(Standard Year 2247)

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Captain’s Log: A much-needed shore leave on Alpha Tioca III has been unpleasantly interrupted. Two of the Enterprise’s junior officers, a newly promoted lieutenant and a recently assigned ensign, have been reported AWOL.

Jim Kirk irritably snapped off the recorder. “Ruth Valley and Jilla Majiir are more trouble than they’re worth,” he announced to the heavens.

“Jim, I’m tellin, ya, something’s wrong. Ruthie’s not the type to run out like this, and Mrs. Majiir certainly isn’t.” McCoy was standing behind the con. He had just handed the Captain a cup of coffee. It was early in the third watch and he and Kirk had been enjoying the floorshow at Barangrill planetside..

“You mean Mrs. Majiir wasn't,” Kirk returned. Privately, he added, And what personnel idiot assigned an impressionable young widow to share a cabin with a sentient butterfly? “Two months, Bones,” he went on aloud, “and dear Miss Valley has corrupted a perfectly sane…”

“Well, she wasn’t exactly perfectly sane,” McCoy put in.

“Don’t remind me.”

“Captain, Security reports all other personnel accounted for,” Spock interrupted, stepping from the door of the turbolift.

“A very annoyed Security,” Sulu muttered as he got out of the car behind the First Officer. “And very annoyed personnel, I might add.”

“Don’t bother, Lieutenant, I know," Kirk said. “I’m one of them.” He turned to the Communications officer. “Ensign, have the search teams report to the transporter room, and hold the report to Fleet. There just may be some sort of logical reason…” His voice trailed off and he shrugged at McCoy.

“Softie,” McCoy said, and grinned back.


Brian Seaforth was a tall, strongly built Rigellian. He was a slave-trader, a well-known disreputable scoundrel with a smile that rivaled Sulu at his most devastating. But he wasn’t smiling and he wasn’t pleased.

“Captain, “ he said patiently, “this is most irregular.”

Kirk regarded him urbanely. “It was the only way to ensure a chance to talk to you before your scheduled departure, Mr. Seaforth.”

They were separated by the force field of a jail cell.

“I am totally innocent!” Seaforth bristled.

“Of course you are. And I’ll tell the sergeant so as soon as you answer a few questions.”

“Truthfully,” Spock added, “which is more than you have done so far.”

“I tell you, Vulcan,” Seaforth said, straightening self-righteously, “I had nothing to do with any Fleet officers.”

“And I tell you, Mr. Seaforth,” Kirk rejoined, “that you were seen in the company of women matching the descriptions of Lieutenant Valley and Ensign Majiir. And the charge of illegal trafficking will remain until you tell me where you left them.”

“I am not fool enough to attempt to sell any merchandise to which I don’t have legal title,” Seaforth insisted angrily.

“Indeed?” Spock replied. “You have served two rehabilitation terms for conviction of fraudulent sale of questionable…”

“You’re a famous fence, Seaforth, and we all know it,” Kirk interrupted. “Come now, an Antari and an Indiian can’t be that hard to...”

“Antari and Indiian?” Seaforth’s face was sternly innocent. “I assure you, Captain, had I two such prizes I would have no doubt remembered it.” Spock raised his eyebrow. Kirk sighed, and turned. “Are you getting me out of here?” Seaforth demanded.

Kirk shook his head sadly.

“Don’t you believe me!?”

“Implicitly,” Spock commented as Kirk kept walking.

Kirk!” There was no reaction and Seaforth made a quick decision . “All right, I sold them to the captain of the Breakaway, but I swear I didn’t know they were Fleet!”

Kirk turned. “When does the Breakaway leave port?”

“She did, Captain,” Spock answered ruefully. “Early this morning.”

“Goddamn… thank you for your cooperation, Mr. Seaforth.”

“Get me out of here, Kirk!”

“Of course.”

On his way out, Kirk informed the guard that Fleet Security would be by for Mr. Seaforth before nightfall.


“They were what?!” Commodore Mendez shouted from the viewscreen.

Kirk raised his head from his hands. It was the third time he’d explained this, once to a half incredulous Uhura, to an incredulous idiot desk jockey, and now to incredulously indignant José.

“Kidnapped, shanghaied, abducted, whatever you want to call it,” he replied. “They were on leave, in civilian clothing and knowing Ruth Valley, partying to rival Lorelei. José, all I’m doing is requesting time to go find them.”

“You bet your stripes you’ll find them!” Mendez thundered. “Valley and Majiir… “ Mendez interrupted himself. “Oh, Jesus, Costain’s daughter! When Babel hears of this…” He paused. “Jim, do you realize who you’ve lost? Those women are the best in their fields!” From Engineering, Scott snorted. At the Science Station, Spock raised one offended eyebrow. Kirk ignored both. McCoy, standing behind Kirk, didn’t.

“Outclassed, are you, Spocko boy?” he chuckled. Spock gave him a mild glare.

“You are hereby ordered to the task of finding and rescuing Lieutenant Valley and Ensign Majiir,” Mendez was continuing. “No leave will be granted until they are found safe and well. You hear me, Kirk? Safe and well.”

Kirk closed his eyes, nodding. “Yes, sir,” he muttered.

“Mendez out.”

The screen went blank and the entire Bridge crew groaned. Kirk spoke over the complaints.

“Well, it’s what we wanted. Let’s go, Mr. Sulu, Mr. Chekov. Warp factor four, follow the projected course of the Breakaway.”


“That was handled by Ru – Miss Valley, Boss, sir,” Lieutenant Gollub’s voice said from the com.

Spock frowned. “Lieutenant, if I hear that phrase again, I will seriously consider the necessity of half of this section to be in substantial doubt,” he said. “Is it possible to readjust so that work will be completed without the eternal presence of Lieutenant Valley?”

“It’s only been a day and half,” Daffy muttered.

“And this section is a day and half behind in its reports,” Spock returned. “Miss Gollub, please see to the correction of this backlog.” If he had been another officer, he might have commented that he had heard the Lieutenant’s grumbled string of epithets. Being Vulcan, he simply concluded with “Spock out.” He turned in his chair to face the con. “Miss Valley has been a most efficient assistant,” he said apologetically.

“You just findin’ that out?” McCoy asked, his voice dripping condescension.

“We got along fine before she came aboard, Bones,” Kirk replied. “There’s no reason why we can’t do so now.”

"You forgettin' how she held the ship together when...?" McCoy began.

“Her actions were what merited her promotion," Spock broke in to forestall McCoy's attempt to embarrass him. "And she is the only A-8 on the ship,” Spock put in. “Other than myself, of course.”

“She what?” Kirk asked.

“Is the only A-8…” Spock started to repeat.

“A-8? Computer classification? Ruth Valley?”

“Indeed,” Spock returned. “It is why I made her my assistant.”

“Top marine biologist, too,” McCoy stated proudly, bouncing on his heels. “And four doctorates.”

“Physics, computer science, chemistry and marine biology,” Spock enumerated.

Kirk looked ready to fall out of his chair. “Ruth Valley?” he repeated. “Our Ruth Valley? ‘I-don’t-need-the-aggravation-who-sir-me-sir-Bwana-Jim’ Ruth Valley?”

“The same,” McCoy beamed. Kirk shook his head in disbelief, then grimaced helplessly.

“You hadn’t reviewed her record when she was assigned, Captain?” Spock questioned.

“Some of us found things about her more interesting than her education, Spock,” McCoy told him, and noted the exchange of grins between Sulu and Chekov.

“Yes, Doctor,” Spock returned. “Such as her empathic ‘voodoo.’” Unperturbed at McCoy's scowl, he turned back to his station.

Suddenly Uhura jumped, pulling the earpiece sharply away from her head. “Ah… message from Fleet, sir,” she said, shaking her head.

Kirk closed his eyes. Not again. “Put it on the screen, Lieutenant.” He turned in time to silence the grumbling from the crew with a cautionary finger.


He gave Spock the con and went to his quarters with McCoy and a miracle cure; Saurian brandy. He needed it. The call had been indirectly from Babel. Ambassador Costain was, understandably, upset. Ambassador evan Rhialan of Antares was, understandably, upset. Kirk was, understandably, up shit creek without a paddle if one hair on the heads of either one of the missing officers was so much as mussed. It had been a day and half of following, stopping, searching in the wake of the Breakaway. It had made three stops since leaving Alpha Tioca III, and he had had to search each of three ports, keeping tabs on a crew whose leave had been sabotaged. So far they’d found no trace of Valley or Majiir. Thank god, they were at last only a few hours behind the Breakaway.

He drained a glass, then lay back on his bed while McCoy refilled it.

“Why, Bones,” he asked plaintively. “Why me? She does it to me on purpose, y’know. I always suspected it, but with an A-8, I’m sure. She lays awake nights, plotting, I know she does. ‘Let’s see, what can I do to annoy Bwana Jim? I know, next shore leave I’ll get myself sold into slavery. Better yet, I’ll take Majiir with me. That ought to shake him up.’” He fell to mumbling incoherently.

“Jim, you’re lettin’ this get to you,” McCoy said jauntily.

“Of course I’m letting it get to me!” Jim exploded. “She’s done it to me again! She always does. She always will. She’ll be on my ship forever, it’s punishment for being such a serious cadet. God is some great practical joker who… hell, God’s probably Antari!”

“Now, now, she’s not that bad,” McCoy tried to soothe. “She’s a hard worker, as good as Spock - and if he were here I’d say better. She just plays as hard as she works.”

“Bones,” Kirk said wearily, “if you’re going to defend her, shut up.”


“NO, I HAVEN’T FOUND them yet, Commodore, sir.” Kirk’s thunder turned to controlled, strained patience. “We’ve just tried to make contact with the Breakaway, and they seemed none too eager that we should catch them. They’ve started evasive maneuvers. If you’ll excuse me, sir, I have a ship to run. I will definitely let you know as soon as there is any word on Miss Valley or Mrs. Majiir, sir. Kirk out.”

He slammed his fist down on the com button, then swiveled angrily to Uhura. “Any more calls from Fleet, Let Spock talk to them. Tell them I was killed in action..”

“Sir, you’re not serious,” Uhura stammered.

“I don’t give a damn what you tell them, Lieutenant, just keep the calls away from me,” Kirk barked.

“Yes, sir!” Uhura snapped.

Kirk turned again to face the Helm. “Mr. Sulu, why aren’t we chasing the Breakaway?” he demanded.

“You didn’t give the order yet, sir,” Sulu answered.

“You’ve done it now, Sulu,” Chekov mumbled.

“WELL GET TO IT, MISTER!” came a roaring reply.

“I told you.”

“Shut up, Pavel.”

Kirk took several deep breaths, and counted to twenty. Exhaling deeply, he faced Uhura. “Sorry, Lieutenant,” he said sincerely.

“It’s all right, Captain,” she returned, smiling sympathetically at him.

“You too, Sulu,” Kirk added.

Sulu only grinned.


After half an hour of chasing, Kirk said, “To hell with diplomacy,” and stood. “Mr. Sulu, lock our tractor beam on the Breakaway.”

“Sir, this is a Haven ship,” Spock said. “The Federation’s relations with the Haven Empire are shaky at best, and to engage in any form of forcible restraint…”

“Spock, do you know of any other way we’re going to get to search that ship?” Kirk asked, exasperated.

Spock blinked. “They, will, eventually, run out of…”

“And in case you haven’t been aware of it, Fleet is not content to wait.” Kirk turned irritably from the Vulcan. “Damn her A-8, four doctorates, ambassador’s daughter…”

“Tractor locked on, Captain,” Sulu said.

“Uhura open a channel to the Breakaway.”

Uhura adjusted a few dials, punched out a hailing frequency. “Go ahead, Captain.”

Breakaway, this is Captain Kirk of the U.S.S. Enterprise. We have reason to believe you are transporting illegal goods through the Federation and demand that you submit to a full search as per Trading Regulations one-four-six, section three.”

A smiling Haven face appeared on the screen. “Captain Kirk, this is Captain Coron. We remind you that harassment of a Trading vessel by a Federation starship is strictly prohibited…”

“We haven’t been harassing you, Captain Coron,” Kirk interrupted., “as you would’ve found out had you answered our hails.”

“My dear Captain, you are aware that in order for a search to be conducted legally, you need to have some cause to suspect us of some illegality?” Coron returned smoothly.

“Of course,” Kirk said, smiling coldly. “But I need only satisfy my superiors as to that – if you care to charge me with harassment.” The smile vanished. “Prepare to be boarded, Captain. Kirk out.”


Coron turned to his First Officer. “Wasn’t the Enterprise on leave on Tioca?” he asked.

"Sure was,” Commander Siodom replied. “It came in almost forty-eight hours before we left.”

“And they’ve been following us for nearly that long…” Coron’s face lit up. “There’s four hundred and thirty people on that ship whose leaves were interrupted, and they’re sending a boarding party. Siodom, let’s see if we can manage to have a few samples of our wares lying about, shall we? A profit is, after all, a profit.”


“I was told by Mr. Seaforth that he sold these two women to you just before you left Alpha Tioca III,” Kirk said, handing Coron two ID disks. “I understand that you had no idea they were Fleet personnel and if you’ll just hand them over to me, there won’t be any charges made against you.”

Coron inclined his head skeptically, but turned and inserted the disks into a reader. Kirk glanced at the corridor in which his men were waiting the order to begin a search. It was lined with tables of jewelry, weaponry, fine clothing and leather goods, as well as expensive delicacies in food and drink. There was more exotic material as well, specialized viewing tapes and sexual accessories – and, of course, the inevitable Haven chemical gels and capsules. And behind each table was a beautiful, nearly naked Haven. He sighed deeply. It was difficult enough for him to keep his mind off the shore leave they’d been forced to abandon. The younger, less-disciplined officers were finding it nearly impossible to resist the array of temptation set out before them. Tara Ryan was that far from bartering over a particularly lovely set of earrings. Ensign Williams was casually lounging near a viewscreen that Kirk was sure wasn’t showing starcharts. Even Sulu was affected, already deeply involved in what could at any moment turn into a seduction of a voluptuous Orion who had been giving a demonstration of one of her native dances. That, he decided, was going too far.

“Mr. Sulu,” he stated dryly, “I sincerely doubt if either Lieutenant Valley or Ensign Majiir are secreted on that young lady’s person.”

Sulu grinned sheepishly and stepped away from the Orion. “Just trying to be thorough, sir,” he said.

Kirk resisted the urge to give his Security Chief a sharp rap in the mouth.

Coron handed the disks back to him. “We sold those two at our first port of call,” he said. “Made a nice profit, too.”

Kirk shook his head. “No, you didn’t, Captain. We’ve stopped at all your ports. There was no sign of them.”

“They were bought by a Lord Qia,” Coron returned smoothly. “He had a large caravan just beginning to depart across Cabu’s desert for his homeland. It’s possible you missed them.”

Kirk studied the urbane Haven face before him. “You don’t mind,” he said with false cordiality, “if I insist on a search anyway, do you, Captain?”

“By all means, Captain,” Coron returned. “Search away. Although…” Coron turned to Sulu, “I would appreciate your crew paying for any wares they wish to sample.” He smiled brilliantly, and Kirk scowled. Sulu looked all too eager to start handing out credits.


It took only a few hours to reach Cabu. Kirk ordered a scan of the large desert for any sign of a caravan.

“Captain, “ Spock asked from the Science station, “How exactly do you propose to secure the return of Lieutenant Valley and Ensign Majiir? This man Qia purchased them in good faith, and he should not be made to suffer a financial loss due to…”

“Spock, you’re not suggesting we buy our officers back, are you?” Kirk asked, more than a little aghast at the possibility.

“Of course not, sir,” Spock returned. “However…”

“Slave-tradin’ is illegal, Spock!” McCoy broke in. He was in his usual place, standing behind the con. “Why don’t you come up with something helpful? Can’t you see Jim’s upset enough?”

Kirk sighed, starting to turn to stop the battle before it got started, and caught a murmur from Chekov:

“What’s so unusual about the Captain being upset?”

And Sulu muttered, “Nothing, at least not in the last four days.” A sudden grin lit the Asian features. “Maybe he misses Ruth.”

Chekov snorted and Kirk bit down on what would have been a caustic and mostly undeserved browbeating that formed in his mind. Then he noticed that Uhura was humming Beyond Antares.

“…non-hostile relations between Fleet and members of the Federation or allied worlds is hardly…”

“We’re all aware of that, Spock, but right now our minds happen to be on other matters, like the safety of…”

“I know who I miss.”

“Your fencing and shower partner, of course.”

“No – at least, not as much as I miss Jilla.”

“Are you hoping to get locked in quarters with her for four days?”

“Believe me, it couldn’t hurt.”

“…beyond the stars… where my heart is…”

“…are not a peaceful people and their culture is one of great possessiveness. It will be extremely difficult to convince Lord Qia that our officers are not his property, and until we do so, any attempt to take them from him will be interpreted as…”

“And what about Ruthie and Mrs. Majiir? Are we supposed to worry about diplomacy when they may be…”


Around him, backs straightened, mouths snapped shut, eyes began exchanging glances. Kirk held his breath, feeling terribly foolish, but reveling in the first peace in four days.


To the surprise of nearly everyone, there was a caravan headed across Cabu’s desert. Kirk got permission from the Cabu government to send a small party down to negotiate with Qia. Cabu was a particularly difficult language, and the universal translator often made inappropriate word choices based on its internal syntax. The government agreed to send an interpreter along to avoid any possible diplomatic incident due to inaccurate translation. They beamed down just outside Qia’s camp.

“Wait here,” said the interpreter, a short man named Rewe. “I will announce you to his Lordship, and inform him why you wish to speak with him.”

Kirk tried not to fidget, instead pacing nervously back and forth in the sand. Sulu was admiring a stand of primitive weaponry just outside the main tent. Spock actually seemed to be enjoying the intense rays of the setting, scarlet sun. Reminds him of home, no doubt, Kirk thought. It wasn’t possible that Qia actually had them and would simply say, ‘oh, sorry, my mistake, here, take them.’ That would be much too easy. Either he didn’t have them, or he had no intention of giving them up. Kirk found himself wondering how Valley had pulled off that one.

Rewe returned a few minutes later.

“Lord Qia says he would be not unpleased to hear you, but that he has no exotic slaves of the type you seek,” he said.

Okay, let’s get back to the ship. “Gentlemen, shall we speak with Lord Qia?”

As they walked, Spock spoke quietly. “Remember, Captain, these are an extremely possessive people. Even a covetous glance could mean a challenge. I would suggest cautioning Mr. Sulu against his usual exuberance.”

Kirk nodded and turned to Sulu. “Lieutenant, don’t want anything – swords, clothes, women – too obviously, all right? We just want to find Lieutenant Valley and Ensign Majiir and get out alive.”

“Aye, sir,” Sulu replied solemnly.

They were presented to Lord Qia with many bows and an inordinate amount of flowery speech on the part of Rewe. When Kirk was finally allowed to speak, he handed Qia the pictures of Valley and Majiir the Cabu government had been good enough to print from their ID disks.

“Lord Qia, these are the women we seek,” he said. “I understand that you have no slaves like these. However, is it possible you have seen them, bought and sold them, perhaps, in the last few days?”

Rewe translated, mimicking Kirk’s gestures and tone of voice. Sulu chuckled and Kirk shot him a stern look. Qia spoke to the interpreter, and Rewe turned to Kirk.

“Lord Qia says he has never seen any women like this on Cabu, and wants to know where he can obtain them.”

Again Kirk spoke to Qia. “Lord, they are ladies, not slaves. They are officers in the crew of my ship.”

Rewe translated, listened, and replied to Kirk.

“Lord Qia says that if they are not slaves, why do you look for them to be bought or sold?”

Kirk sighed. “They were abducted, stolen from my ship. We seek their return, and were told you might have knowledge of them.”

As Rewe translated, the court around Qia roared in indignation, Rewe spoke excitedly.

“Captain, Lord Qia offers all his men and goods to help you in the recovery of your property!”

“No, no!” Kirk cried. “I just want to know if he knows of them!”

“Lord Qia says he will leave this very day to go with you, and cut out the hearts of those who would deprive you of what is rightfully yours!” Rewe enthused.

“Rewe, will you explain to Lord Qia about starships and personnel and that Lieutenant Valley and Ensign Majiir aren’t my property?” Kirk asked in exasperation. All around him, men were arming themselves and whooping with joy. He looked helplessly at Spock and Sulu and found both shaking their heads. At least Sulu was grinning.

Rewe shouted to be heard above the din, when suddenly all went deathly quiet. Qia spoke harshly, thundering in outrage. Rewe trembled as he translated.

“Lord Qia asks if you are thieves who wish to regain ill-gotten goods, and says that if so, he will have your heads on platters before him within the next minute.”

“They don’t ‘belong’ to me, they’re officers aboard my ship!” Kirk tried to explain. “I didn’t steal them!”

“Captain,” Spock said quietly, “I believe you should have phrased that statement a bit more carefully.”

No sooner were the words out of Spock’s mouth when Qia leapt from his seat, straight at Kirk. Sulu was immediately on top of Qia, pulling him away, and another man jumped on Sulu. Spock quickly opened his communicator and requested emergency beam-up.


“Well, what happened?” McCoy demanded.

“They weren’t there,” Kirk said, brushing the sand and blood from his cheek.


Kirk stepped out of the shower, rubbing the towel briskly over his hair. McCoy had sutured the worst of the cuts, but he needed to wash the sand out of his hair and off his body. He was attempting to stop his thoughts, to give himself a few minutes of utter quiet before resuming the task of figuring out what to do next. He’d have to talk to Coron again, that much was certain. But he didn’t relish the idea. Havens were slippery to deal with under the best of circumstances, and these certainly weren’t among the best…

Captain Kirk.

Kirk started at the rich, melodic voice in his head. Had he imagined it?

Captain Kirk.

Swiftly, he looked around the cabin. I know I’m under a lot of stress, but surely I’m not hearing voices just yet.

evan Dorothy!

What the…!?

Ah, that got your attention. Forgive the intrusion, but I thought it best not to bother with the usual Fleet channels. Allow me to introduce myself. I’m Ambassador evan Rhialan.

Kirk turned a full circle around. “Where…where are you?” he asked out loud.

Currently, on Babel. Z has been kind enough to amplify my telepathic abilities during this – ah – crisis.


Yes, I thought so.

Kirk took a deep breath, reminding himself that the Ambassador could obviously read his thoughts.

Definitely a good thing to keep in mind, Captain, if you’ll forgive the pun. There was a deep chuckle in Kirk’s head.

Kirk cleared his throat. “Well, Mr. Ambassador, what can I do for you?”

Find ani Ramy, of course.

Easier said than done. “You do realize that’s all we’ve been doing the past three days.”

Well, yes, she is a keheil. But the Z thought you might be moved by a little incentive.

What could be more incentive than knowing her representative can read my goddamned mind? Kirk started to speak, but was interrupted.

That’s actually about the extent of it, Captain. As my cousin might say, shalom.

The sense of presence left him, and Kirk realized that the entire conversation had taken place while he was stark naked.

Not to worry, Captain, came another voice, just as melodic, but definitely female, and definitely amused. It was a very nice view.


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