~ Spock ~
Spock's footsteps echoed loudly through the long tunnel and his breathing was deep and measured as he hurtled toward the illuminated, blood-green door. The laser-cut walls were lined with pipes and cables and the air began to feel more damp and oppressive as the tunnel crept deeper beneath the surface of Cyrillus IV.
Cyrillus IV was close enough to Romulan space to give its inhabitants a strong distrust of other alien species, but it was, incontestably, in Federation space. The Enterprise had been sent to offer them a place in the Federation, and they had been polite but reserved, requesting time to consider their proposed entrance into the fold. Respecting their wishes, the Enterprise had departed.
Six months since it happened.
The aliens on Cyrillus IV called themselves the Khrelan. Like Vulcans they were touch telepaths, but unlike Vulcans they were aggressive and tactile. The masked and hooded men who had tricked their way aboard the Enterprise using a fake distress call and an apparently failing ship, had not bothered with gloves. The hand on Spock's throat had given them away, though he gave no indication that he knew who they were. The phaser against Spock's side had prevented him from taking action. The last thing he had seen before they knocked him unconscious was Jim's wide blue eyes as he pleaded for Spock's life.
Six months, one week, three days, and eleven hours had passed since his bondmate had been taken from him.
There had been times when Jim had blocked him, shutting him out. Only the faintest whispers of pain had escaped through his stubbornly maintained shields to reach Spock. It was enough to let Spock know that his bondmate was suffering at the hands of his captors. Whenever Jim's shields came back down the bond trembled with his fear and his poorly suppressed pain, and Spock swore that he would make the Khrelans regret the day they took Jim away from him.
In the five years since the destruction of Vulcan, Jim had become his anchor. Without him Spock felt adrift.
As Spock neared the door he hoped—such a human emotion—that he had not arrived too late. The feelings coming to him through the bond now indicated that Jim was mentally struggling and confused. Spock needed to believe that no irreparable damage had been done to his bondmate. It was unfortunate that it had taken so long to retrieve him. Though an investigation had gone underway immediately after his abduction, without any tangible evidence that Jim had been taken by the Khrelan there had only been so much Spock could do.
The leaders on Cyrillus IV had complained bitterly at the Khrelan being implicated in the abduction of a starship captain but had given every appearance of being cooperative.
Spock came to a stop in front of the green door, feeling Jim's nearness, his distress.
He was so close.
Spock placed the charges on the door, then turned and ran back the way he had come. He didn't go far, and dropped down with his back to the door, covering his ears with his hands. He felt the reverberating boom all around him and his breath caught in his throat.
Months had gone by and the investigation had gone nowhere. He had trusted in Starfleet, had believed that they would bring Jim back to him. But in the end it was a Khrelan defector named Japlan Oro who had given him the key to finding his bondmate.
Spock had used all of his available leave time to go to Cyrillus IV and that's where Japlan had found him. With the Khrelan informant to back his claim Spock had gained Starfleet's support and more aggressive measures were taken to get Jim back. Spock had been included in the rescue team despite the worry that he might be too emotionally invested. He was cool and reasonable, but adamant about being there when Jim was rescued.
Spock approached what remained of the green door and gave it a kick, sending it flying into the small unfurnished room where a yellow light was flashing in warning. Spock had separated himself from the other members of the rescue team so that he could reach Jim more quickly, but the Khrelans knew they were here now and time was running out.
After a brief, considering pause, Spock set his phaser to stun and stepped through the smoking doorway. There were two doors, both less secure than the one he had just destroyed, and after a moment of reaching toward Jim through the bond he felt himself being pulled to the right. He did not bother trying the latch, but kicked the door in and stormed the laboratory inside with his phaser ready.
The two scientists were unarmed, and he quickly took them down with two clean shots and then whirled and ducked as a blast of light shot by him. The refrigeration unit next to him exploded in a spray of glass as Spock dodged the next shot. Spock rolled to an examination table and fired at the Khrelan soldier's head, feeling a fiery burst of satisfaction when he dropped.
Jim was not in this room, but he was near. Spock could feel his fear and his excitement as he became aware of Spock's presence. Going to the only other door in the room, Spock opened it and stepped into another dimly lit tunnel.
The lower parts of the underground facility were maze-like and Spock paused every time he reached a side passage, scanning the empty hallways and unmarked doors while reaching out to Jim for guidance. He was being drawn to his bondmate as though pulled along by a chord and his feet carried him on down the tunnel.
The tunnel ended ahead but he could see light pouring out of a doorway on the left. He hardly slowed as he ran around the corner and into yet another passageway. This one was bright and the walls were painted white, giving it a stark, clinical feel. Spock picked up his pace as he realized he was getting close.
Too many times during the last six months the bond had been eerily silent, as though Jim had fallen into a coma and could not give off even the muted flicker of dreams. Spock shuddered to think of what must have been done to Jim to sink him into such a prolonged state of deep unconsciousness. As a seasoned Starfleet officer he was only too aware of the kind of cruelties inflicted upon those unfortunate enough to be captured by aggressive aliens species.
Spock swallowed down the poisonous rage that surged up in him and pushed on, breaking into a dead run.
Straight ahead another green door loomed and he was not far from it when it began to open. He raised his weapon hand as he ran, and he fired just before he reached the door, the blast hitting a startled scientist in the chest. Spock didn't stop, leaping over the fallen Khrelan and bursting into the large, round chamber with a low growl rumbling from somewhere deep inside him.
Jim was here.
He dropped another Khrelan with a shot from his phaser, and felt his rage begin to shake loose as the weapon in his hand was knocked away by a fiery blast. Spock spun and dove behind a large cluster of computer terminals at the center of the room, catching only a glimpse of the soldier who was firing on him. Crouching down and clutching his burned hand, he looked around.
Jim was in this room. He saw tables and scientific equipment lining the walls, and opposite the door through which he had entered was an examination table, and on it...
Blinded by fury, he ran around the mass of terminals, keeping low. He snatched up a hand scanner that resembled a Starfleet tricorder as he went, the hard casing cracking in his furious grip.
"Come out now, or I'll—" the Khrelan said as he circled the terminals.
Spock hurled the scanner as the Khrelan came into view, and the force of it hitting the soldier's face caused him to stagger back. A hot blast shot by Spock's thigh, singing his pants, but then he was on the man, eyes blazing with fury. He caught the Khrelan’s arm and whirled him around, twisting the arm behind his back until he heard the pop and tear of muscle and the clatter of a weapon hitting the ground.
He spun the man around again, struggling to reign in his fury and failing, and then sent him sprawling to the floor with a crushing blow to the face. Spock closed his eyes and took a deep breath, and then another, building his controls back up and slowing the pounding of his heart. He must be calm when he put his hands on Jim.
A whimpering noise drew his attention and he turned around and walked toward the examination table, stopping just before he reached it. He stared down at the Khrelan woman who was huddled between a storage cabinet and a supply crate. The woman was wearing a lab coat and glasses over her beady black eyes, and when she saw Spock's hands clench into fists her whimpering turned into desperate pleading.
"He's alive! Please, don't hurt me! Your friend is—"
Spock applied a neck pinch with more force than was strictly necessary and didn't spare the Khrelan another glance as he rushed to the medical table where Jim was strapped down.
Spock looked down at his bondmate, his heart throbbing painfully in his chest. Jim was ghostly pale, with dark smudges under his eyes and worry lines etched across his skin where there had been none before. He was dressed in simple drawstring pants and a loose shirt with wires running underneath it. Pulling up the shirt, Spock saw that there were electrodes attached to his chest and he carefully peeled them off.
Jim's head had been shaved but the hair was growing back in, and it scraped lightly at Spock's fingertips as he pulled off the net of small electrodes sticking to his skull.
Jim's eyelids began to flutter open and when Spock could not locate the release mechanism for the straps quickly enough he simply tore them free, the fabric ripping and the metal groaning.
"Jim," Spock said, running his hands over Jim's sunken cheeks and trying to project only love and security.
Jim finally managed to hold his eyes open, and when they locked onto Spock's he began to struggle up into a sitting position.
"Spock! Spock!" he gasped out as he frantically clutched at Spock's chest.
Spock pulled him into an embrace, squeezing his eyes shut as he began to shake with relief and joy. It had been far too long since he had held Jim in his arms, and, despite the fragile feel of the malnourished human, he held him tightly, possessively.
Something was eating at him, though, and his skin prickled with fear as he realized that although the bond was intact, Jim's thoughts were muted even with skin to skin contact. Jim pulled back enough to kiss Spock, gently on the lips, and then his blue eyes filled with desperation.
"Spock, they've done something to my mind. The bond, I can't feel you, I can't—" Jim stuttered out in a rush.
"Be calm, ashayam," Spock soothed, stroking the spiky blonde hair.
"You have to fix it, please. I can't take this!" Jim was frantic and miserable, his voice pleading. "I'm alone. I'm so alone right now." It was as if he could not quite accept the fact that Spock had finally found him, that he was safe.
"You are not alone. I am here." Spock pulled Jim to his chest again, breathing in the familiar scent of his bondmate. "I will fix everything."
"Promise me everything will be okay," Jim said after a few long, deep breaths.
Jim settled against him, thin arms clamped around him with a strength that spoke of panic, and Spock surveyed the room. There were no more Khrelans in the area, but Spock could distantly hear the rest of the rescue team making their way to him through the tunnels. They would not like that Spock had separated from them, going off on his own, but he had needed to be the one who found Jim. He had needed this, these precious moments alone with his bondmate after their forced separation.
Inexplicably, Spock found himself shuddering.
He should have felt nothing but relief and happiness, but something was not right. In fact, Spock was beginning to sense that something was terribly wrong, and he wrapped Jim more securely in his arms.
He turned his head to examine the rest of the room, eyes narrowing. There were numerous pieces of equipment and computers at the head of the examination table, and another table ran parallel to it, its straps open and a tangle of wires and electrodes piled on one end.
Had there been someone else here?
Spock felt a stab of pain along the bond and instinctively pulled away from the man in his arms. Jim gave him a confused look, trying to pull him close again, but something had caught Spock's attention. He could hear the other members of his party getting closer, but there was something else. Something louder and very close.
Banging. Desperate cries.
"What is it?" Jim asked, following Spock's gaze to stare at a door on the other side of the examination tables. Jim appeared confused, apprehensive. With a great sense of foreboding, Spock pulled away from him, steeling himself against Jim's look of profound unease.
Spock went to the door, Jim at his heels, and turned the handle. It was locked, of course. His need to open the door was consuming and he began to slam himself against it, ignoring the blinking lights of the control pad on the wall and opting for force.
Jim was upset, grabbing at his arm, but Spock pulled away and launched himself at the door, ramming it with his shoulder again and again. The door creaked, the hinges screeched, and Spock let out a triumphant huff as the door flew open under his final assault. Spock was breathing heavily, and he felt Jim's hands steady him as he swayed in the doorway. He looked around the small room, his eyes quickly moving over the toilet and low bed and settling on the man huddled in a corner.
Spock took a step back, stunned.
It was... Jim.
This Jim was badly bruised and there were frayed straps dangling from his wrists. The Jim at his back tried to tug him away, crying out in confusion, but Spock did not move. He could feel surprise and something very like horror coming through the touch.
The bruised Jim came forward, gaping in disbelief, and then threw himself at Spock. Spock had thought Jim meant to embrace him but instead he pushed Spock out of the way and attacked the other Jim, shoving him back.
"Spock, that isn't me," he said, glaring at the other Jim. "He's a clone. He's not real."
"He's lying!" the other Jim yelled, real terror in his eyes. "Don't listen to him! Spock, please!"
When Jim tried to go to Spock the bruised Jim moved to block him, shaking with anger. Spock caught the the enraged human by the arm and gasped as he realized that the man in his grip was truly his bondmate. The bond flared to life at the touch and Jim's anger vanished as he turned to face Spock. His eyes were wet with tears and a strangled sob broke from his chest as he let himself fall into Spock's arms.
Spock felt ill.
Over Jim's shoulder he saw the clone—the man he had comforted and promised to fix—watching him with a shattered expression.
"No, that's not true. I'm not—" the clone whispered. He shuddered, his eyes glassy. "I'm Jim. Spock, I'm your Jim."
The others from the rescue party began to file into the room, including a flustered and furious-looking Doctor McCoy. Spock looked to the doctor, eyes begging for assistance. It took the man a moment to take in the situation, but when he did face fell.
"My god. Tell me they didn't..." McCoy trailed off, looking from Spock and Jim to the frightened clone.
One of the other men in the group hesitantly stepped forward and said "Commander, the complex is secure."
Spock nodded but his gaze never left the clone.
The clone turned to McCoy. "Bones! What's happening?"
"Jim, I'm gonna need you to try to stay calm," McCoy said, adjusting the settings on his tricorder.
Jim stiffened against Spock.
Being addressed as ‘Jim’ seemed to soothe the clone, and his voice was not as panicked when he spoke again. "Yes, scan me. Tell Spock that I am who I say I am. He doesn't believe me. You've got to—"
"All right, hang on," McCoy grumbled, still taking readings. He looked up suddenly, shaking his head. "Unbelievable."
"What is it, Doctor?" Spock asked, dreading what McCoy would say next.
"Tell him," the clone demanded.
McCoy shook his head, hesitated, and then finally said, "As far as I can tell this man is James T. Kirk. I’ll have to run more tests once we’re back on the ship, but..."
"See, Spock." The clone whirled around and took a step closer to Spock, "I'm Jim. I'm your bondmate, not him."
Jim started to turn around in Spock's arms, but he held the human still and looked straight into the clone's eyes. There was a pain building in Spock's head, fed by the sharp and bitter stab of guilt, but he must be strong for his Jim.
"No," Spock said, ignoring the look of anguish on the clone's face, "I am not bonded to you." He gulped, clutching Jim so hard that he knew he was bruising him, "You are not my Jim."
The clone had become more and more agitated with each word Spock uttered and he had a frantic look again by the time Spock fell silent.
"I don't understand. This is mistake. No!" the clone cried when McCoy tried to take his arm. "Don't touch me! This is— This is—"
"Easy! Jim, take it easy," McCoy said, holding both his hands up, palms out.
"No! I can't—" The clone began to shake his head, and his eyes went blank, "This can't be. I can't—"
Though it pained Spock to speak, he finally managed to say, "Doctor, take him out of here."
McCoy nodded in agreement, but when he tried again to take the clone's arm he yanked away, his blank eyes suddenly lighting up with fire. He started to charge at Spock and Jim but McCoy caught him and held him.
"You can't do this to me!" the clone raged. "Spock!"
"A little help here!" McCoy yelled over his shoulder.
Two men came forward, shuffling nervously, and took the clone by the arms.
McCoy stepped back and glared at them. "All right, you heard the commander, let's go."
The clone was furious and struggled wildly against the men pulling him away, but he was sickly and weak and could not pull free. That did not stop him from voicing his outrage, though.
"My name is James Tiberius Kirk! I'm the captain of the USS Enterprise!" the clone yelled as he was dragged toward the exit. "I remember us, Spock! I remember everything!"
Spock's heart skipped a beat. As the clone was dragged through the door, McCoy followed with a hand digging into his medkit.
Spock whispered "I'm sorry."
"Spock, help me! Please!" The clone's voice echoed down the tunnel, and the plea hit Spock like a punch to the gut. Silence fell suddenly and Spock knew McCoy must have given the clone a sedative.
When the echoes from the struggle faded and the room had emptied Spock looked at Jim, needing desperately to be reassured.
"Jesus..." Jim whispered before meeting Spock's eyes. It seemed he had finally allowed himself to comprehend the true horror of the situation, and his anger toward the imposter had vanished. Spock closed his eyes, ashamed to admit to himself that Jim's presence in his mind did not soothe him.
"Spock, what will we do?" Jim asked, his voice small.
"I do not know."
"You're shaking," Jim said, rubbing Spock's arms. He gave up after a moment and buried his face in Spock's neck. His shoulders began to tremble and Spock realized Jim was silently weeping against him. He held Jim tighter and sent his love into the bond, wanting to comfort Jim even though he felt as if he himself was falling apart.
He could not stop thinking of the clone, could not stop seeing the agony flaring in those vivid blue eyes. The clone; James T. Kirk, and yet not James T. Kirk.
What place could such a man—a mere copy of James T. Kirk—possibly have in the universe?