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The series of stories called "Shadow Captain" came out of a reaction to a professionally published novel. The authors of that novel have no deisre to be associated with this series. Suffice it to say that in that novel, James Kirk is mind-sifted and escapes to Earth's past through the Guardian of Forever and is held in a 1950's mental hopital. Meanwhile, Spock takes command of the Enterprise. The novel has Spock captaining the ship for two years; one year before finding Jim, the second while Jim recovers from his state of mental instability. These years are glossed over with the sparce, literal statements "A year passed" and "Another year passed." The intent of writing "Shadow Captain" was to fill in that first year, the time before Jim is found and only Spock knows him to be alive. Of course, we set the "Shadow Captain" series within our familiar Valjiir Universe, and so it remains. Credit is given to the authors of the professional novel, though I don't have permission to name them. And, as always, my grateful thanks to the Muse, Goddess of Inspiration.
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Go To Part Two
Ruth Valley lingered over a second cup of breakfast coffee, her mind distant from the chess game on the desk between herself and Spock. If he noticed that her playing was lackadaisical he said nothing, not wanting to disturb the comfortable silence in the room any more than she did. It was a rare, quiet morning with no pressing duty to bother either of them. The Enterprise was on R&R, orbiting the planet of Morag, and there was a quiet, restful, almost lazy feeling that seemed to have settled throughout the crew.
Part of Ruth's mind was on a conversation she and Spock had had the night before. It had begun as a discussion of the new type of heavy cruiser that was now being built at San Fran. The three ships were officially designated Class Two Heavy Cruisers, but the media and the Aprilists were calling them Nest ships. Valjiir had done design work on both engines and computers for the Nests, but that hadn't been the subject of the conversation. There would be room for families and children on board these ships and the previous evening, Spock had expressed an interest in getting berths on one of them. Ruth had been surprised.
"I never thought you could be pried off the Enterprise."
"We are both career officers," had been his enigmatic answer.
"Explain, specify, and other Vulcanish terms," she had prompted teasingly.
"A Vulcan has a responsibility to provide for posterity," he replied.
"Have children," she translated.
"Indeed. The only place we can have children and still remain together as family and members of Starfleet is aboard a Nest."
"How many do you want, and when do we get started?" she questioned enthusiastically. They hadn't exactly discussed having children before. It had been obliquely mentioned when Spock had explained the meaning and purpose of his mother’s wedding gift, the pon-san; a specially woven rug meant to attune the mind of a child to the mate chosen for him. "It will be at least three years before the Nests are completed," he remarked. "Also, may I remind you that we are not properly married."
She sighed. Not that again. "A contract..."
"...is a legally binding form of cohabitation," he finished. "Children, however, result from The Time, and the usual number is no more than two."
"Two sounds good," she said agreeably.
"One, if the first is male."
"Two sounds good."
She smiled now at the memory but felt no inclination to reopen the subject. Today she felt like she had an infinity of time and all things would happen in their proper sequence. She was where she wanted to be, doing what she wanted to do, and the coffee was exceptionally good this morning.
Spock's voice asking, "You will spend the evening planetside?" interrupted her reverie.
She looked up to find him studying her. "I haven't decided yet." She had gotten a call an hour before from several friends from Academy days whose ships were also on R&R. They were trying to put together a reunion of sorts. Except for seeing Corwin Jones, who had once been her roommate, she wasn't particularly interested, Still, she hadn't seen Cory for a couple of years, and seeing someone besides Enterprise personnel might be stimulating. She sighed, shrugged, and realized that she was feeling insular and antisocial. "Maybe I should go. What do you think?"
"I would not object to an evening free for meditation," he told her.
"Well then. I don't suppose I have any real excuse not to. I'll give Cory a call."
Click here for the song
"Freedom's just another word for nothin' left to lose
Nothin, well that's all that Bobby left me
Feelin’ good was easy, lord, when he sang the blues."
Ruth and DelMonde sang the words of an old Terran folk song together. She scowled at him and he scowled back and everyone in the room broke out laughing.
"Feelin’ good was good enough for me;
Good enough for me and my Bobby McGee."
Cory hadn't mentioned that he was inviting Del to the party or that he was forming the two of them into an impromptu entertainment committee. They had both threatened his life, he had laughed, said he expected it and teased them about their famous love/hate relationship.
"Love?" Del asked her.
"Hate?" she asked him.
"Nah," they said together, and a tacit agreement was made to at least try to drop the feud for the evening.
When the song was finished Ruth put down her guitar and picked up a glass of ycasan wine. Somebody requested one of Del's songs and he began singing "Scars." She hadn't known he'd put music to that particular melancholy poem. She sighed and for a second, their eyes met. She saw there an ebony reflection of the unnamed feeling that had been creeping up on her all evening, and suddenly recognized it: anxiety, fear.
There's something wrong.
But what? he thought back. It like somebody dancin’ on my grave, I be t’inkin’.
It doesn't feel quite real, she agreed. Far away but getting closer.
"Ruth, you're a married woman," Glenna Harris said, then she giggled as Ruth stared at her in puzzlement.
"You and Cajun," Glenna said, and tsked at her.
"That wasn't lust," she answered lightly to try to cover her embarrassment. "I just don't like his singing."
"She got no taste," Del explained. "Look who she marry.” He let his lip curl disdainfully. “I amazed he let you out th' cage fo’ a few hours," he added caustically.
Glenna slid an arm around Del's waist and smiled teasingly at him. "Still at it? Well, baby, at least I like the song."
Ruth bared her teeth, snarled, "What a pity I promised I wouldn't get into any brawls," and as turned to walk away, she heard Del’s, "She already over her quota fo’ th' month."
She moved across the room, feeling very much isolated among supposed friends. Coming here was a mistake, she decided. They’re all having such a good time and I’m being a grouch. Not normal at all. A pity Jilla and Sulu decided to find a quiet beach resort somewhere and demanded to be left alone. A party with them would have been fun. Besides, there’s something wrong; has to be if even Del could feel it. Even? Shut up, you're being a bitch. She shrugged and forced herself to join a group of people smoking Rigellian and swapping ship to ship gossip.
Jilla and Sulu had spent the morning swimming and sunbathing. He liked the way her skin was darkening to a light pewter color; she found the deepening bronze of his beautiful. They had spent the afternoon making love, eating food they bought and cooked themselves, then making love again. The ship was a memory, all tension and tiredness melting away. And they had two more days of freedom to look forward to.
They lay curled together on the wide bed. Sulu had dozed off, Jilla was only half awake. Only a slight pain in her head kept her awake at all. She concentrated on Vulcan discipline for ignoring pain, but she was sleepy and exercise kept slipping off into half-dream. She brought herself sharply awake once, feeling a sharp stab of fear and disorientation. Then she saw Sulu and remembered where they were, and settled quietly beside him again. Sleep came instantly even though the pain had grown a little.
— one plus one is two. Two plus two is four. Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Little Bo Peep has lost her sheep. In a hole in the ground lived a hobbit. T'was brillig, and the slithy toves. Ten millimeters to a centimeter, ten centimeters... The Ramans do everything in threes. Engineering section, warp drive... the composition of the hull plating… When in the course of Human, events... The schematic design of basic ship's components... Kah ros k’ln, t’an torrsct lk’n spr’tn, aro’ r’llng gor… et ka! Et k’ln! Et…!
Sulu awoke with the pain of claws digging into his shoulder and Jilla's voice whispering alien words into his ears. Still only half awake he jerked away from her, disoriented and half frightened. It took him a second to remember where they were and what they were doing. Shore leave. Privacy. Vacation. It's okay, she's having a bad dream. Jilla! He quickly rolled back to her and shook her gently, saying reassuringly, "Hon, wake up, it's okay, wake up."
Her eyes flew open, eyes full of confusion, uncertainly.
"I'm here. There's nothing wrong."
She blinked, then smiled faintly as a slight silver sheen crept over her skin. "Of course." She shook her head as if still trying to clear it. "A dream," she explained. "I am sorry."
He took her in his arms. "Nothing to be sorry about," he replied, but he was remembering her nightmares of a few months before. He prayed that they weren't starting again. And even if they are, he told himself firmly, we'll handle it.
Thunder screamed in Spock's mind, agony and helpless horror, his name in Jim Kirk's voice pleading for help in fearful, anguished entreaty. He woke, but the vision and sound stayed before him and he knew it was no dream. The memory of a mind-sifter's touch brought him familiar pain, and familiar too was the hand that wielded the cold, probing device. Kor. Organia, Canti and now —
"Spock!" Jim cried, then "Edith!" The Guardian, Earth, the past, — the Guardian and Ee-chiya —
He found himself out of bed, at the door that went to the corridor and the captain's cabin beyond, his nails scratching at the metal as though caged and yearning to break free. He knew what had happened. Kor had somehow abducted Jim Kirk. The Klingon governor had used the mind-sifter and had taken Jim to the Guardian of Forever, for what purpose Spock did not know and feared to speculate; Jim had called to him in desperate panic, then to Edith Keeler out of the memory of her love – after his first call for help had gone unanswered.
Spock hung his head in grief and uncomprehending pain and longed for his wife, only to have the longing replaced by a deep determination to right his failed loyalty.
For six days, the Enterprise was in an uproar. Jim's disappearance was reported and the rumors started flying. So did the fists. Spock had to bury his panic in work and bureaucracy and disciplinary decisions. He made call after call to Headquarters, his certainty becoming more enmeshed in red tape with each department he was referred to.
And more distressing than any of it was the fact that there was simply no time to spend with Ruth. He needed to see her, to feel her; to share the knowledge that tore at him. Yet, too, with each hour that passed, he doubted his own telepathy more and more: if Ruth had felt nothing — obvious since she did not seek him out -- could his experience be valid? No, impossible. He knew what he knew. And perhaps she, too, simply had no time. Then came word from Headquarters:
The Enterprise is ordered to Starbase 11 immediately. At that time you will report to my office for a conference on the concerns expressed in your communications. Until this time, this matter is to be considered privileged information. You are not — I repeat, not — to discuss it in any capacity with anyone. This is a direct order from the Admiralty of Starfleet Command."
Commander Spock, Vulcan, acting-captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise, obeyed.
Spock did not return to the Enterprise immediately following his discussion with those at Starfleet Command. He sat for a time in one of the privacy rooms, contemplating precisely what he had agreed to. The concessions won were great — he would be allowed temporary command, a fact no one but he must know. The Enterprise would be assigned close to Klingon space, where he could monitor their activity, ascertaining what, if any, of the Guardian's uses the Klingons comprehended. That, too, was to be secret. To allow the Federation at large – or even Starfleet – the knowledge that all of time might be at the Klingon’s disposal would start a justified hysteria.
And he could use the Enterprise's vast stores of knowledge, and her computers, to search history for any trace of Jim Kirk.
Great concessions. But at such a cost....
Spock began to clear his mind, to prepare for the months ahead. Starfleet Command hardly believed his tale. But they could not chance his being right. The Guardian was too important. To militarily quarantine it would raise questions; not only in the Federation, but would arouse Klingon suspicion as well. And as long as Fleet knew, but the Klingons did not know Fleet knew, Fleet had the advantage. Fleet wanted to keep that advantage. The fewer who were aware of the situation, the better. He was ordered to do nothing that might betray the knowledge. Only he was to know what his mission was; no one else. Particularly not Valjiir.
The reason was logical. Valjiir would have attempted a rescue; as they once did of a cordrazine addict. That would surely tell the Klingons that Fleet was aware of their schemes. And should the Guardian be breached, Valjiir must not be otherwise occupied.
Command did not approve of his choice of First Officer. They feared D’Artagnan’s flamboyancy, stating it was that which caused the problems on Alcon. Yet that decision too was agreed to — providing Spock accept their conditions. And Spock had no choice. His only other course of action was resignation, which would gain him nothing. Therefore, he agreed.
A devil's bargain.
For Fleet did not, could not realize what his agreement meant. To keep silent with Ruth, he could not touch her. Could not stay near her. Dared not even think of her. The months of their marriage had too finely attuned their telepathic awareness of one another. He would have to abandon his union with her.
Fathers, how can I?
How can I abandon Jim when I know him to be alive? Would she not agree if I could ask her?
Keheil. Yes, she would agree.
Ruth, forgive me.
What of rilain? Will her sensitivity not know my emotions, and so know my charade for the lie it is?
Not if I keep her, too, from me. Not if I arrange matters so that she will misinterpret any emotion she does sense.
The bond should not be so misused. It is weakening. Will this not strengthen it, a thing neither of us wishes?
It cannot be helped. It is my only tool.
Jilla, forgive me.
It is a simple matter to keep one's First Officer too busy to think of anything save duty. And he will react with adversity to Ruth's exile and Jilla's fear.
Sulu, forgive me.
Spock straightened. He could make no other choice. He would do what had to be done.
I could be discarding my wife, my friends, beyond all recall. I could destroy all I have worked so hard to build.
To refuse condemns Jim to obscurity and death. I cannot sacrifice another's life. Ruth would understand.
When I find Jim, Ruth will understand.
But.... my wife.... my wife....
Sulu took note of the small group that was clustered silently around the center table of the mess room. It was the first time he'd seen any of them together, or in any capacity except duty, for days. Ruth was there; she didn't look tired, she looked haggard. She held her coffee cup gripped tightly in both hands and stared intently into it. She had been doing so well taking over the duties of Science Officer, so professional, that he had forgotten the strain she was under. It was the first time he had time to feel surprise, at her, at himself — Commander Takeda Sulu no Jiro, First Officer of the Enterprise. If he’d been promoted for any other reason, he would be ecstatic.
Jade Han was there; except for duty it was the first time she'd come out of her quarters in days. Daffy Gollub and Tara Ryan were looking at each other uncomfortably, and at Noel DelMonde, who sat next to Ruth, a subdued silent presence. Del kept glancing at Ruth; worried, solicitous. Odd thing about DelMonde; during normal times the nicest thing he had to say about Ruth was 'bitch’ but if anything went wrong he — hovered — Sulu thought; yeah, like a vulture. He knew he wasn't being fair, but it was Del so he didn't have to be. One thing Cajun understood intimately was pressure. And their friendship never suffered from a little attitude from either of them.
Sulu got a tray of food and came to sit next to Jilla. She immediately leaned against him and slid her arm around his waist. He wasn't used to such public displays of affection from her but he certainly didn’t mind, nor did he say anything about it. She needed him, and he needed her. Without her there would be no way to survive, so much had happened so fast, and things weren't getting any better. He had never expected it to happen like this. He'd worked hard for a promotion, he had wanted the responsibilities, the chance to prove himself and to learn. He was a step closer to the captaincy he wanted so badly. But like this? He recalled easily Spock's words in the briefing – the Vulcan’s first as captain, only hours after he'd beamed up in a gold tunic.
"Mr. Sulu, Starfleet has confirmed your promotion to commander, as well as your reassignment to the position of Executive Officer of this vessel. Miss Valley, you will handle the position of Science Officer. Miss Ryan, you are to replace Mr. Sulu as Chief of Security. All changes are effective immediately. I will expect final and initial reports, where applicable. That will be all."
So he'd gotten his double stripes. And Jim Kirk was dead. Not gloriously, not for his ship or his crew or Fleet. Simply — gone. And they were all still here. He looked at his food and pushed it away, no longer hungry. Jilla quietly pushed a cup of coffee to him and he glanced up. Ruth's eyes met his.
"Thanks," he said softly.
"Senior officers have to stick together," she said in a dull imitation of herself. Then, abruptly, she was up, moving across the room. He watched her, a bitter ache welling in his mind. Something had happened to Spock. Ruth's husband, Jilla's kindred had vanished with Jim Kirk. All that was left was the captain; cold, unfeeling, uncaring. God, how can anyone expect Spike to live with that?
Spock was calmly packing their belongings when Ruth entered their quarters. The sight stopped the words she'd been about to say. Spock glanced at her only briefly.
"Captain Kirk's personal effects are being put into storage," he said. "Maintenance is providing for a larger bed. I would expect no more than minor disruption of our routine due to this move. As our duty schedules must be at odds for the time being, I expect any difficulty will be minimized."
Ruth stared, her mind whirling in aching confusion. "Spock — I — " she faltered.
"Your aid in transferring our belongings would be appreciated."
"Spock... Jim's cabin? I mean..."
"The captain's quarters are mine. Just as these are now Mr. Sulu's."
"But - a decent interval -- "
"You would make a shrine. I will not." Spock had not looked at her. "If you will not join my efforts, kindly leave me to them."
Ruth felt the tears burning in her eyes. "Jim's dead!" she burst out. "We've lost him and you just... Spock I need...!"
"No amount of mourning will alter what is. I have a ship to command." Spock's voice was cold and distant and Ruth tried to understand. He couldn't deal with it. He was reacting as always; Vulcan. He had told her of it as coldly, as distantly as he was now. He's hurting and he can't let it out, not yet. It's too close. But I can and I need help and goddess he can't give that yet either! She took a deep breath and relented.
"Of course, you're right," she said, and began helping him pack. When he left with an armload and didn't return, Ruth bolted out of the half-empty cabin in hurting incomprehension.
Ruth hesitated at Jade's door. She didn't want to disturb anyone, Jade least of all. The doctor had to be feeling as bad as she was. Worse, Ruth admitted. But Jilla was on duty and she needed someone who understood Vulcans. She took a deep breath and made herself signal. Jade opened the door manually. She looked cold, distant but fragile. For the first time Ruth realized that, physically, Jade Han was a small woman. "May I?"
Jade nodded and stepped aside. Ruth entered, noticed a hint of Rigellian in the air and almost asked for some. Instead she said, "I find myself resenting Spock."
"I assume you mean his air of calm efficiency," Jade replied, and Ruth could detect no tone in her usually strong voice.
"I don't know, and that's the problem."
"Oh come off it!" Jade snapped, and Ruth almost turned and left. "He's Vulcan, he's lost his captain, his friend, he simply can't handle it so he rejects it. Vulcan mask, Vulcan neuroses. Don't you recognize it by now?" The brittle voice softened. "He avoids you because you won't let him be a half-breed. When he can face you, his loss, his emotions, he will. I know it must be hard on you, but he'll come back when he can." The words trailed off as Jade pivoted and walked to her dresser and her pipe.
Ruth flushed with empathy and shared grief. "And Jim won't, will he?" she said.
"No," Jade choked out. "At least Spock accepts that." She took a deep toke of Rigellian. "He'll come around, Ruth. Be patient. This is one time you shouldn't push him. Give him the distance he needs to make his own peace. Love him, stand by him, for now be a two-steps-behind Vulcan wife. He'll turn to you when he sees you won't crush him with sorrow."
"Jade, how did you..." Ruth began.
"I'm a professional, Ruth, especially when it comes to understanding Vulcans."
"You're sure he'll be alright?"
"As sure as you would be if you weren't so hurt yourself." Jade faced her, her words familiar but with no half-teasing lilt. "Would you like to talk about that?"
Ruth tried to play the game. "No thanks, shrink."
"Where there's life - " Jade replied, but it was empty and Ruth felt suddenly awkward.
"Well – I – thank you, Jade."
"Anytime, Ruth. Remember. Be patient.”
Ruth tried one final jest. "Not yours," she said, but it fell flat and she quickly left the room.
Jade finished her pipe, automatically went to refill it, then stopped. Jim always complained the smoke leaked, and Spock certainly will. The addition of a logical concluding segment doesn't erase the original meaning, Doctor. You forgot for one brief second. Or I will concede wistful nostalgia. Either way, hardly professional.
She slammed her hand on her dresser, then covered her face from the damned revealing mirror. If I don't acknowledge the tears...
James, why? Why you, why me? Didn't you always have answers, even the wrong ones? It took me so long to believe in myself after Richard. And so much longer to trust that my loving someone wasn't a death sentence. He was so young, so troubled. I honestly thought I could help him, despite our relationship. So young I say, but he was older than I was. Or have I always been prematurely adult? Prematurely old?
James, did you know that the very first man I loved committed suicide? Now you're gone, too. No, I never told you that; I didn't get the chance, but I would have. I find myself talking to you as if you were an invisible presence. Why not? The hulls of this ship are permeated with memories of Jim Kirk. Which of us loved you the best, me or this ship? I was a strong rival, she knows it and you were beginning to suspect it, weren't you? Dear Dr. Han — Jade honey. Damn you for dying, James Kirk! Damn me for never telling you I loved you! Damn the instinct for survival that makes me go on when I want to lay down and die, too!
You don't really mean that, do you, Doctor? Of course not. I’m a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a calm professional… This hysteria will pass. You'll go on, you always have. You're strong, Jade. Strong girl, strong woman. Strong. Like stone. I missed the funeral.
Gods, when did Jade Melissa die?
Go To Part Two
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Return to Valjiir Stories
Return to Valjiir Continum
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