See, I was born the second child
With a spirit running wild, running free
And they saw trouble in my eyes
They were quick to recognize the devil in me
See, I was born a restless child
And I could hear the world outside calling me
And heaven knows how hard I tried
But the devil whispered lies I believed
Can you hear it hanging on the wind?
Can you feel it underneath your skin?
You've got to go on, further than you've ever gone
You've got to run far from all you've ever known
You've got to run far from all you've ever known
Second Child, Restless Child - The Oh Hellos
Iowa County is an old land, full of new things. Jim is new. He's just turned nine and his mother says she loves the way he smells, all fresh and new and salty baby skin, like their newly calved lambs. It's husky summer and so hot his skin sweats through his clothes so everything is damp and scratchy and the sun chafes him red across his cheeks and arms. The farm is alive in the rustle of the dry grass, the creak as the wind chases the sparrows from the shed, the choir of the animals.
The sounds are different now since his Ma told him to run. A light flared from the cornflower sky and she'd thrown him out the backdoor and said run, run, run.
The sounds of his farm are louder and uneven and through the cracks in the old barn, he sees the ship descend upon the flat green plains of their farm. The animals scatter, hoofbeats kicking up the dust. Sam has run one way, he the next.
The sun shines off the chrome oval of the ship and the light becomes alien too. The doors slide open and robed men spill out, long-eared and high browed.
The land and sky is a drowning horizon to the sunshine wrapped around George Kirk's body, making the grass and house and shining yards of wheat glow. He speaks; they answer. His mother is there and they let her plead. There is a shot of lightning and his father crumbles inward. Another, and Mama falls, chickens scattering and shrieking. His father rises; swings for the leader. Another strike of light and this time his father does not get up.
Everything in him wants to run, to cross that ground and batter the men with his tiny fists, to hurt them. In his head, he's bigger than the starships he reads about in his creased, beaten books.
He crouches in the barn instead, too shocked to even cry.
The hay scratches up his cheeks. A fine legged Harvestman walks serenely over his hair.
A robe sweeps along the dust. Through the cracks of yellow, he sees high purple boots halt in front of his hiding place. A long hand eases in amongst the hay pile and shifts it away.
He thinks to bite at the finger, but some part of him (which sounds like Mama) says it would be stupid. He doesn't cower as the being straightens at the sight of him, dirty gold hair and caramel eyes, staring up straight and unblinking.
"Please let go of my parents," he says, quickly. The figure is draped in heavy burgundies and blacks and isn't he too warm for this weather? He has bristled eyebrows like the local Pastor, hands like the statue of Christ extending out in sacrament. "You can take me if you want. But don't hurt them."
"Your father has deferred for too long to his human egotism, and therefore, has strained our patience beyond reason." His voice is like ice water, sting shock as it hits you. He peers down, pitiless. "You are not useful to us."
"You don't get to say who's useful!" Jim snaps.
"Do I not?"
"I am the most powerful person here, on your primal Earth. Therefore, logic dictates that I have the last word."
Jim glares at him, balls his little fists. The man looks down at him. His face twitches, just a bit, and Jim doesn't understand.
"What is your name?"
"Jim Kirk," One day, his name is going to be a threat, a warning, and so he states it as such.
"I am Sarek, of Vulcan." Jim has heard that name. He knows it. It's a threat all of its own, but he won't flee. He'll stand like his father, even as his ankles itch to feel the ground. The hand reaches for his shoulder. "And of today, Jim Kirk of earth, you will have a different name."
He won't see the old land again.
The blankets are rough beneath his head, scratching along his scalp. He's in his torn jeans and his old striped t-shirt with strawberry juice staining the white, with hay stuck in his hair. The container is high enough for him to walk around, and there's a bed one side, a toilet the other, and food waiting on a small mat in the centre.
It's the perfect size to hunker down and bitterly cry.
He lets himself, for a little while, to "get it all out" as Mama would say.
He wipes his nose with his fist, smears snot and tears across his cheeks. It runs into his mouth and tastes disgusting; like he can flavour his sadness.
The doors open with a sharp, stilted fwip and a woman enters, thin and tight like a cat's cradle. Jim sniffles and tucks his knees under his chin. She murmurs something to his door in a language of strange music and passes over the threshold. She's like the men, but older, and just as hard.
"Greetings, Ek'zer." She holds up her hand in a funny salute. "I have prepared breakfast for you. First, you must be washed and clothed before you can take nourishment. Now come."
"That's not my name," Jim says. He scrambles to his feet. She peers down at him; a dirty farm boy with a tongue in his head, as his teachers would shriek."It's Jim. James, if you want all of it. James Kirk."
It's a good name. He likes it.
"Your name is Ek'zer." She declares, cold. She turns on her heel."Come along."
He walks after her, careful not to trip on her cloak. It looks so heavy and uncomfortable and he hopes he doesn't have to wear that, it would weigh him down. He has to scope the place out, after all, if he's going to escape. She turns suddenly, her arms outstretched, and Jim baulks, expecting a strange, pseudo hug. But she grasps at him, not gentle, and brusquely pulls his shirt up over his head.
"Hey!" Jim blows the hay out of his hair. "We've not been introduced yet, Miss!"
It's what his grandda would say to the pretty nurses with twinkly laughs. But he can't imagine this Matron with a chuckle in her throat.
Stripped, she pushes him quickly into a tiny chamber. Soap stings his eyes, making him cry and scrub at his lashes. Hot water rips each grain of dirt from his skin, each lash an erasure of hay, or sunflower seeds, of mud dry blasted in the Iowa sun. A shock of hot air dries him down to the tongue in his mouth as he's tumbled out, naked and pink, into the robes of the elder woman, who shoves a beige tunic over his head. It itches around the neck and dangles over his knees. He wants to scratch it off his skin.
She snaps gloves on her spidery fingers and reluctantly taking his shoulder, directs him down another corridor. He's stumbled into a room with children his age, all miserably scrubbed in beige smocks, sat on benches lined down a long table. A male Vulcan, elderly and high handed, observes each and every one of them with a rub of his bristled chin. Jim hates him immediately.
"Ek-zer," The Matron pushes him forward. "Seat yourself, please."
Throwing a glare over his shoulder, Jim takes his place next to a pale boy with dirty brown hair. Freckles scatter across his snubbed nose and he smells of art class in school, the fruity chemical of wedge colour pens mixed with drying paint. His nails are stained with ink; he's trying to hide one hand inside his smock. His other is wrapped tightly in the hand of a little black girl with her hair curled in bunches. Unlike the other children, she watches him from the corners of her bright eyes. Her face is puffy from crying but she returns his smile. The stubby boy scoots closer to her, throwing a wary look at Jim.
The Matron rings a tiny bell. The children sit up obediently, save Jim and his two new friends.
Starting at the rear of the table, she asks each kid their name. Jim frowns; none of the answers the kids give seem real. They sound like the bogus name he's been given, and they falter how to say it right, forcing tongue between their teeth, slurring odd vowels like his drunken uncle. With each reply, she nods to the elderly Vulcan, who places a bowl and spoon in front of each child. Jim itches in his throat and hands.
They reach the girl.
"What is your name?" She asks.
"Nyota," She pipes up. "That's my name."
"Hm." She makes no response and turns to the boy with the dirty fingernails. No bowl is laid in her place. "What is your name?"
"Monty," The boy's accent is thick. "Me name is Monty Scott, ye pointy-eared ol' tart."
A few children muffle laughter beneath their hands. The majority look scared; some just stare down at their bowls, unmoving.
The Matron glances at Jim.
"What is your name?"
"Jim Kirk," He says proudly, and Monty beams at him, all scowling forgotten. "And don't you forget it, lady!"
Jim had half of a squashed toffee bar and a stick of gum in his jean pocket, but his clothes are gone. He'd ask the Matron next time he saw her, but a part of him doesn't want to give her the satisfaction. Nyota and Monty have been led away from the other children who'd eaten the boiled, salty greens in their plain ceramic bowls. All three of them were left with rumbling stomachs.
The Matron couldn't bring herself to touch them, to prise them apart, her gloves hovering over their stubborn little hands.
It's like they think we have germs. Jim kicks his legs in his grey little cell. I wish I did. I'd make them all sick.
He's hungry and he wants to go home. The fact he is so hungry makes him angry. He's supposed to be strong and special, to "abstain" as Dad said. He's supposed to survive.
"Where am I?" The Matron enters to change his sheets. There's water but no food. They'd even removed the dry fruit and nuts that had been on the mat when he'd first woken up. "Why am I here?"
She pays him no mind.
"Hey!" Jim springs off the floor. He grabs her heavy robes with his sticky hands. "Answer me!"
She smoothes out his bed with her gloved hands. Jim tugs harder; she ignores him further. Using all his strength, he yanks and the robe tears in a great, ugly sound. He topples back, the room rocking over and over and pain splits the back of his head in an opening of black.
He's so heavy.
There's a shuffling of touch over his forehead. It's his Mama, isn't it, feeling for his temperature. He sniffles and moves into her hand and breathes in her scent of baking and daisies, and instead finds the dry chemical smell of soap.
He opens his eyes.
The elderly Vulcan is hovering over him, his finger on his temple and his thumb on his cheek. His eyes are closed, his lips moving soft and slow, as pieces click and shift in Jim's head like a jigsaw.
He does not know what is going on but this is bad very very bad there's a man in his head a monster get out get out get out -!!!
He bites at the fingers of the older man, whose eyes open like two black blots of ink and they're dead and empty and Jim howls.
The hand is pulled away. Jim struggles; restraints eat into his arms, leaving flat angry welts and he screams and screams and screams because how dare they, how dare they...!
The elder's voice drones like a wasp in a language Jim fiercely does not understand. Shapes move about him in blurs, all blue and white and there's a faint, insistent beeping -
Hands reach for his face. He delivers each with a snarl and swat like the feral cats that roam in the buckwheat fields behind his house. He draws blood, green, like the big, ugly bugs Sam would swat with a stick outback until Jim made him stop.
They're not gentle. A hypospray prods into his neck, releasing a slick, slow pressure into his skin and he hates that, hates how droopy and helpless he feels and...!
He cries for his mother. He just rails against the restraints, the composed faced monsters who observe him like an insect.
Mom, Mom, Mommy -!
Long white beds lie side by side, folds of plastic draped over them like shrouds.
Monty is asleep, scrubbed so hard he's tart pink. All the ink and dirt is gone, and he's lost his stink of cheap felt pens.
Nyota is awake. Her girlish bunches are gone; her hair curls around her soft, tiny ears. She hums under her breath, rocking back on her heels, and greets him with a smile.
"Hi," She says. She has a clear voice, strong but gentle. Like an actress at his community theatre, who could speak high and low and still be heard across a town hall. "Are you okay, Jim?"
She says his name, and it sounds good.
Jim perks up and ignores the dull ache in his head.
"I'm okay," he jabs his chest with his thumb. "It's gonna take me more than that to bother me."
It is both the truth and a bluff.
"They keep trying," She nods. "But we need to keep remembering. They want us to forget. But I won't." She cocks her chin, proud. "Me and Monty have made a promise, to remember each other's names. Even if they make us forget our own, we can know each other's."
"That's romantic," Jim teases.
She raises her eyebrows.
"We're just friends," she pushes back, but there's a hidden cleft in her smile as she twizzles her hair around her finger. She pauses for a moment, then adds; "Do you want to be in our promise?"
Jim bounces up.
"Yes!" He nods. "You are Nyota Uhura and he is Monty Scott, and I promise I will never forget it, ever ever."
"And you are..." She creases her brow as she thinks. "...Jim Kirk."
"Ah!" He points up his finger, like how his Dad used to when he was trying to impress Ma. "You remembered."
"Who be rememberin'?" The dark scruff of Monty's hair sticks up. He rubs at his face, yawning, but his eyes are big and dry and Jim smiles. Yes, he likes these kids. He likes them a lot. Monty jumps off his bed, bouncing down beside Nyota (and once again, stealing her hand.) "What's yer name again? Jaden? Jake...?"
Jim pokes out his lower lip.
"Yeah, I know. Keep yer hair on." He glances at Nyota. "Ye can be my friend, but she's my girlfriend, so hands off, kay?"
"Monty!" Nyota shoves him, but her eyes are all starry. "We're just friends."
"Aye, just wait a bit." He sticks out his hand. "Might as well make it official. I'm Monty Scott, but ye can call me Scotty. Everyone does."
By everyone, by now, he must have meant him and Nyota.
"Pleasure," Jim drawls like he's royalty. Nyota giggles and rolls her eyes. "I am James Tiberius Kirk."
"Tiberius? Blimey," Scotty shakes his head. "Bit of a mouthful, ain't it?"
"Tell that to my Grandpa."
"Your Grandad's name, eh?" The boy winks with both eyes. "Poor bastard."
"My Grandad liked his name," Jim pouts playfully before he thinks; Grandad. Nana. Mom, Pa. Sam.
He never thought his name could feel so heavy. The weight of it sinks him back into bed. Nyota shuffles up next to him and drops her head on his shoulder.
"Aye." Scotty shakes his head like an old man. "I'm sorry. It's been rough on all of us." He fishes around in his pocket, swears, than tries the other one, finally pulling out a tube of Smarties. "Hold out your hands, fellow travellers. I've got food."
Pouring them out on the bed, he splits the candy into thirds. The neon coloured sweets shine on the artic sheets, food colouring rubbing off onto the white.
Jim's stomach rumbles. He sniffs and wipes his nose with his hand. Nyota reveals dusty fruit and nuts from her pockets, the same that was left on the mat. It isn't a feast, but it takes the sour bite of crying out of Jim's mouth and god, the candy, shots of sugar, make him close his eyes in bliss, toast his tongue blue and green and pink.
"So..." Scotty hugs his knees. Now the names are out of the way, the sweets shared, they all become quiet, as if aware of where they are for the first time. They can't wave goodbye and invite each other for tea, or promise to meet again the next morning in the shade of a tree or the paint peeled brilliance of a playground. "What did your parents do?"
"My parents didn't do anything!" Jim exclaims through a mouthful of candy. He sees their soft faces and falters. "They're innocent, I don't know why..."
"My Pops ran a protest," Scotty cuts in. "Drew dirty cartoons of important Vulcans or something like that. They didn't like it, and came one day, and took me away." He bites his lip. "I have three older sisters, I do. Ma isn't around. It was like havin' three Mas."
Jim crunches his smarties.
"Did..." He sighs. "...they take your Pa away too?"
"Yep." Scotty nods. "I'm going to get out of here, and I'm going to find him, and my sisters." He scrunches up his face. "Even I don't..." He sits on the other side of Nyota and takes her spare hand, slipping her his last smartie. "...we're getting out of here."
"My parents were very smart," Nyota tugs at her ugly skirt. "Mama taught at University and Baba wrote for important people. He was trying to..." She recites as if from a memory she has heard many a time. "...say that Vulcan rule was wrong, that it was hurting us, making us weak, not able to make our own choices." She glances at the two boys. "They came in the night. I don't know where they took my parents."
"But why..." Jim takes a gulp of water from the sideboard canteen. The sweets make his gum pang, tingle his teeth. "...why did they take us?"
"The older kids say it's for reeducation," Scotty says glumly. "So we don't get naughty ideas from our parents."
"But we're just kids!"
"Kids grow up, Jim," Ny says gently. "They know that, and that's why they're scared of us."
"But why take our names?"
"I dunno." Scotty shrugs. "Some weird kind of mind thingy, if ye ask me. Although, it could be an improvement if me middle name was Tiberius."
A pillow is snatched up. Monty ducks; Nyota gets a face full of it instead. Jim scrambles off his sheets, trying to apologise before Ny is laughing, lovely little girl giggles, and she skunks the pillow back at him.
"Some boyfriend you are!" Jim trills, spinning on his heels. "Yer let your lady take a bullet for you!"
"It was an accident, me love!" Scotty calls, falling "romantically" across Nyota's lap. "Punish me, punish me!"
"Scotty, you're so weird!" She plunges the pillow on his face. He splutters, rises, laughing.
With a sly glance at Jim, he tiptoes his hand to another cushion.
They fall about on each other, shrieking, the seams splitting, synthetic feathers smattering like snow. Jim's chest hurts from his laughter, a pleasant and breathless burn.
A chill prickles their skin.
Stood silent and watching is the elderly Vulcan, alongside a stream of figures in white and blue.
Nyota takes Jim's hand, then Scotty's. The three of them sitting together, feathers in their hair, the last ache of laughter dying on their faces.
The elderly Vulcan's hand hovers over his tricorder. Jim has the nasty feeling he finds them interesting.
"Return to your beds." The Matron approaches with her dull fury. "Ek'zer, V'hak, Falor."
"Who's that?" Nyota shakes her head. "I don't know who that is. Do you, Jim?"
"Nah, I don't," Jim squeezes her hand back. "How about you, Mr Scott?"
"Nope." Scotty shakes his head. "I don't know anyone called that, Jim, Nyota."
"This puerile display is most disappointing." She puts her hands behind her back. The overhead lights gleam sterile on her black gloves. "Such behaviour will not go unpunished. I trust you choose your next actions carefully."
"Bullshit!" Jim's yell snaps off the grey walls. The orderlies begin to mutter amongst themselves. "You stole us from our families! You take away our names and parents and you can threaten us with how to behave? You've behaved like monsters!"
The Matron watches him carefully.
"You are very articulate, Ek'zer." She says. "You have a formidable mind. When you are reeducated, you will be most useful to us." She pauses, then adds; "Your parents were corruptible influences. We have removed you from their harmful reach. As of now, you are subjects of Vulcan." She tilts her hard chin. "You will be taught to act like one."
"But we're not Vulcans!" cries Nyota. "We're human, and we want to go home."
"Negative. This is your home now, V'hak. When the time comes, you shall be placed with a family. As of now, I already have your settlement in mind. You will learn to serve, and listen, and learn, and with time, will come to respect and acknowledge what we do here."
"Bloody hell," Scotty jokes, darkly. "That's more words you've said to us then I think I've ever heard."
"Excessive noise is discouraged." She takes a step forward. The children huddle, heads together, hands clasped tight. "And yet you act frightened. I can only discern that your fear is a logical reaction to an unknown situation. The correct way to cure such anxiety is through familiarity." She sniffs. "Although, you shall not be proceeding together. As of now, the three of you shall be separated until you learn to respect. As you see..." She snaps her fingers. "... the choice of company is a privilege."
"Basic human freedoms aren't privileges, they're rights," growls Nyota. Jim blinks at her; his heart leaps a little.
"We are not human," says the Matron, and the orderlies advance.