, animalistic motion. Species that thought Human sex uninspired would have had their notions well challenged, just then. For the two had briefly achieved a perfect, almost zen-like, ultimate sexual rhythm.

Peter slept almost four hours, when this was done. The Teresa he awoke to was not the one he’d been as one with. "You just gonna lie there all day? Where’d the fuck they dig you up from, anyway?"

Shrugging, the weary-looking, bedraggled woman got into bed, and grabbed his package til he was hard. "Good, you still got some left. What’d you do, run a friggin’ marathon?"

His efforts were still strong, but he knew that they were also becoming more and more mechanical. Worse still, Peter knew that she knew. As before, the fantasies were indulged, and the motions made. But by turns she was harder to satisfy, and said so in no uncertain terms.

"What’s this, your first time? Put your spine into it, if you have one! Or is it some other bone you lack?"

He forced his motion into high gear at the expense of his enthusiasm. The price would only go higher. It took only two more blackouts to produce a creature that seemed to resemble Teresa like Khan resembled Jim. "Where the hell did they dig you up, anyway? What am I paying you for?"

His hands were feeling stiff, and almost palsied, from the rubs he gave her crotch, to give his crotch a needed break. His crotch was red, throbbing, and very, very sore. His eyes had trouble focusing. Even the taste of her was growing sour to his dry, caked mouth. Once the object of his fantasies, Peter now felt himself repulsed by the sight of what Teresa had become. "You didn’t pay me." She hadn’t been eating at all, and her water intake had been laughable. Her frame and face were showing the change. Had Khalian actually wanted her like this? Maybe not all Kh’myr deserved his enmity. But Peter thought Khalian now deserved extra time in what Miguel called Gre'thor, purely for bad taste. She looked like any other drug addict...and that, he now fully realized, was exactly what she was.

"It’s a good thing I’m not paying you. Well, drop dead. I’m going downtown, and find some men with endowments who know how to make it happen. In other words, get out, little boy!"

He thought about Davie and Jimmy, someday finding out from a shamed Miguel how their mother was found dead in a brothel. He remembered finding out about Aurelan and Sam, and the look on poor Christine’s face as she told him.

Peter Kirk sneered, and found his resolve. "Like hell. There are no brothels open. They’re all boarded up, in fear of war."

The wanton shrugged. "So? I’ll find a work crew. Someone, somewhere. I’ve got an itch. That’s all that matters."

Peter got up, grabbed her arm, and turned it behind her.


"Listen up. You disgust me. You are a sick parody of someone I love enough to die for."

"You’re hurting me!"

"Shut up! You want it hard? I’ve got all you need, right here. But you are not leaving here. Because God help me, I have to rut with you to get my friend back. That means, as pathetically unattractive as I find you..."

"What? You’re crazy! Men and women want to lick up my..."

"I said shut up! I’m not letting The Old Bastard win, Teresa. I don’t care if the whole universe wants you dead. I don’t care if those toys come to life and attack us! I am keeping you alive in the only way I know how."

He pushed her face-first onto the bed, expecting protests or cries. He got neither.

"That’s it baby; now you’re cooking! Take me up the ass...go all the way in one shot!"

Her pleas to go harder only made him want his Teresa back even more. Even if they would never be together that way again, he never wanted to see the slut he was banging ever again. Certain he was going too hard, he heard only moans of pleasure. But he was nearing his limit, he knew.

So he thought of the boys...all three of them. He thought of his parents, and of Jim. He thought of two brothers, dead for all intents and purposes, one a monster, one an overfed preening fool. He thought of Leonard McCoy, and even used the thought of his walking in on them as a sick stimulus. He thought of every prankster at school, and imagined that he was slamming the prettier female ones, disguised as their boyfriends. He thought of the first older women he had crushes on. It hadn’t been his fault, he reasoned. Those damned miniskirts did things to a young man’s libido. He thought of the grandmother who raised him, and of the grandfather he never knew, and even imagined them together, just to keep himself awake. He thought of poor Lori Ciani, standing naked in Jim’s doorway, dumbly realizing the wrong Kirk was at the door. He found it hard to harder to hate her, after that. He thought of Laurel McCutcheon and Jaion Merz, planning their wedding somewhere, and wished he’d been with Laurel just once. Not that she would ever want to bed her kidnapper. Finally, he tried to think of Calita Iberez before the white light of oblivion took him. Peter Claudius Kirk had kept it going, and given Teresa’s body what it needed, straight through until he dropped.

But as he went out like a light, he heard a hypospray hiss, and then felt one. A lovely voice spoke now. "Peter, it’s Calita. We made it. I just gave Teresa the proxodone and another sedative."

"Hoooww loooong?"

"Five days."

"Help me to my room."

She shook her head. "No. Lay with her. If she wakes up, she’ll panic if she’s alone. Her blood vessels are still badly weakened."

He tried to open his eyes, and failed. "How can you...stand to see us like this?"

She squeezed his shoulder. "Because I know my future husband just saved the life of my hero and best friend. Because of you, Davie, Jimmy, and Miguel still have a mother. Because of you, Leonard has a wife...a wife he is coming home to, even as we speak. You think I could do anything besides love you for that?"

He made out one word before truly falling unconscious. "Jim?"

"He’s coming back to you, Peter. Your uncle is coming back."


In his dreams, a seven-year old sat in a big chair with buttons all over it, wearing a yellow tunic, while his hero beamed. At that moment, past and present, all other pains were wholly forgotten. Because Captain James Kirk was there, to make certain his nephew was above all else, happy.

August 14th 2293

As he snuggled against her, Peter decided that he could spend the rest of his life this way. He then felt absolutely rotten for thinking this, and tried to finally get out of bed—Teresa’s bed. Teresa and Leonard’s bed. But perhaps she was not done with him, just yet.

"Don’t go. I like having you next to me. Peter, please. What does it matter now? We’re not going to make love again."

Programming the shower for lukewarm water and mild sonics, Peter Kirk began to gently wash a certain sore, overused part of his anatomy.

"You got that right. Back at the Academy, guys would brag that they did it again and again, until it felt like it was going to fall off. Guys exaggerate—but I now know for a fact these guys were out-and-out lying...Teresa?!"

She read the panic in his voice eerily well. "Is it a lot of blood, or just a little blood?"

He felt ashamed. "Just a little. It stopped."

"It usually does, Hermanito."

Drying himself and throwing on his robe, he came out and looked at her. "Don’t call me Hermanito, after this. Little brothers don’t do what I did."

She threw on her own robe, looking a little annoyed. "Stupid, little boy, stuck in some old school moralism."

He clapped, and he was wholly insincere as he did so. "Congratulations, Princess. Like every lady cheater in the history of arguments, you just fell back on the ‘little boy’ defense. What’s next? Telling Miguel that he didn’t come with instructions?"

Teresa pointed. "What the hell is your problem?"

Peter raised an open, shaking hand. "My problem is you. My privates ache from exertion—but I still want you. Oh, God. Suppose I can’t get you off my mind?"

She shrugged. "Suppose I can’t get you off my mind, que? Peter, the memories begin to return pretty quickly, once I have my medicine. I know the touch of you, the taste of you. I saw you keep going, solely because I needed you. How am I supposed to shake that off?"

He grinned, despite the tension. "Not solely because you needed me. I—I was really enjoying myself there, for a while."

She took his hand, and squeezed it, trying to ratchet things between them back down, and quickly. The news Calita had delivered was true. Despite a media blackout over Khitomer, the Enterprise and its crew had saved the galaxy one more time. Doubtless, this meant the quick return of both Captain Kirk and more importantly, Teresa’s husband.

"It was sex, Peter. Sex between two mutually attracted people that care very deeply about one another. Maybe even like siblings. In short, Hermanito, you’re supposed to enjoy it!"

Peter sat down, nodding. "I know. But I may have just lucked into the woman of my dreams. I want to think of her. And her alone. That’s the way I’ve always heard it should be, and that’s the way I want it to be."

She sat down beside him. "What if?"

He turned. "What...if?"

"Si. What if...that encounter between us was transtemporally relocated? Instead of thirty-three and thirty-eight, we had our little marathon when I was twenty-three, and you were just eighteen. There. It’s in the past. No betrayals. No guilt. You visited here with your uncle, and things happened between us. I wasn’t married, you weren’t head-over-heels engaged, and Miguel was in the second residence watching Gozollo vids. If anyone asks, if we admit anything, it’s to something that was over fifteen years ago."

Peter fell back on the bed, staring up. "You would have been dealing with an ‘early-arriver’ with a permanent chip on his shoulder, and no sense of humor."

She fell back with him, touching nothing, and removing nothing, save the veil of time. "You would have been dealing with someone who used to get frigid from post-traumatic flashbacks, who liked to hit for no reason, and who had fun wholly humiliating people."

He looked over at her, starting to get a sense of how things would stand between them, for the rest of their lives. "Guess that’s why it didn’t work out between us, huh?"

"Yeah. Peter Kirk is just the one that got away."

He looked stunned, and she just kept smiling a smile he wanted to smother with some part of his body or other.

"Hey! I’m allowed to have a man that got away. It’s the only thing I don’t have, and now you’re it, handsome."

He got up, seeking and needing at least physical distance from her. "If Calita and your husband ever get seriously stupid at the same time and walk away, would you mar—"

She covered his mouth, first with her own, then with her hand. "I’m gonna hold you to that, Kirk."

Not that either one expected such stupidity to emerge, especially on McCoy’s part.


In Doctor McCoy’s small office in the residence, Peter found a lifesaver. It was a salve meant for very private, very sensitive regions of the body. Though it still stung like the devil when applied, its effects were quick enough that he could resume some very needed exercise. By keeping a bottle of water just outside the fields, Peter was even able to survive an hour on "Vulcan’s Forge at noon" in the gym’s simulator. The release of nervous energy partly helped him to adjust to the fact that the fantasy and the nightmare were both over.

It was only when he emerged that he realized he hadn’t heard a single peep out of the good-naturedly intrusive Teresa. Downing the water and then some, he went for the gym’s small weapons’ locker. Nothing was in it. It had not been broken into. Grabbing the lighter batlh’etlh and a phaser Connor had stashed underneath the water dispenser, Peter hurriedly charged out, his gymsuit helped only by his uniform boots, brought along to be sent for polishing when the servants returned. If they returned.

The door to the second residence had not been breached, thankfully. But it gave Peter no peace to see this. That would come when he saw that Teresa was safe. She was not.

A crass, dry voice carried forth, indicating that English was not the speaker’s native tongue. "I can hear you, Human. I have her. Do you understand that your life is over? Come out and face me, and she shall remain intact for now."

A muffled curse told Peter that Teresa was indeed a prisoner. Though many species had deep voices, it also wasn’t hard to guess who was holding her. He knew that he would have to show no fear, if he was to have any chance at the Klingon. But maybe, just maybe, he had an asset in the fact that Kh’myr also knew fear—of certain people.

He walked to the doorway of Teresa’s room. Their room, for those blessed and horrid five days. The Klingon held Teresa at the point of a dagger, and held a blaster in his other hand. He had that grin that was very nearly a Kh’myr trademark. Peter faced the floor as he walked in. That the Klingon wanted to taunt him, and didn’t kill him instantly, was a mistake Peter meant to see that he would not live to regret.

"There. Not so difficult a thing, to concede your weakness, now is it? Face me. I like to see the eyes of my foes as they fall."

Teresa was still struggling, bless her, and that gave Peter Kirk great hope.

Using his own genetic trademark, he glared as he lifted his face to look straight at the intruder. "How’s this, Mister?"

When one demonizes an enemy, one inspires both hatred and fear of that demon leader. So it was that if humans thought that Peter now greatly resembled his father’s brother, to the Klingons who shouted shibboleths and shot at and pissed on his picture, the resemblance was wholly unnerving. The Kh’myr didn’t gulp. But it seemed like his eyes did.


Peter played it to the hilt. "I am the son of his brother. Now, I can run and maybe get away from you, or I can offer my life for that of Princess Teresa. You will have killed Kirk’s nephew. Only certain Klingons give a damn about Teresa. But all true Klingons hate my uncle. Choose, warrior."

But the Kh’myr merely pulled the Princess closer. "Choose? I may easily have both of you! Now be still as I fell you, or she loses an eye!"

Peter raised his weapon.

The Klingon laughed. "What will you do? Shoot my hostage?"

As the Kh’myr watched in stunned silence, Peter shot Teresa in the stomach. His phaser was on stun. But Teresa’s sudden jerk caused her to fall out of the invader’s grasp, and to the floor. Firing twice more, this time at the Klingon, Peter forced him back. With no time to reset the older weapon he wielded, Kirk opened both his palms, slamming the Klingon’s nose cartilage.

Allowing for his opponent’s massive strength and endurance, Peter moved his hands like an ancient gattling gun, striking the warrior tens of times within a minute, all blows aimed at the already-damaged nose. As the Kh’myr seemed to fall, Peter grasped his neck from behind, and worked very hard until it snapped. The centers of his palms were bleeding, and his biceps ached from trying to snap a neck that seemed more like a bulkhead. But Peter still had a job to do.

Grasping up his unconscious friend, Peter fought to ignore the ache just touching her produced. Near the passage to the large dining area, Peter hit a switch, well hidden from view. In a trick taken from Eminiar VII, a booth appeared. But it was not a disintegration booth, rather it was a transporter. It was hard-wired to a secured booth in Connor Randolph’s Security Headquarters, so the signal would not be traceable.


He beamed her out, regretting none of the choices he had made since Dianas, and not regretting the choice he was about to make. "Tell Leonard McCoy he’s a lucky man!"

She seemed to reach for him as she faded out. He should have given a message to Jim or Calita, too, he thought, but in getting Teresa out, he had fulfilled half his duty.

"Signal confirmed. God Bless and keep you, Connor. I’ll tell Sam and Aurelan about you."

Raising his weapon at the formerly hidden pop-up console, Peter Kirk fired twice, then once at the booth itself, fulfilling the other half of his duty. The Klingons would not follow Teresa into the tight spaces of Connor’s secure location, merrily grabbing and killing the boys as they went.

"Someone has slain Kagitev! Find them and the be’sIJ!"

Peter saw that his weapon’s charge had been used up, and getting to the main armory, if it hadn’t been emptied already, was an iffy proposition at best. In a glass case, he saw a bare possibility.

"To Leonard and Teresa—from Hikaru."

Checking his find, Peter hid it just as one of the Klingons found him. Were these people so in love with their power that simply blasting me never came to mind? "Ohhh—the little Human has a batlh’etlh. Put away your toy, child, and tell me where the wretched be’sIJ is hidden. Do so, and your end will be quick."

Sneering, Peter raised his own batlh’etlh. "Fuck off and die, Kh’myr!"

The warrior charged him, expecting an easy win. But even though this attacker had twice Miguel’s strength and speed, he had none of his style. Also, the prince had never held back on Peter, nor Peter on him. This angry fool, it became obvious, was coasting on unearned prowess. Some motions, Kirk expertly blocked. Some, he barely blocked. But though he gained no advantage, he did not lose any ground to the Klingon now seemingly obsessed with defeating him solely by honor-sword.

"Fall, you damned insect! Why don’t you fall?"

In the same jump-motion that Miguel had adapted to so well, Peter at last knocked the Kh’myr’s weapon well away. Slicing the attacker thrice across the torso, Kirk watched him fall to his knees, looking more stunned than wounded.

"You do not understand, Human! I am Kh’myr! I am the embodiment of power!"

In a hard arc, Peter took off his head. "Tell me. How powerful do you feel now?"

Having not found the absent Teresa, another Kh’myr moved in, but this one was for real, twirling his batlh’etlh like a true master.

"Kbrol and Kagitev were weak fools. Match your skills against Kazrf, Human!"

Peter pulled Captain Sulu’s 38-Special pistol from behind his back and shot the Klingon with old-fashioned lead at nearly point-blank range.

"No, thanks. I have a cold."

For good measure, Peter stuck his batlh’etlh through the falling Kh’myr’s heart. But he felt no pride, nor did he feel the burning hate for the Klingons he had of late. These were traitors to their chancellors, both father and daughter. It was time not to blame a group of real people for the actions of those who chose to act like animals. But Peter also knew something even more sobering. He had gotten very lucky, three times over, with three very dangerous opponents. And he was not a lucky man.

"Okay, how are they getting in?"

There were few things that chilled Peter like a weak point. To this day, he could not look at an open ceiling air vent and not feel threatened. Without meaning to, he looked up—and he saw.

"The local forcefields are sparking. Sons of bitches!"

It was an old trick, dating back centuries. Hanging right above a forcefield matrix, then pumping a hideous amount of power into the transporters, chinks in the armor could be more easily exploited. Though Peter saw no ship, or pod, he felt certain it was there, probably backed up by some manner of local generated optical illusion.

"If I extend the shields, they might slip through as I went to maximum. If I pull them back, it’ll harden the shields, but increase the cycling time. Make their job easier, in slipping through."

Going to the shield controls, located near the front door, Peter Kirk found another way. He did extend the shields, but slowly. As he did this, he watched the sparking shields. They arced highest at three steps below maximum, and that’s where he left it.

"Fry, you bastards!"

The transport—which looked very much like any Serenidadian ship, likely taken from now-dead fleeing subjects—shimmered into view as it broke free, smoking badly as it did. Peter opened the front door, and saw it crash in the distance. A huge explosion threw Kirk down.

"A little transport caused that kind of explosion?"

Gaining his feet back, Peter saw that the forcefields were down. Had he given them what they wanted?

"The armory."

Locking the door, he began darting through the house, looking for agents of his probable death. Finally making it to the armory, he found it empty as well, emptied via transport.

"That’s the cause of the explosion, I hope."

Batlh’etlh in hand, he made a full sweep of both residences. Using local sensors, he also checked Calita’s residence. No signs of life or former life, and for this he thanked God. Locking and securing the front door, he looked about one last time. He smiled. "Guess the only thing I have to worry about is Teresa being angry at me for shooting her."

He also had another worry, but this was hard to focus on. He did find it odd that while he hadn’t gotten up all that long ago, he felt like hitting bed. "Ah, what am I worried about? Those three never laid a glove on me. I’m too fast!"

Peter could be forgiven for indulging in what some would call tempting fate. But fate would not be so forgiving. The reinforced front doors burst away in splinters, and Peter barely ducked in time. "My God."

What stepped through seemed like a racist’s stereotype of a Kh’myr Klingon. A giant, even by that species’ standards, he even had a tooth that looked more like a tusk. His ridges were even more pronounced than most, even though he did not look at all old. His hair ran half the length of his body. Some of it was burned, likely from the crash. His arms and legs were like the cedars of Lebanon. He made no taunts, merely grunts. There were patches of pale skin, perhaps indicating cryo-stasis. Did they keep him frozen until missions like this arose?

What Peter could not know was that this Kh’myr was bred from the same creche as the personal bodyguard of Lady Vetara of House Durit, Teresa’s sworn enemy and sponsor of the demonic Khalian. However, this one was overlarge, overstrong and mentally unstable, useful only as a last-ditch dose of acid in an enemy’s face.

What Peter Kirk could and did know was that he was in for the fight of his life.

Sizing up the situation, Peter Kirk decided he was pretty much dead, done for, a goner, and about to buy the farm. The Klingon was well over nine feet tall. Hell, the bastard was like a portable mountain. Grabbing up Peter’s fallen batlh’etlh, the well-oversized Kh’myr snapped it in two, with only the barest effort showing. His grunts alternated with small chuckles that Peter chose to translate as, "Oh, what I’m going to do to you!"

A direct translation seemed somewhat unnecessary. The front doors had been tough, but this—this thing—had been way tougher. Was this what the Klingons, Kh’myr and otherwise, were all about? Breeding creatures that made those ones in the holovids look kind and inviting? Peter began to sink into a helpless rage. It was that rage he had felt at Death when he first realized his parents were truly gone. It was that rage at an Orion madwoman who felt it desirable to chop away at everyone in her narrow view. It was that rage felt at instructors who hated Jim, and the cadet-jerks who took that as a cue. It was that rage he felt at himself, as he stared at the brig’s shield, and realized he was exactly where he deserved to be.

It was rage that he now set aside, kept in one very special place where he would let it go when the moment arose. In microseconds, he was ready, his lessons all a part of him. If the Klingon was going to wait and savor this supposedly inevitable victory, then Peter Claudius Kirk was going to do Chancellor Azetbur the great favor of removing this fool from her species’ gene pool.

This one is as a mountain. But mountains may fall before the flow of water. Every mountain does so, no matter its height. For what substance runs in mountain streams? The arrogant mountain has already been invaded by water, but drunk on its rocky power, it ignores this truth.

He was not invincible. Peter had only to draw out his vulnerabilities. The Kh’myr had a holstered d’k tagh, but no blaster. That left the field slightly more even, and Kirk was going to take what he could get.

The bold mountain presents its power, taunting the quiet, calm stream. But the stream is slowly wearing away its base. On occasion, rocks fall away, and the mountain is greatly shocked to notice this.

Peter began to warble like a bird, preparing in his own way to take flight. This seemed to confuse the Kh’myr at first, but he quickly resumed his chest-pounding invitation for Kirk to walk over and be crushed—perhaps literally, in this case.

"Heh. I don’t think so, pal. You come over to me. Tell me, Kh’myr: Is yours an inferior creche, or was it just having a bad day when it crapped you out onto the floor of a Kh’teb’s toilet drain?"

Until the Kh’myr began to charge him, Peter wasn’t sure he understood what the human was saying. Miguel had explained that many of the more unstable Kh’myr saw their birthing creche as sacred, since they had no parents. As his lessons seemed to indicate, Peter then struck at the base of the mountain. To be more precise, he did a leg split and struck at the one area no male bipedal mammalian type cared ever to be struck. Even though they, too, were protected and muscular, the Kh’myr cried out in audible agony.

"Yeah, I heard you Kh’myr had three balls!"

The joke was pointless in terms of strategy, but needed for Peter to keep from thinking about the near-impossibility of his task. Jumping up from the split quickly, Peter nailed him in the neck, right underneath his jaw. The jaw was not the proverbial glass one, and felt like it had perhaps been surgically reinforced. But if it had, this now cost the Kh’myr his overly large tusk/tooth, which snapped off, badly scraping the intruder’s left eye as it went up. Peter resisted two urges: one to quip, and one to ask the poor fool if he was all right. Obviously, neither was called for.

Water may spout so high and quick, it strikes the mountain near its very peak, and the mountain rages that it may even be touched. The mountain tries to grasp at the stream, but its arms are so heavy, and the water so quick, its rage merely builds.

In a normal fight, Peter would allow for the inevitability of being struck, and pace his speed accordingly, so as not to exhaust himself. But allowing any Kh’myr to land any blow was very unwise. Allowing it against this monster seemed a good way to die. This he learned quickly when his stomach was backhanded, sending him sprawling, and making him feel as though he’d never done a single sit-up in his life.

To his credit, the younger Kirk dodged almost every other blow, yet he could feel the burn occurring even more quickly than he thought it would. The Kh’myr’s hands slapped together, just missing Peter’s head and creating an ear-splitting noise as they went. When Peter touched his own ear, there was a little blood.

If the mountain declares that conflict is unavoidable, then water’s path is a clear one, as clear as water itself. The mountain must be struck on each of its faces, and where its stones and boulders meet. Loosening these lessens the mountain’s great stature immensely.

On a tear around the grasping, slamming sentient pile-driver, Peter struck at the joints of his arms, legs, elbows, calves, and carpal bones. He also struck at the Kh’myr’s spinal column, at the base of his neck, and slammed opened hands across the enemy’s ears. The Kh’myr liked none of this, and punched out, full force, with both fists. This was the closest Peter would come to trading blows with the giant. Catching the fists sent shockwaves through Kirk’s nervous system.

The mountain likes to think it may push the water back, but in truth, a determined child with a bucket stands a better chance. The mountain knows its great folly when it is sprayed with a steady stream, right unto its heaving chest.

The Kh’myr grinned as his fleet-footed enemy seemed to fall back under the assault. Whether he realized that his fists never connected with Peter quickly became moot. His hands underneath him, he then tried springing back up, making a savage bid to end this fight before he dropped dead from the pace. A tensed, opened palm pulled back, and struck at near where the Kh’myr’s heart would be. It was a killing art, and most senseis chose to treat it as the equivalent of bacteriological warfare inside a sealed bio-dome. Peter’s own sensei only showed it to him after Tanith Brok, and then made very clear he was never to use it unless there was no other choice. Her admonitions were not lost on a young man harassed for his name.

As water seeps through to its core, the mountain is undone at this time.

The Kh’myr began to fall back, grabbing at his chest, shaking in disbelief. Even if not done perfectly, Peter’s motion could cause severe blood vessel damage. But Kirk had done it just about right, and the Klingon’s armor only amplified and heightened these vibrations. The intruder’s heart was being turned to pulp from within. Peter now simply pushed him over, and turned to call Connor Randolph that the coast was clear.

As the pain in Peter’s left shoulder began to register, he felt even greater pain from his innate stupidity. He was a scientist, and an exobiologist. Studying non-UFP life forms was his forté.

"How—how could I forget!?"

But the mountain has many hearts, and is not destroyed all at once, even by an ocean, let alone a mere stream.

Kh’myr Klingons had redundancies in the makeup of their organs. The Kh’myr heart was eight-chambered. Peter’s blow could not have destroyed all of them at once. The Kh’myr called it tIqbaS. Peter called it a d’k tagh being merrily driven into his left arm by an enemy who should have been dead. He heard a click, and then saw the intruder holding the spiked handle of the dagger—and only the handle.

"Bastard released it into my arm!"

Still holding it and laughing, the Kh’myr almost didn’t see Peter’s good right arm and hand snatch the blade-handle away, like a pebble in his sensei’s hand. His left arm felt like it was finished. The blade was deep within it, cutting veins and capillaries to pieces. Peter was now certain that bone fragments were about to enter his bloodstream. The pain was bearable only by the standards of one whose entire nervous system had once been invaded and overloaded.

When the rain comes, the mountain is then assaulted by its own loose matter. By its own substance, it is grievously harmed.

An enraged Kirk first finished off the eye the tooth had scraped, and then the ear opposite that eye, using the blade-handle’s spiked edge. The Kh’myr lashed out, striking Peter’s forehead—with a single finger. Falling back, Peter felt like his head had been in a shark’s jaw. He was bleeding from a gash the finger made, and his joints felt like they were about to call all his markers past due.

The mountain is all too prideful, and if it approaches its end, it will take on the form and aspects of a great and horrid volcano. The water boils rapidly to steam under lava.

Peter had learned how to snuff candles with his hand from an appreciable distance. But the Kh’myr’s blows had such strength behind them, that even the air about him seemed to shake, often throwing Peter against the attacker’s fortress of a body. Merely tensing his muscles seemed enough for the Kh’myr to land more than a few telling blows.

"Candles? This guy could do forest fires."

Yet perhaps there was hope. The Kh’myr was now not moving as fast, or as sure, and this meant he could be injured, at least, and that those injuries had made him slightly less of a threat than before. But not by enough, Peter discovered, as his bad shoulder was grasped and squeezed, almost playfully.

"All that you have taken from me...!"

The Kh’myr wasn’t shouting. This volume was his normal tone of voice. Yet Peter made his voice heard, as well. His right leg arced up, landing on the Klingon’s left arm. This too was painful, and gaining purchase on the arm difficult. But Peter had found hope, and was loath to let it go.

The mountain comes down to the water but once, and then is no more. But water may come up to the mountain as it pleases.

Literally using the giant’s arm as a perch, Peter jumped, went overhead, and fell, kicking the Kh’myr’s nose straight into his face. He landed, and began to pull away. The nose was neither mashed nor destroyed, but it surely looked broken, and perhaps useless to breathe through.

"Time to run, Mister Kirk!"

Which he really should have tried in the first place, he thought. But his shoulder’s throbbing made a whole host of options seem more palatable. However, naming himself had been a mistake. The Kh’myr again grasped his bad arm, grunting one word.


The rage came back, and in a major way. Pain mixed with the insult of dying, not because of who he was, but because of his last name. He was through with taking shit for that. Pulling free, he jumped up yet again, using the Kh’myr’s grasping hands as a launch. The Kh’myr’s surging form seemed to be taking him towards the wall, and Peter decided he would not allow that.

When water strikes true, it strikes not as a spray or a mist, or even a splash. For in water is hate. For in water is love. Love strikes as a wave—and nothing will its power withstand.

The rage was all contained in one opened palm, aimed downward. Instead of the tired litany of sins and sinners, Peter felt only love. Love for Sam and Aurelan. Love for his absent brothers, back when they were worth it. Love for Uncle Jim, and for Grandma Marjorie. Love for six people who would now probably never know what they had meant to a lonely boy in Iowa who had to learn to walk. Love for his classmates who never taunted him. Love for the few Academy mates who had the guts to apologize. Love for the forgiveness and friendship of Laurel McCutcheon, so vital to his recovery from madness. Love for two little boys who thought he was a super-man. Love for a young man who actually wanted to learn from him—him! Love for a helluva beauty, and probably a best friend for life, who he had been privileged to touch. He tried and failed to see Calita in there, and this distressed him, but only for an un-moment. He thought once more of the great man who was his hero. He shouted his name with pride and ferocity.

The thickest walls hide the greatest treasures. Eventually, water breaks down even these barriers.

If Peter’s hand had been glowing as it struck the Kh’myr’s thick crest of forehead ridges, he would only have been a little surprised. The blow was true, and it was not blocked or ducked. Like a pile of durite tiles, or a house of bricks, the Kh’myr’s very head began to move in on itself. His screams were ear-splitting. The ridges didn’t simply collapse, as Peter had hoped. But inside, the Kh’myr’s skull had moved three inches closer to his primeval brain.

As the mountain crumbles, water acts yet again, this time to send the mountain’s corpse flying away, this time forever.

Using endurance he did not have, strength he could not summon, and heights he could not reach, Peter turned, and kicked the Klingon as he did. Slowly but surely, he was sending the giant back towards the remains of the front doors. A one-two kick tripped the wailing monster up near the front door’s bottom duramesh frame, where he was finally impaled. Peter stared at this sight, and nodded, adding in one last thing.

"Why didn’t I get the anti-grav gloves?"

He began to swoon, and at first he thought it was the pain from his shoulder. Then, Peter remembered what he’d been missing. He’d just had marathon sex with an addict, topped off by battling three Kh’myr and a giant. Not to mention the workout in the noonday Vulcan Forge.

"I’m...completely exhausted!"

But he didn’t dare fall or even lie down. The blade stuck in his shoulder hadn’t traveled—yet. But any sudden motion could do just that. He turned, and turned, getting ever nearer to potential doom. His eyes stung from the blood on his forehead. Both legs felt their worst since his childhood rehab. His ‘good’ arm was going numb. Absently, he began to wonder if David Marcus liked to play chess. His right thigh was bleeding, too, possibly stabbed by the Kh’myr who’d held Teresa while his neck was snapped.

"Oh, God, don’t let me fall down!"

But fall he did, and in the direction of his injured arm. An artery was sure to burst, if it hadn’t already.

The stream turns to the river, and the river to the sea, and the sea at last to the returning ocean. They joy to see one another, and in the sight of the ocean, the sea is safe.

"It’s all right, Peter. I’ve got you."

Through eyes that were rapidly closing, Peter saw a very welcome sight. The man who grasped him tenderly—was his hero.

"Uncle Jim! Teresa?"

"Safe. Because of you."

Connor Randolph and a full squad soon ran in, and all were stunned by the sight of the slain giant Kh’myr. As Calita and Doctor McCoy came in, Connor said the last words Peter heard before passing out.

"Peter, I swear, if I find out that you were holding back on me..."

His waiting all done, Peter Kirk fell into the arms of his uncle, Captain James T. Kirk, and slept the sleep of the just. He heard a cavalcade of familiar voices through a fog.

"Calita! Let me....too worked up."

"Leonard, I can....my fiancé, all right?"

"Fiancé? Peter...married?!"

"Jim, I suggest...do their work."


"Thiel, I just want....how he beat that..."

"Bozhe Moi....three of them besides..."

"Don’t let him die."

Teresa’s was the last voice he heard before total oblivion overtook him.


In his dreams, he sat, a boy again, and his mother put a plate of food before him. Sam smiled at his boy, and mussed his hair in a fatherly gesture of pride.

"It’s been so good having you here, Peter. But it’s time for you to go back."

Despite his growth and maturity, the boy inside the grown man cried. "No, please. It’s been too hard. I want to stay. Here with you. Forever."

Aurelan held him, and wiped his tears away. "Nope. You’ll get here. But not before you live a very, very long life."

"How long?"

Sam pointed him towards the door. "Let’s just say, that while you are one hundred percent Human, you’ll lead some people to wonder. Now, two things, okay, Peter?"

The boy got up from the table, and now walked as a man. "Yes, Dad?"

Sam nodded. "Tell your Uncle Jim thank you. He did the best he knew how in helping you grow up. Two—tell him, and I quote, ‘Sam paid Cynthia not to scream when you walked in.’ He’ll understand."

Peter felt them each take a hand. Aurelan looked at him. "My screams aside, I died happy knowing that my son was still alive. Remember that."

"I will, Mom."

As he left that small house, Peter encountered a man who looked more like Jim or Sam than Jim or Sam did.

"Lieutenant Kirk."

"Commander Kirk. Grandpa."

The tall man had hair as dark as Peter’s own, brushed back. Peter saw something fierce and resolute in his eyes. This was an explorer, and this was a warrior. This was his heroes’ hero.

"I understand, Commander."

In a void, he wandered out, hearing a deep voice.

August 17th 2293

"....And you shall be my Rock, and upon that Rock I shall build the world that is to come only when I am gone from it...."

Peter felt a haze, and prayed that what he was hearing had a really, really good explanation. It did.

He awoke, his arm and shoulder a bit sore. His crotch was mostly healed, that he could tell from its lack of painful sensation. Every single muscle in his body ached independent of any injury. A man sat in front of Peter’s bed, reading a well-worn Bible.

"...and ye shall a fisher of men, and ye will be called Peter...."


The chief engineer immediately ran over to the side of a man he had once flatly declared a wastrel with no hope of deliverance. He was smiling. "Oh, lad! I knew they could not kill ye. If I could not drive ye down, what’s a few puny Kh’myr? And—one rather largish Kh’myr. Ye’ve become a giant-slayer, Peter Kirk. And I am glad to know ye. Och, what am I doing? Let’s call your uncle!"

Peter faded out again, briefly. When he came to again, Jim was waiting.

"I was so afraid I’d lost you again. To the Kh’myr. To my pointless, stupid anger. You really came through, Peter. I’ve never been so proud of you. Never."

"Is sleeping beauty up and around?"

Doctor McCoy. Peter allowed himself to fall back asleep, unable to even conceive of what he might say to Teresa’s husband.

The next time he awoke, though, there was no avoiding it. Peter had felt hyposprays as he slept. Apparently, he was now well enough to be given more help in fully reviving. He felt wide awake.

"Hello, Doctor."

Jim and Spock were waiting in the back of the hospital room. Peter felt it coming.

"Peter, you and I have got to talk..."

This was it. It would surely be anything from a quiet admonition not to see Teresa again, to some form of career punishment, were that possible. He was her husband, and one of her prime doctors. There was no way he could not know what had gone on.

"...about a very tender subject that we will never, ever discuss. I mean it, Peter. Not a word. Because of you, she’s alive. That’s all that counts, and I love you for it. I am not a widower. My sons and stepson still have a mother. Serenidad, this crazy beautiful world, still has its princess. So we will not discuss the Kh’myr you rescued her from. We will not discuss any actions you undertook to accomplish this miracle. We won’t quip, or wink, or talk in code. You will never bring the subject up. Am I understood?"

Peter owed the man that much. Pure silence, and a secret that would be tightly kept forever. All bound up by a common love for an extraordinary woman.

"Yes, sir. You are understood. You are also a very lucky man."

McCoy smiled. "Hell, that’s no secret, son. It’s what I say every morning before I get up, and every night, just before I fall asleep. And don’t you get any stupid ideas about not coming around my home. That family of mine happens to love you. In fact, they’re waiting outside. Oh—and, just so you know, Calita is a very lucky woman. If I were you, I’d pick up my habit of remembering that on your end."

He can’t be for real, thought Peter. Except he was. Just an old country doctor, my ass.

"Already practicing it, sir. By the way, your wife calls me Hermanito. Think you could get me promoted to Hermano?"

McCoy pointed. "No way, Lieutenant. Last time I asked Sita to change a nickname, I slept on the couch for a whole week. No offense, Peter, but you’re just not worth that."

They both laughed, and in the background, Jim asked Spock a question. "What is it that they won’t discuss?"

Spock spoke, staring intently at the younger Kirk. "Peter saved the life of Princess Teresa."

Jim nodded. "From the Kh’myr. Especially that refugee from a demon class planet."

Spock turned, and looked at his oldest friend. "There was another threat to Teresa’s life. An omnipresent threat, that arose due to a lack of vital supplies. Peter addressed and negated this threat. This, coupled with turning back the Kh’myr, led to his severe, life-threatening exhaustion. It is all quite... commendable."

Jim puzzled for half a second, then just suddenly looked at Peter. It was the look that gave Peter a thrill beyond knowing. It was the look that told him he was a man in his hero’s eyes. Not because of sex, or who it had been with. But because of what Jim said next. "He did what he had to do."

Jim would still give Peter advice, and still correct him when he was wrong. But something had passed between uncle and nephew, and it was something good.

"Doctor, may I speak with Peter alone, prior to your family seeing him?"

Spock’s request was unusual for him, but hardly unheard of. McCoy smiled, and then Jim as well, and they left the two to speak.

"Peter, the Enterprise was betrayed by one I came to trust. I ask your forgiveness for the presumption on my part that nearly cost us all your uncle. I was guided to a goal by people whose agenda was precisely opposite my own, and I could not be dissuaded from the idea of my own correctness. Will you grant me peace in this matter?"

Peter shrugged. "As someone who nearly ended the life of someone else seeking a far less worthy goal than peace, Captain, logic dictates that I have no choice but to forgive you. Besides, I owe you several metric tons of personal debt, both on Jim’s and my own behalf. So yes, I forgive you."

Spock nodded, likely in appreciation. "How are your wounds?"

Peter felt his left shoulder, and winced. "Getting there. Who was my doctor?"

"Your...fiancée. This fact took the captain quite by surprise. His reaction was quite fascinating to take in."

Peter thought of his Calita, and felt a twinge that he instantly regretted. "Whoa! I think I’m still sore—er—uh..."

Spock spoke in simple understanding. "Such activities will leave one with certain tender pains. I suggest meditation. Concentrate on a clear, cold, running stream. Preferably one that does not also contain an unclad Doctor Iberez."

Peter opened his eyes. "She wasn’t there until you mentioned her."

Spock looked at the door. "I will ask Teresa to come in. Live long and prosper, Peter."

Spock seemed a trifle greener than normal, as he left.

"Hey, Hermanito. So—you always shoot the ones you love?"

She still looked gorgeous, as if she could help it. But Teresa de La Vega Morales Ruiz-Mendoza McCoy was out of his system. He still had an ache, but this one was from being with her, not from wanting her. The only thing he wanted from her was peace and long life—with her husband and children.

"Give me a break, Sita. When else was I going to get a real excuse to shoot you?"

She looked at him, a bit surprised. "Sita? When did that come up?"

He shrugged. "After all is said and done, ‘Teresa’ began to seem too formal. We may never speak of it, but we did kind of eschew formality."

Playful as ever, she slapped her own behind. "Gee, you think?"

Her look then turned very tender indeed. "There are seven knights of The Order of El Cid, here on Serenidad. An eighth now walks among them. He has the same last name as the first. He also happens to be one of my very best friends. Quite enthusiastic, too."

With those words, she made him blush, resuming treasured control over her ‘little brother’.

"I say again, Princess—if we’d been blood, I’d’ve been in Tantalus fifteen years early."

She looked at him, and made a declaration that he was forced to find suspect, but which he would always love her for. "I’m glad we didn’t meet back then. Because I can’t conceive of life with someone other than my Leonard. I usually start to get some memories back, after I get my medicine. You didn’t just keep me alive, Peter. You made me happy."

She then smiled that lovely smile, opened the hospital room door, gestured, and let the demons in. That they wore cherubic faces fooled Peter Kirk not at all.



Crossing over to his right side, Davie hugged him by his good shoulder. Jimmy tried to climb the railing, and cried when his mother stopped him. But he smiled when she lifted him over it, there to sit by Peter’s head. Both held looks in their little eyes that told the patient that perhaps he was one step closer to the divine.

"Peter, you saved Mommy."

"Pita killed the bad guys!"

Peter looked at the smaller boy, and spoke some remarkable words. "Because I had to, Jimmy. Not because I wanted to."

Well, that was not entirely true. But it was going to be important for the future to defeat the simple, easy hates. In children like Jimmy lay the hope.

"Okay, Pita. Thank you for saving my Mommy."

Indicating that they had a surprise or two for him back at the residence, the royal family let Peter rest a bit more.


When he awoke next, it was early evening. He had yet to see Calita, and this began to worry him. A pair of familiar, friendly faces were in evidence, though, as they had been since Peter was a small boy, and as they would soon be in an even greater way.

"Hey, Commanders! Who’s minding the Enterprise?"

Uhura extended her hand, and a padd. "Your uncle is saying his final goodbyes, I think. We’re sending the ship back with a skeleton crew. Peter, hit this button."

He did as he was asked, and she nodded in apparent relief. "You just officially notified about a thousand concerned people that you are alive and well. That includes about ninety percent of the crew complements of the Shenandoah and the Marseilles. A man is known by those who are concerned for him, Mister Kirk."

Chekov was panning the room with a tricorder, and Peter correctly took this to be a security sweep. "Commander? Couldn’t you just tell a subordinate to do that?"

Chekov’s face was as reassuring as it had been six years ago, when an angry young man had been given quiet urging to use his time in Tantalus well. "Da. I could do that. But some things and some people are vworth the personal touch."

They left, certainly having other duties and other things to do. But their visit was not unappreciated.


Later still, a voice was heard.

"All right, I’ve been patient. Now, I want details."

Behind Connor Randolph were Thiel and Miguel, who flashed a broad grin at the man who kept his oath at some cost. Their friendship would only deepen, at a much greater cost, paid in dear, tender blood. Thiel read from a padd.

"The autopsied subject was a male Kh’myr, almost three full meters in height, and almost a meter in width. Subject showed anomalous DNA readings, indicative of uncontrollable mutation, possibly due to so-called ‘cracked creche’ syndrome. Subject showed signs of extended stays in total cryo-stasis, possibly used as a control mechanism. Strength levels up to twenty-five percent above high Kh’myr average. Skin texture was not unlike that of an Aldebaran serpent’s rough middle tail. Causes of death: Subject’s heart chambers were sixty percent shredded by internal vibrations. Subject’s spinal column was traumatized in five places. Subject’s ‘wisdom ridges’ suffered catastrophic structural damage, actually pressing against his brain."

Connor nodded. "Not to be politically incorrect, but this guy was a monster."

Peter smiled before beginning his explanation. "No, he was a mountain."

August 19th 2293

Peter had taken in a virtual parade of visitors, but his fiancée was not among them.

Jim came to speak with him as he was to be discharged from the hospital. "Sorry I haven’t visited more. We just sent the Enterprise on to Earth without us."

Peter felt his stomach drop. The bond between that ship and that crew had been profound. He himself would have liked to ride her home.

"So is my leave over? I know my original leave is all done with. Am I still on indefinite, involuntary, non-disciplinary leave?"

Jim shook his head, then lightly touched Peter’s sore shoulder. "Now? You’re on medical leave. Peter, would you mind staying here another month? Starfleet is very, very grateful and protective of the man who saved the peace of the galaxy."

Peter smiled. "About time they showed you some appreciation, Jim."

Jim shook a finger. "I was talking about you. Didn’t you know what those Kh’myr wanted?"

"Teresa, I presume."

"Yes, but she was only the primary target. After they transferred her to a waiting Bird of Prey, they were to take that transport and ram the planetary shield generators. Then a small but presumably deadly Kh’myr force would have struck. I can say pretty easily that this would have doomed the new peace."

Peter had noted that the transport’s explosion had seemed inordinately large. "So—the galaxy was saved by Kirk and Kirk?"

Jim looked proud. "Looks like that, doesn’t it? But you are now marked for death by the people responsible for this."

"Well, at least I’m my own marked man, now. Hey, who told you what the Kh’myr were planning?"

"Azetbur. We talked. Been a while since I sat down with a young lady whose father I didn’t kill, dealing with the burdens of leadership. Her mother was their last emperor’s sister—and another one of Khalian’s kidnapping targets. She has to deal with them, but she’s no fan of House of Durit, Khalian’s sponsor."

Peter grinned. "Let’s dig a pit, and throw the leader of House of Durit in with Chelas Brok of the Orion Syndicate. Whoever lives wins a rare suppository phaser grenade."

Jim shook his head. "Only if I get to install it, Mister. Peter, you did good. How do you feel you did?"

Peter considered Jim’s words carefully. "Maturity is measurable, and best judged by other people. But myself? I feel like I finally grew up. Not for—you know. But I’ve never before really felt like—a grown-up."

Departing the room, Peter spotted Calita, who tried to avoid his gaze.

"Speaking of growing up. Jim, could you wait here?"

"Go easy on her, Peter. She may not feel the same way about her maturity that you do about yours. Take it from someone who’s been there."

Catching up with her, Peter was floored by her angry greeting.


Hurt but not yet angry, Peter responded, "So why am I such a bastard?"

Fearing that her reassuring words about his time with Teresa had been premature, Peter awaited her answer.

Calita pointed at him. "You—you could have beamed yourself out, along with Teresa! But no! You decided that you were Superman, and took on four Kh’myr. You are a very engaged person, Peter Kirk. Did you even think about me, while you gambled with our future. Did you even give a damn about how seeing you like that would affect me?"

Just as suddenly, she bear-hugged him. "Don’t you ever die on me, Peter. I forgave my parents a lot of shit—but not for just going away."

She was shaking, and began to sob incoherently. Peter felt his concern rise. She was beautiful, witty, smart, charming, and likely brilliant in her chosen field. He could deal with being her strength in some matters. But was she truly this fragile? Did she have no innate strength of her own? He wouldn’t love her any less as a result. But Peter Kirk knew well that having one’s own spiritual armor was vital. If Calita was as he once had been, then even without his crippling anger, she could encounter that worst of all moments—wholly unready.

Promising to gather herself and meet him at the royal residence, she left him alone with Jim, and many new questions.


"Jim, I love that woman. I mean, I really love her. What am I going to do?"

"That part—is your choice. But give her a chance. As to your career—how about becoming an aide to Starfleet Academy’s newest instructor? My apartment has a nice-sized spare room. You could even teach a few classes. I’m told by Hikaru you handle cadets rather well."

Peter nodded, putting aside the questions for now. "Deal. Now, Jim, about that CommPic call..."

Jim winced a bit, and considered pulling rank as they pulled out.

Once back at the residence, Peter saw a tender scene. Jim ran over to the boys, rescuing a weary Scotty. Teresa chatted with Connor, presumably about the Kh’myr intrusion.

Miguel joined Peter, and whispered to him. "Peter, why does this sight chill me so?"

"Miguel—I don’t know."

It was a happy moment, but it would not last. Peter would not be more haunted by a scene for the next eighty years.

December 1st 2294

It had been a good eighteen months. In between planning his and Calita’s wedding, he and Jim had really bonded. He was anxious to get on a ship again. But projects like studying the DNA of the late shapeshifter Martia had not been without their challenges. So Peter said it out loud, as he roused from a much needed extended sleep, to answer Jim’s front door.

"I am a happy man!"

They stood at the door. Chekov. Uhura. Spock. It had all happened again. When the Vulcan placed a hand on Peter’s, he knew without a word being said to him.


An unready ship had sailed with an unready captain into a situation that most veterans would wince at. Of those aboard the ship, the casualties had been few.

He was asked to speak at the funeral. When he did not, he was surrounded by reporters. An old country doctor sent them packing, and then held him before giving his friend’s kin over to his wife. Neither doctor nor lieutenant imagined that they could grow any number.

The next two weeks were something of a blur. Calita was now staying with Peter, at Jim’s apartment, soon to be vacated in favor of one of Jim’s worst enemies. They made love frequently, trying to make him forget. Absently, he turned on INS, and saw a scene that made his blood turn to ice.

She looked regal as the beast tore her stomach open, and as other beasts cackled at her agony. She called out her man’s name. Peter prayed to God that she would die soon. The tender flesh that he had held for five days was being eaten from within.


The news would get no better. Calita actually had to be hospitalized, as the news about Jimmy and Davie and Connor Randolph compounded the insane levels of grief. On Serenidad, Peter kept silent, just as at Jim’s funeral. Again, there was no body. He saw two tiny caskets. He had been trillions of kilometers away, when a giggling maniac cut their little throats. The master warrior he had so admired had merely been gunned down by Kh’myr who had not holstered their weapons.

When his beautiful lady made a series of choices without him, Peter told himself a lie and then, as news came to him about Scotty, he wrote a letter to the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise-B.

December 14th 2295

Peter shook the President’s hand only out of courtesy to his office. The man was making a name for himself badmouthing Teresa, and Peter flatly wanted to kill him for it. When the dedications to Captains Kirk and Scott were done, Spock and Peter walked to the gravesites. At Thiel’s suggestion, Peter did not speak, for fear of media or other intrusive parties recording things to their advantage. But his thoughts were quite vocal.

I loved you. But you knew that, didn’t you? I’m aboard the Enterprise-B now, Teresa. There’s been some loss there, too. But I’m happy, and Captain Chekov is the greatest. Me and Calita didn’t—we just didn’t. I don’t hate her. She and you showed me that I could fall in love again. And—I think I have. But we’re taking it slow. In a way, she’s kind of like a sister, too.

I will miss you, and I will miss those boys, forever. I’ll miss Connor, too. She allowed me to know I could compete, lose, and still fight on. That wasn’t always true. The boys showed me I could command respect, and not lose touch with silly fun.

He smiled.

You showed me damned near everything, and that was before we slept together! Sorry. But you know what I will always remember about my Infanta Hermanita? The night we two danced together. It was just all so right, so pure, so beautiful.

The smile faded.

I want to find and kill the ones that did this, Teresa. You yourself killed that child-murdering bitch. Miguel got the kidnappers, including his own sister. They used a piece of you to kill you, to kill my little cousins. I badly want this Vetara. I won’t risk my life in a pointless vendetta. But eventually, the opportunity will arise. I will see all her works undone, and I will do it in your name. I need only be patient, and I’ve gotten good at that.

He wiped away a final tear.

Making love with you was fantastic. But it was simply loving you that finally made me a man, and I thank you for it. I swear that I will aid and help Miguel in any way I can. I owe you that much, and more. Be at peace, Teresa. Death is an old bastard, but he offers a nice guarantee for the trouble. They can’t hurt you, ever again.

"Goodbye, Jimmy. Goodbye Davie. Goodbye, Teresa. Boys, be good for your Uncles Jim and Sam, and your Aunt Aurelan. Teresa, at least wear your wings and halo. There is decorum, where I know you are."

For a man who had lost so much, he actually felt joy at making this gesture. Spock nodded. "I have said what I must, Peter. Are you ready to leave?"

"Ambassador, part of me will never leave here. But yes, I am ready to depart."

Peter looked at the ambassador, and hit his wrist-comm. His adventure, he realized, had only just begun. He shuddered anew at how much had changed, and how things would never be the same, ever again. Yet life, like death, contains in the mix certain ironies, as evidenced in his next words. It was time for Peter to seek his destiny.

"Kirk to Enterprise. Two to beam up."

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