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“Will you stop-” Kirk paused, to throw up. While he was distracted, McCoy hit him with another hypo, this one in the shoulder.

“That should help with the nausea,” the doctor said, sounding rather self-satisfied. Kirk responded, wittily, with a groan.

“Well, it's your own fault,” McCoy snapped. “Of all the idiot things to-you know you can't even handle half the things on the approved list for human beings, and you go off and drink some strange alien concoction, without even checking it first?”

Kirk had checked it, and tried to explain that, but it mostly came out as a longer groan.

“Well, even if that's the case,” McCoy continued, somehow managing to understand him, “you have to make allowances for your system! Do you know what happens to you if I give you a simple Retinax V injection?”

“Tranya,” Kirk managed, earning him a strange look. He offered a weak smile. “Not Retinax. It was tranya. I checked on that much.”

McCoy, alarmingly, seemed to swell in place. Thankfully, he was cut off before anything could explode.

“Doctor McCoy, is the captain-” Spock began as he entered sickbay, and then paused, startled by something or other.

Kirk, soaked in sweat, half-naked and hanging over the edge of the bio-bed, turned his head.

“Oh, thank god,” he groaned. “Help me.”

McCoy, liberally splashed with the inside of Kirk's stomach, made a faint growling noise.“I swear, if you don't quit your whining, I'm not going to be responsible for what happens.” He hit Kirk with another hypo, and Kirk flinched with a sharp sound of pain.

“Doctor,” Spock said, looking vaguely alarmed, “are you quite certain all this is necessary?”

“Look, don't tell me how to do my damn job, and I'll return the favor,” McCoy popped off. He patted Kirk on the shoulder. “That last one was for the itching. You should be feeling better in about five minutes.”

“I don't have any itching!” Kirk snapped.

McCoy tilted his head and looked to one side in a kind of 'oh-well' expression. “Yeah. That'll be along in about five minutes, too.”

Kirk watched him go with a flabbergasted look on his face. Spock stepped close to his bed, eyebrows high.

“I'd bet money he doesn't really have a medical license,” Kirk muttered, shaking his head.

“Captain, we have received a transmission...” Spock began.

“Spock, “ Kirk sighed, cutting him off. He pinched the bridge of his nose. “I really need a shower,” he explained. And a nap. And a change of clothes, because his were covered in vomit. Because he was in sickbay, so it better be something dammed important.

Spock straightened, looked down briefly at the unpleasant puddle next to the bed.

Then, slightly quieter, “sir, we are on course for our scheduled rendezvous, but we have received a transmission from Beta Antares IV.”

Kirk got very serious, very fast.

“That's the Vulcan colony,” he said, and Spock tilted his head in agreement, his eyes sliding away. Spock looked pretty sneaky, for a Vulcan.

“There is an emergency at their power station, and they are requesting assistance,” he continued.

Kirk's heart sank right down to his toes. Though, on some level he couldn't help but think...Of course it was a problem with the power station. What else could it be, right?

Spock, the Elder Spock, had been using his illicit skills from the future to do a lot of judicious meddling, as far as available technology for the Vulcan colony went. The power station was his latest project.

He'd sent Kirk a packet not two weeks ago going on and on about power ratios and the volume of surface water available...He'd sounded almost excited, for a Vulcan. And if Kirk could trust that his growing feel for his first officer's moods applied just as well to the older Spock, then Kirk would say the Old Man had been downright giddy about the challenge.

He liked the older Spock, he liked him a lot, and Kirk had a sudden wicked hunch that whatever trouble was going on, he was right in the thick of it.

And speaking of Spock getting himself into trouble, he couldn't help but notice a slightly devious expression on his first officer's face.

“Spock,” Kirk said slowly, suspicious, “did they use their emergency beacon?”

Spock examined the monitor above the biobed as if it was fascinating. “It was an ordinary transmission, sir,” he said carefully.

Not a terrible emergency, then. Probably about moderate on a scale of 'oh shit we're gonna die'. He tried not to think about how much trouble the older Spock could probably manage to get himself into with a moderate emergency. Bones and Spock both insisted it was him who had a death wish, but Kirk had noticed a definite tendency for Spock to attract mayhem all on his own.

“You know,” Kirk began, reluctantly-

They were headed into a very delicate diplomatic situation, a juicy assignment which they had just earned by cementing talks with the First Federation over cups of tranya. An assignment that really couldn't wait for anything less than a serious emergency.

“Yes, sir,” Spock replied immediately, cutting him off and glancing up at him. Of course Spock knew, he had the regulations memorized. Which begged the question, why had he bothered to ask?

Kirk paused, digesting that, and thinking about the look Spock had just given him.

“Is there another ship within range?” he asked, knowing the answer was 'no'.

“No, sir,” Spock replied, and gave him that look again. Not pleading, Spock wouldn't, but...Kirk narrowed his eyes at him, not out of anger, just trying to figure him out.

“Is there something...are you asking me to ditch our orders and go anyway?” he asked, for clarification. Spock straightened, lifting his eyebrows and looking mildly affronted.

“Our orders are quite specific, captain,” Spock said, as if it was Kirk who needed convincing. That expression on his face...kind of I-need-you-to-understand-this. “Therefore, there would be no logic in my making such a request.”

Kirk's expression cleared, and he gave Spock a friendly, fond once-over.

“Which is why you need me to decide to do it on my own,” Kirk said, leaning back on his hands.

“Captain,” Spock began, his eyes widening, and Kirk could hear the denial like Spock had beamed it directly into his brain. He held up a hand, to stop him.

“Relax.” He eyed his friend with a slight smile on his face, somewhat bemused. Spock didn't know anything about his alter ego (suspicions maybe, since he wasn't stupid, but Kirk had never spilled the truth). Even without that knowledge, Spock had family on Beta Antares IV. Not to mention a definite interest, just being a Vulcan, in the colony's survival.

Kirk stared at the floor for a moment, weighing consequences. He would get into trouble for this, the question was, how much? Kirk glanced up at Spock, who was despite his Vulcan heritage, pretty obviously tense about what his answer would be. A corner of Kirk's mouth twitched up, and he turned, rolling over and stretching his arm to smack at the comm unit on the wall.

“Kirk to Bridge, Lieutenant Uhura?” he called. There was a pause, and then her acknowledgment, sounding somewhat surprised. “I hear we got a signal from the Vulcan colony's emergency beacon,” Kirk said, noting Spock twitch out of the corner of his eye.

“Captain,” Uhura said reluctantly, “I have...no...”

“Lieutenant,” Kirk said, rolling the word around in his mouth with enjoyment, “I am sure that there are any number of malfunctions that could occur in our communications systems that could cause us to make a very honest mistake. That is really too bad, because if there was no emergency signal, then our orders would require us to continue on to pick up our diplomats, and we would be in a lot of trouble if we didn't.”

A beat of silence.

“Ah, yes...yes...just let me...” silence. Some slightly frantic scuffling sounds. Then, very softly, under her breath but still just loud enough to be picked up “I could-no, that's not...wait. Yes-” then, louder, “yes, Captain, we-” she paused. “We do have a transmission. An emergency transmission. From the Vulcan colony, sir.”

“Excellent,” Kirk said, shooting a glance Spock's way. His eyebrows were somewhere near his hairline.“I mean,” he corrected himself, “what rotten luck. Mr. Sulu, plot a course for Beta Antares IV, warp six.”

“Aye, sir,” Sulu responded promptly, sounding slightly strangled, as if holding back a laugh. “That puts us there in...twenty minutes, sir.”

“Good enough, Kirk out.” He turned back to Spock, itching absently at his shoulder. Spock was giving him an extremely warm look.

“Should Starfleet Command realize your error was deliberate-”

“I'll deal with that if it happens. Which it won't,” probably. He eased himself over to the end of the bed, somewhat gingerly put his feet on the floor, and stood up. He waited, but no terrible waves of nausea showed up to cause havoc. He took a deep breath and straightened up, scratching absently at the back of his neck, and noticed Spock had moved in closer, as if to catch him if he wobbled.

He looked like he wanted to thank Kirk. Of course he couldn't. Wouldn't be logical, thanking Kirk for nothing. Seeing as ducking orders and running off to rescue the Vulcans was entirely his own idea. Kirk smiled at him, warm and knowing, and clapped him on the arm. Spock inclined his head, looking very pleased with himself.

“Twenty minutes gives me enough time for a shower, at least,” Kirk said simply, moving casually away from any dangerous, sticky, emotional stuff. He glanced around to see if Bones was in sight, amused when Spock moved to cover his back, on guard for any sign of the Doctor as if he was a Romulan trying to get the jump on them. He wasn't anywhere Kirk could see, so he scooted his ass out of sickbay quick, herding Spock along with him.


Twenty five minutes later Kirk stepped into the transporter room, having lagged slightly behind on the bridge. The engineers were already on the pad with the requested equipment. Spock wordlessly handed him a landing party belt/communicator/phaser combo and Kirk strapped it on, walking over to where Scotty was laying out several little metallic signal boosters.

“Now,” Scotty began, handing him one, “these'll help with the pattern interference with all those heavy minerals in the water. Though, why they chose to build the great bloody thing under a lake is beyond me-”

“Mr. Scott, as you well know, the efficiency is greatly improved-” Spock started, but Kirk cut him off.

“Enough, Spock. As long as they work.” He gave Scotty a reassuring nod, snatched up the remaining booster, and handed it to his first officer. Then he leaned over the console.

“Bridge? Any luck with my,” he glanced at Spock. “ah, question?”

“I'm sorry, sir,” Uhura replied. “I can't get anyone who seems to know. It sounds pretty chaotic down there.”

Kirk tapped his fist on the console once in frustration, then turned away and stepped up on the pad, ignoring Spock's curious look. He nodded at Scotty.

“Hang on, this may be a wee bit rough...” Scotty warned, and even the sound of the transporter was different, as if it was straining somehow.

He landed in a clear area after feeling oddly stretched during transport. Kirk immediately stumbled as the floor shook underneath him, hard. The lights failed overhead, then flickered on again, much dimmer, and Kirk got a good look at what was around them.

“Hell,” he said, adrenaline dumping over his head, pouring directly down his spine. If this wasn't a serious emergency, he'd like to know what was. A bank of computers along the wall was sizzling and arcing voltage impressively, and if it was impossible for a bunch of Vulcans to run around in a panic, then they were doing a pretty good impression of it.

An older, slightly graying Vulcan skidded to a halt in front of them, and almost succeeded in not looking surprised to be suddenly faced with a half-dozen Starfleet officers. Kirk stepped out in front of his men.

“We're from the Enterprise,” he said, “we're here to help.” It was a good line, slightly ruined when the floor shook again. The ceiling, which was about fifty feet above them and carved into solid rock, dumped a dusting of ceiling particles on them all in a slightly alarming way.

The Vulcan blinked dust out of his eyes. “A Starfleet vessel?” he asked.

Kirk traded a glance with Spock.

“We've been talking with your Elders, they gave us a list of things you needed,” Kirk said. The Vulcan looked behind him at the small pile of equipment they'd brought along. There was no other reaction. “You didn't know we were coming?” Kirk asked doubtfully.

The Vulcan shook his head. “We've lost primary communication-” A panel blew off the side of a nearby console, and Kirk flinched. He pulled out his communicator, eying the chaos around him. He thought he spotted a crack in the ceiling.

“Scotty, we're going to need you down here,” Kirk said, his voice a warning, and stopped when the communicator made a less than encouraging cracking sound. “Scotty?” he ventured, altering the frequency slightly.

He looked over at his first officer, who was already reaching for his own communicator.

“Spock,” he said, and said nothing else. Spock nodded, understanding perfectly. Kirk turned back to the older Vulcan in front of him.

“Can you use any of this?” Kirk asked, gesturing at the equipment, having to raise his voice over the noise.

“Yes,” the Vulcan said, leaning closer and raising his voice to be heard. Another rumble, more bits of ceiling on their heads. The Vulcan wiped his eyes. “Come with me,” he almost had to shout.

“Hang on,” he said loudly, and turned to his men. Spock already had the panel off his communicator, and was fiddling with the innards. He looked up when Kirk turned to him, and shook his head slightly.

“Interference, Captain, too heavy,” Spock replied.

Kirk stepped close so he could keep his voice down. “What about our boosters?” he asked.

“Unknown,” Spock began, “but knowing Mr. Scott, I would not assume they are inoperative until proven otherwise.”

Kirk laughed once.“I'll be sure to let him know you said that. It' ll make his week.”

He stepped back to face the engineering detail and raised his voice. “I want you to follow this guy here,” Kirk shouted, pointing at the graying Vulcan, “provide whatever assistance you can, and keep your pattern boosters on you. If things get bad, you signal a beam out, clear?”

Nods and assent all around.

He turned to Spock, touched his arm.

“You too, Spock, do what you can,” he said. He grabbed a piece of gear.

“What about you, sir?” Spock asked loudly, his voice slightly hoarse. Kirk only smiled, as if he hadn't heard, and stepped up to the graying Vulcan, pushing the equipment into his hands.

“I'm looking for someone,” he said, leaning close so he wouldn't have to shout, “A friend of mine who's working on this project. He's older than you are. Spock? Do you know anyone named-”

“The project coordinators all went down to try and re-route the water to relieve some of the pressure,” the Vulcan replied loudly, “But we haven't heard anything from them.”

Kirk got a sudden, clear sense of things rapidly spiraling out of control. 'Things fall apart, the center can not hold...'

“Where?” He shouted. The Vulcan pointed at a lift on the far end of the massive room they were currently in. He then pointed at the floor. “All the way down,” he said loudly, then glanced back to see if the engineers were ready, and took off at a pretty good clip for an older guy. His men scrambled to catch up, and Kirk took off toward the lift.

“Captain,” Spock shouted, breaking off to follow after him. Kirk didn't stop, and unfortunately, neither did Spock. He caught up, grabbing Kirk's arm, “Captain, where are you going?” He was wearing that slightly alarmed expression that meant he was afraid Kirk was about to do something ridiculously dangerous. Kirk thought he might have picked it up from Bones.

Dammit, Spock I'm trying to safeguard the timestream here-

“Down,” he said, and flashed him a quick smile. “The project heads are supposed to be on the bottom level, but no one can get a hold of them.” And your captain has a very solid, slightly spooky hunch that there's another Spock down there who needs his help.

“Ah,” Spock said, looking briefly relieved. “Then I shall accompany you. With your permission.”

Kirk sighed. Of course he would.

“Come on,” he said, shaking his head. He might be wrong, after all.

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