(Standard Year 2247)

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The setting sun of Shas gave the excavation site an eerie green glow as the transporter beam sparkled and solidified. Lieutenant Carolyn Palamas, the chief Anthropology and Archeology officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise stood waiting for Captain Kirk. The exploration of Shas’ long-dead culture had been routine up until a few hours ago. The survey team had discovered the usual cryptic references to ancient and powerful deities and temples; nothing unusual until a large door matching the description given of one of those temples was found, still sealed. Palamas was excited by the find. Shas had been rocked by so many quakes that she’d given up hope of finding anything in one piece. If the entire structure was intact, the benefit to the collected knowledge of the Federation would be incalculable.

The shimmering of the beam faded and Jim Kirk stepped briskly forward.

“Have you gotten inside?” he asked.

“No, sir,” Palamas replied. “We wanted to wait for you.”

Jim smiled wryly. “Thank you, Lieutenant.” Palamas turned and led him down the incut stairs of the excavation. Spock stood in front of a huge door, speaking to a member of the survey team. The door itself was about two and a half meters high and two wide, carved intricately out of stone, inlaid in what appeared to be gold. Palamas began rattling off details of the historical significance and Jim hid a grimace, holding up a restraining hand. “In a moment, Lieutenant,” he said and crossed the site to Spock. The First Officer turned, immediately extending a statboard of site reports.

“Captain, this is…” he began.

“Not now, Spock,” Jim interrupted. “What am I supposed to do here? I find the honor a bit dubious.”

Spock nodded in understanding. “However, sir, it is appropriate that the commanding officer be present at the official discovery of such a find,” he said.

Jim sighed. “I suppose.” He cleared his throat. “Well, let's get on with this.”

Spock began again to go over the site reports, with Palamas joining him. Jim absorbed the information, forgot most of the details almost immediately, and was relieved when the geologists announced they were ready to open the temple.

The rush of stale air convinced Palamas that the structure was whole and unplundered. Behind the huge door was an open chamber with several corridors leading from it. There was a statue at the center, a priest-guardian of the temple, Palamas said. It was completely intact. The survey team was elated, and Spock had to raise his voice to assign some order to the exploration and cataloguing. Jim, of course, was allowed the prestige of being the first to enter the temple. He’d made a joke about it being more of a responsibility than an honor; weren’t defilers of sacred grounds subject to curses? He’d also found that archeologists had no sense of humor.

“Spock, I know all of this is important,” Jim began as he and his First Officer walked down one of the corridors. “but I have a great many other things on my mind at the moment, and…”

“The Havens,” Spock replied succinctly, not looking up from the notation he was making on his statboard. “I agree that from a command standpoint, the military situation is much more pressing. However, scientific protocol must be satisfied. Without your presence, this work could easily get misplaced in a veritable stream of bureaucratic verbiage.”

“In other words, my rank can push it through,” Jim clarified, only mildly amazed that Spock could catalogue artifacts, keep track of the rest of the survey party, and carry on an intelligent, thoughtful conversation about something else entirely at the same time.

“Precisely,” Spock agreed. “The Havens, while pressing, can be, indeed must be waited upon. We cannot move until they do. This excavation will not wait. Shas’ quakes could destroy it in a matter of hours.”

“Of course, but with a war order god knows how many days or hours away, I’d rather be…”

“Mr. Spock!” Palamas’ voice echoed through the corridor. “A scroll, you have to see this!”

“Excuse me, Captain,” Spock said politely. Jim nodded ruefully, but with an understanding grin. Spock turned and walked back the way they had come. Jim listened to the footsteps, suddenly aware of the desolation of the temple. How long had it been since any footstep had sounded here? Centuries. The thought was disquieting and Jim took a few steps himself, looking closely at the relic Spock had been cataloguing, more to keep his mind busy than anything else.

It was a small, coffin-like box about thirty centimeters long, fifteen centimeters wide, with a high, rounded cover. The carving was ornate, gold scrollwork surrounding each edge, muted colors decorating the sides. It was definitely beautiful, but not very practical. Jim couldn’t see any way to open it, or any other purpose it would serve. Hesitating, though not knowing why, he lifted it from its niche. There was some kind of writing on the bottom, but he ignored it. He turned the box in his hands. It felt heavy, but not as though there were something inside it. His fingers found a ridge that hadn’t been visible, and as he ran a finger over it, he realized it must be a joint between the box and its cover. Intrigued, he rested it in the palm of his left hand, working the cover off slowly with fingers skillful from years of starship navigation. It took a while, then the cover simply sprang back, as if on hinges.

For a moment, nothing happened, and Jim realized he’d thought something would. In the same instant he was wondering why he’d thought that, something did.

It felt at first like being caught in a thick, acrid fog. His eyes stung, his nostrils and mouth dry and burning. He reached out for the temple wall to steady his suddenly shaking body, and froze in the act as the fog penetrated his skin. The searing touched every fiber of his being and it was then that he sensed It. Consciousness, being, life, an old power, as strong as it was ancient, with a will that was totally amoral. It wanted to live again, and Jim knew it meant to have him. There was no malice in it, only determination. Even as he fought for his body, he knew he would lose.

Quickly, the thing took shape inside him, searching his mind and heart and being, taking on all he knew, all he was. He waited for death, or for an expulsion of some kind, but none came. He was merely pushed back, as he would have pushed a stray thought back to his own unconscious.

James Tiberius Kirk, the thing thought, and Jim was startled that he could still hear and sense and think. I wish you no harm, yet I will live. You will make an interesting host.

What are you?! Jim cried. There was laughter, and it froze him, for it was his own.

“I? I am James T. Kirk, Captain of the Enterprise.”

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The scroll had been a very valuable find. It contained a key to deciphering some of the more obscure hieroglyphics of the Shas culture. Spock decided to carry it to the ship himself, and returned to the captain, certain that the excavation would have already bored him. He was therefore mildly surprised to see Jim thoughtfully studying the box he himself had been cataloguing at Palamas’ call. He was closing the cover as Spock approached.

“Empty,” he said, looking up. “I thought it would have something in it. It took me long enough to open it.”

“Indeed, Captain?” Spock replied. Kirk grinned.

“Gold? Aren’t tombs supposedly full of treasure?”

“This is a temple,” Spock corrected.

Kirk shrugged, replacing the artifact in its niche. “Anything else I have to be here for, Spock?” he asked, dusting his hands together.

“No, sir. I was about to suggest we return to the ship. The sciences teams will need coordination with the departmental computers.”

“And I have to listen to Fleet’s complaints about this mission,” Kirk sighed. “Again.” A smile touched his eyes as he cocked his head. ”Spock, don’t ever become a captain.”

“I fully intend to avoid that eventuality,” Spock returned.

Kirk smiled fully and they left the temple, their footsteps still echoing behind them.

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Lieutenant Ruth Valley had been told that she could find Ensign Majiir in the transporter room, which was good since that was where she was heading anyway. She needed to see Jilla, Mr. Spock, and the Captain, in that order, and was relieved she’d found somewhere they would eventually all be together in one place. She found Jilla Majiir patiently monitoring the transporter console, and joined her beside it.

Shalom,” she greeted her Indiian roommate.

“Good evening,” Jilla returned. “Have you finished the project specifications?”

Ruth handed her a statboard and a data cassette as she nodded. “Thought you’d want to check it over. It’s all neatly bureaucratized,” she continued as Jilla’s grey eyes quickly ran over their proposal for a joint research project. “All we need now are the Captain's and Mr. Spock’s initials.” She noticed a slight glow begin from Jilla’s skin, an Indiian blush, as she read the last few words. Ruth smiled. “Scotty likes the idea.”

“A most enthusiastic endorsement,” Jilla replied. “I must thank him.”

“He wants to talk to you about it as soon as he gets out of the con,” Ruth told her. “When are Boss and Bwana due home anyway?”

“Momentarily.”

Ruth smiled again, appreciating Jilla’s restraint in not chastising her for her informality. “Good,” she said. “I’m exhausted, what with Palamas and her gang running us ragged and a complete section report due for Fleet Sciences and…” Her voice trailed off as the captain signaled for beam-up. “About time,” she muttered, and picked up her statboard expectantly.

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The shimmer cleared, and for a few fleeting seconds, Jim felt in control. But the thing clamped down inexorably over him and he felt it frown. An annoyance, it takes me somewhat longer to recover from a disorientation than it takes you. I will have to watch you carefully.

It was disturbing to hear alien thoughts in his voice, and inwardly, Jim shuddered. Outwardly he casually strode off the transport disc. His eyes flickered over the two young women in the room. The statistics clicked in his mind like data into and out of a computer:

Petite; childlike beauty; pale silvery skin; rich burgundy hair; red uniform; Indiian; a Vulcan’s widow; Assistant Engineer Ensign Jilla Majiir:

Tall; exquisite; golden skin; thick golden hair; large, velvet purple eyes; blue uniform; Antari – half Antari, half Human; computers expert; Assistant Science Officer Lieutenant Ruth Valley.

Lieutenant Valley held a statboard. He smiled at her.

“Something for me, Lieutenant?” he asked.

“Yes, sir,” Ruth’s melodic voice answered. “And for Mr. Spock. Our project specs and quarterly reports for Division.”

“Very good, Miss Valley,” Kirk said as he took the offered board. He noted Ensign Majiir was staring at him.

“Captain, are you well?” the Indiian asked. Her voice was soft and lilting.

“Except for a possible pharaoh’s curse, I’m fine, Mrs. Majiir,” he said with a smile. He noted Spock once again ignoring the joke and marveled at the memory, so new, so fragile. “You handle the transporter as well as Mr. Scott,” he continued. "We didn’t feel a thing.” He paused, grinning. “Did we, Spock?”

“No, sir,” Spock answered, adding a nod of commendation toward Jilla. “Such expertise is to be expected from an officer of Mrs. Majiir’s caliber.”

Jilla’s eyes lowered. “Thank you, Captain, Commander.”

“And I’m chopped liver,” Ruth muttered, then blushed at Spock’s, “On the contrary, Miss Valley, your work has given me no cause for complaint.”

Kirk chuckled. “You’re both fine officers, and Miss Valley, I’ll deny I ever said that. Carry on.” He stopped momentarily at the door. “Oh, I’ll get the authorization from Fleet for your project, ladies. Go ahead as if you have it.”

“Yes sir. Thank you sir,” came a dual response to the closing door.

A flawless performance, don’t you think? echoed in Jim’s mind as Kirk strode to the turbolift to relieve Scott of the con. Helpless despair welled up in Jim’s being. It could draw on every piece of knowledge, every memory within him. There was no stopping it and he knew it.

No, no stopping me, came confident assurance. Accept it, Captain.

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“Have fun digging in the dirt, Boss?” Ruth asked as Spock quickly scanned first the project specs, then the quarterly reports. From behind the transporter console, Jilla cleared her throat disapprovingly. “I mean sir,” Ruth corrected wryly.

“I am quite accustomed to Lieutenant Valley’s impertinence, Mrs. Majiir,” Spock told Jilla. “Since her condition appears to be incurable, I have learned to ignore it.”

“As long as I get the work done,” Ruth added brightly.

“Precisely.”

She grinned a triumphant ‘so there!’ to Jilla, then noticed the knowing smile in the Indiian’s eyes. She flushed, the victory souring slightly. You, Mrs. Majiir, are an incurable romantic, she thought, which is many times worse than an incurable impertinent!

“Miss Valley,” Spock said, returning the statboard to her, “I require your assistance in compiling the data from Shas.” He handed her a carefully rolled piece of parchment. “This is to be delivered to Linguistics. Meet me in my office in ten minutes.”

“Right, Boss,” Ruth said. She stared at the scroll. “What does it say?”

“That is what Linguistics will discover. Ten minutes, Lieutenant.”

Spock left the room, and Ruth watched him until she realized that Jilla was watching her. “Well?” she shot accusingly.

“Well what?” Jilla replied innocently.

“Push. Push, push,” Ruth replied sternly, and followed Spock out the door.

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Kirk relieved Mr. Scott and settled easily into the con, the efficient mind assimilating every detail of ship’s functions and the Bridge personnel with easy speed.

“Status, Mr. Sulu,” he requested. The Helmsman turned and Jim pleaded with the young man to notice some difference.

“Orbit steady at seven thousand kilometers, sir.” Sulu responded. “No report on any Haven activity yet.”

“Yet,” Kirk repeated, then thumbed the com. “Coffee, Yeoman, if you please,” he said into it, then his eyes glanced at Sulu. “Make it several,” he added and nodded at the Lieutenant’s smile.

Damn you, what do you want?! Jim cried.

To exist, came the answer.

So do I!

But I am the stronger, Captain. It is no more than your law of the jungle. I will prevail.

Yeoman Rand came with coffee, smiling as she handed him a cup. Jim seemed to be watching some bizarre play as he felt his body responding to the slender figure, the clear blue eyes, the woven blonde hair. The thing was intrigued by the sensation, going with it, smiling back with a hint of regard that was more than professional.

“Thank you, Yeoman.” There was a touch too much suggestion there, and Janice blushed.

“You’re welcome, sir.”

Janice! Jim shouted silently. The thing ignored his cry.

Too much suggestion. Thank you, I’ll remember that – was followed by a calm – and you can’t guard your thoughts from me, Captain, because I am you.

Jim’s screaming went unnoticed as Rand distributed the rest of the coffee.

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The end of the watch was met by sighing, yawning and stretching. Bridge duty when in orbit was perhaps the most boring work one could be assigned to. Sulu grinned a ‘have fun’ at his replacement, David Kelly, and headed for the turbolift.

Kevin Riley was waiting on Deck Four as he got off.

“You’re late,” Sulu remarked. Riley shrugged.

“I was hopin’ to catch Ruth before I reported,” he returned glumly.

“Kev, why don’t you give it up? Ruth isn’t interested.”

“Love is blind, me boy,” Kevin sighed dramatically. Sulu grinned, shaking his head as the lift door closed behind Riley. And who are you to talk about giving up? he asked himself wryly. Six months, thirteen days, and an odd number of hours you’ve been waiting for Jilla.

Yeah, except she is interested. Just stubborn. Moral. Virtuous. Scrupulous. Love isn’t blind in her case.

He walked briskly to her cabin and hit the chime. There was no answer. He sighed. With any luck, she was already in the messhall. Please, Great Someone, give me a little luck, he pleaded silently, and headed back for the turbolift.

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Sulu looked around the messroom as he entered. All the same faces, but the most important one was missing. No Jilla. He knew her schedule better than he did his own, and it was her dinner hour – which she and Scotty were no doubt working through. The warp shuttle, of course, he thought. He’d been listening to her talk about it a lot lately. She was sure it could be done, and Ruth was encouraging her.

If only Ruth would encourage her to succumb to my loving seduction…

She is, he reminded himself. It’s not exactly easy to convince a married Indiian to give up her fidelity, even for an Antari. Even though her husband’s been dead for nearly three years now. Even though her vows are already broken…

You know Spike’s playing matchmaker to the best of her heavy-handed ability.

Yeah. Then why is she helping keep Jilla so busy that I never see her?

He saw Ruth sitting across the room behind a computer annex. She was chewing absently, her attention completely absorbed in whatever she was doing. He strode over to her and said, loud enough that she would have to hear, “Why did you have to start this project anyway?”

Ruth jumped, startled, then glared at him. “What?” she snapped.

“I said…”

“What project?” she interrupted.

“Warp shuttles, which are taking up all of Jilla’s already insignificant free time.”

Ruth scowled at him. “It’s her idea,” she said, then her face softened. “No change, huh?”

“No. No change.” Sulu pulled up a chair. “Celibacy is for monks,’ he muttered.

“I’ve been working on it,” Ruth offered.

“Yeah, so have I.”

She grinned. “Give it time, Roy.”

“I have, I am…” He sighed. “It’s the boredom. I’ve got too much spare time.”

“I’d help if I could,” Ruth sympathized.

“You could if you would,” Sulu returned.

“You don’t want anyone but Jilla,” she reminded.

“Yeah, I know,” he sighed. “What’s wrong with me, anyway?”

“You’re in love.”

“When will she be?”

“She is.”

“When’s she gonna let me know?”

“Be patient.”

“Patience is for monks, too.”

“So shave your head.”

“Go back to work, Spike.”

“Right, Roy.”

Sulu got up and ordered himself some dinner. Who knows? Jilla might show up after all.

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Kirk lay in his bed, reveling in the feel of it. Alone, he could allow himself to relish being again. There were no curious eyes to catalogue his actions. There had been nothing like this on Shas, not for a very long time. The sensations of this body were still strange, but he was learning about it very quickly; the feel of desire, of regard, of responsibility, happiness, concern – even boredom. There was a heaviness now of eyes and limbs, the need to sleep. He closed his eyes.

Jim seized the opportunity. His mind was cloudy, it would soon lose all coherency, but while the thing drifted to sleep, his thoughts were his own – as they had been for an instant in the transporter room.

There was little he could do. He was trapped, helpless inside his own body. The thing controlled him. If he could tell someone, someone who was free from this constant scrutiny, there was perhaps a chance that it could be stopped. But how? How could he say anything, leave any kind of message that the thing wouldn’t know about? It said he couldn’t guard his thoughts…

But subtlety might work. If he could make the thing act just differently enough for someone to notice… After all, what did it have to go on for a model but his own thoughts? Maybe several almost undetectable alterations in character, different inflections, wrong nuances, like with Janice… But how could he be sure someone would notice?

Spock. Spock knew him better than any man alive, and Spock perceived things no one else would. His analytical mind would add up the deviations, he would know that Jim Kirk was trying to tell him something was wrong. It had worked before. And Spock would test any theory with as much subtlety as Jim himself used.

Jim felt his mind slipping into sleep, felt the energy rapidly leaving his body. Little things, one at a time, sufficiently spaced. Spock would see. Spock would know. Spock would help.

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“Captain’s Log: The excavation on Shas is proceeding well. It has been two standard weeks since the discovery of the great temple, and Commander Spock estimates that the teams will have completed their work in another two. Starfleet Command, while unconvinced of the importance of this mission, has consented to the stay here provided the ship is maintained on a possible-alert status, pending any sign of Haven activity.

Concerning the Haven Empire, there is still no indication of how they will react to the breakdown of negotiations.”

Kirk switched off the recorder and looked around his Bridge. Everything was going perfectly. Two weeks and he was feeling more and more at home in this reality. His host was gradually becoming acquiescent. Soon there would be only a lingering recollection of separate identity, and then – final acceptance. He would be Jim as well as Kirk and there would be no fear of rejection.

He smiled and began studying the site reports from Shas.

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It was Lieutenant Sulu’s comment to Kevin Riley’s grumbling about Captain Kirk’s recent frequent attendance at the Valley-Majiir impromptu concerts that cemented Spock’s suspicions:

“Maybe he’s heard about some of their more humorous selections.”

Spock had. Unflattering though they were, James T. Kirk would never attempt to spoil any legal form his crew’s relaxation cared to take, as long as he remained officially unaware of any insubordination that might be involved. He would never deliberately try to catch his officers being insubordinate. Spock knew he secretly enjoyed the mild taunting. Imitation was, after all, said to be the most sincere form of flattery.

Therefore, why this sudden interest in Lieutenant Valley and Ensign Majiir’s music? It recalled to Spock’s mind the other slight abnormalities in the Captain’s recent behavior. He had ceased his casual involvement with the Bridge crew’s personal lives: the concern over such trivial things as Chekov’s instruction in Terran, as opposed to Russian-Terran history, Sulu’s bouts with various substitutes for Richelieu, Uhura’s daily gossip reports. Of course, he had much on his mind, the situation with the Haven Trading Empire particularly. The order to war could arrive at any moment. Yet the Captain had never let that sort of tension interfere with his relationship with his crew, as evidenced by the recent situation with the kidnapping of Valley and Majiir. Spock had not heard him refer to Dr. McCoy as ‘Bones’ or to Mr. Scott as “Scotty’ since he had returned from Shas two weeks earlier. And he had taken to engaging in McCoy’s somewhat annoying habit of referring to his First Officer as ‘our pointy-eared computer’ or ‘the green-skinned encyclopedia.’ It was friendly teasing, he knew, said in the most gently jesting of manners and, in an illogical way, meant to flatter, but the Captain had never before chosen that way of expressing himself. Was he under stress that Spock was unaware of, sealed orders, perhaps? It had happened before.

Spock strode along the corridor on Deck Five, his eyebrows lowered in deep concentration. Sealed orders, he thought. That would explain much. He caught the low murmur of voices, Jim Kirk’s and Ensign Tara Ryan’s. The Captain’s words were unintelligible, but Miss Ryan’s embarrassed, indignant response was clear:

“Yes, sir, you are the Captain, sir, but that’s one order I won't take. Don’t force me to file an official complaint.”

Spock stopped walking. Sealed orders would not explain that. Any of this, taken separately, might not be considered unusual, or unexplainable. But all of it, especially this last… Jim Kirk had never, would never use his rank to force sexual favors from a crewmember. The Captain was either deliberately reacting contrary to his normal behavioral patterns, or the man who stood with a Starfleet ensign backed against his quarters’ door was not James Tiberius Kirk.

The cryptic scribbling on the artifacts discovered on Shas had been deciphered, and Spock suddenly recalled that the Captain had opened one of the many boxes found. The scroll that contained the key to the hieroglyphics had also contained a terse warning of an ancient evil, a caution against ‘those who seem what they are not’ and against ‘unguarded release from sealed places.’ Logic said to ignore cultural superstitions, but experience, like that on the Indiian planet of Triacus, dictated otherwise. He had learned, too often the hard way, that such warnings were best heeded. Nothing else brought from Shas had been tampered with. But the Captain had not known of the warning. Indeed, at the time, no one had. Was it possible? Yes, anything was possible. But probable?

Spock glanced again at the captain’s quarters as Kirk watched Ensign Ryan hurry away. There was a cold, scheming expression on his face that Spock had only seen twice before. Once, it was on the face of Jim Kirk’s ‘evil’ half; the other… had not been Jim Kirk. He remembered the incredible situation of Janice Lester using the body she had always wanted to possess and had found a way to steal. Spock had not been able to prove his conclusion then. Only the woman’s own madness and the bravery of the junior crewmembers had saved him and Dr. McCoy and Mr. Scott from execution. And then, he had had Jim Kirk, albeit in Lester’s body, to help him. If this was not Jim, where was he?

An hour later, on the Bridge, the Captain turned casually to his First Officer. “Miss Valley and Mrs. Majiir are performing a little later on, Spock,” he said. “It would be pleasant if you’d join them. The crew so seldom gets to hear you play.” The words were said amiably, but Spock’s eyes flickered in deep surprise. The Captain had never made such a request before. For him to intrude on the Vulcan’s privacy was unthinkable. It was time for a conclusive test.

“I think not,” Spock said, “but perhaps you would care for a game of chess after the watch, Jim.”

The Captain smiled. “No, I don’t think so, Spock. Thanks anyway.”

The Vulcan mask settled over Spock’s features, hiding the alarm. Never, in the more than seven years Spock had served under him, had Jim Kirk failed to react strongly to Spock’s usage of his given name. To smile, to remain totally natural, was completely uncharacteristic. Coupled with all the other anomalies Spock had noted, there was only one conclusion that could be drawn. Whoever this man was, it was not James T. Kirk.

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Inside Kirk’s head, a voice exploded with relief. He knows, he got it, Spock, thank god!

Got it? Got what? You haven’t been trying to tell our extremely perceptive First Officer something I would rather he not know, have you? Ah yes, you have. You’ve presented me with a problem. How to stop Mr. Spock.

You can’t! Jim crowed. Once he’s on to something, he’s relentless and unshakable! I’ll beat you yet!

Something will have to be done, redirect his attention to matters of greater importance.

You can’t start the Haven war, and the only thing greater than Spock’s loyalty is his concern for his duty.

Or his concern for self-preservation.

You can’t do anything to harm him, Jim thought smugly. You’d expose yourself.

That is true enough, but there are certain things a captain can do through the ship’s computers that can, if he’s clever enough, never be discovered.

Spock knows now. He’ll be watching you every second. And he’ll look for any changes in his cabin or ship’s functions, or food or…

Food. Thank you, Captain.

He’ll notice any foreign substance. He’ll search through the computer logs and find the coding. He’ll take his suspicions to Starfleet and get an order to release the classification. You can’t do anything to him!

He won’t notice if its effect is pleasant at first, not till it ceases to be pleasant. And by then, it will be much too late.

Captain Kirk got up out of the con and, nodding to Spock, left the Bridge. Once inside his quarters, he spoke to the computer, classifying his words under his voice print, code one, and captain’s priority. Calmly, he dictated his instructions, and inside his head, Jim screamed and cursed and wept.

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Go to Part Two

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