Around Vego in 80 Hours
Cover by Darthneko for Around Vego in 80 Hours
Cover and artwork by Darthneko

PAIRING: James T. Kirk/Spock
SUMMARY: The universe is at stake, there's a race to win and Jim Kirk is just not feeling the love. So, what else is new?
NOTES: Done for the Trekreversebang community. To focus on the artists, art came first, then the writers fought to claim the fab artwork and then set to work on writing the stories inspired by it.
The artwork for this story is done by the talented Darthneko
Story beta'ed by Riverfox.
A word of warning, peeps. Disconnect from reality and suspend your disbelief. This story is a fun romp of pure insanity. This is done with a fond love of TOS as well, and it's lack of logic when it comes to technobabble.

Wiping oil off his hands, Jim grinned at Scotty who was still waist deep in the engine (head first, of course). "So, what do you figure our fighting chances are, Mr. Scott?" he asked, knowing he could trust his ship's engineer to do his best.

On the other hand, best might not be good enough considering that Scotty was currently working on an engine that was steam-driven instead of dilithium-powered and although they'd dubbed their current "ship" Enterprise as well, it was not a given that Scotty could make her run smoothly enough to win.

"Aye, can't promise she'll be purring like a kitten," Scotty replied from the deep of the engine well. "She's a wee bit too noisy for that, but she'll run and she'll run fine and fast, Capt'n."

Jim sighed with relief. "So you're saying we stand a chance."

Scotty finally heaved himself up and out of the hole and wiped a hand across his brow, leaving a smear of black behind. "With the recalibrations Chekov, Mr. Spock, and I have been doing, we'll do more than well, and hopefully not so well that we'd arouse anyone's suspicion."

Nodding, Jim handed over the dirty rag to let Scotty wipe the rest of the oil off his hands. "I know it's a fine line to walk, Mr. Scott, but if anyone can do it, it's our crew. I would prefer to not break any more prime directives than I have to," he added with a sigh. The past few weeks were beginning to take their toll on him.

"I must say," Scotty said with a grin, "if you had told me two weeks ago that we'd be gearing up to take part in an airship race, steam powered, no less, I would have wondered about your mental health."

"Like you're one to talk," Jim grumbled good-naturedly, making Scotty laugh. Jim grabbed the waistcoat he'd hung over a rail to avoid it getting dirty. He was pretty fond of the dress style of this planet's era. The long-tailed waistcoats, the vests and fluffy shirts with straps and belts. He was particularly fond of the way women would dress, with corset-styled tops and flowing skirts and kick-ass boots. Although he valued his balls too much to mention that to Uhura, who carried the native style perfectly.

"Jim!" McCoy's voice rose above the clamor of Chekov still tinkering with the engine.

Jim turned around and gave the doctor a small smile. "Good of you to join us," he said. "How are the ensigns?"

"Well, they're on the road to betterment," McCoy admitted as he waited for Jim to climb up from the lower engine area.

They walked out of the dark and grimy engine room together and Jim was reminded again that this was nothing like his Enterprise. Although they could have rebuilt this ship more than they already had to make it feel more like their own, they couldn't afford any outsiders noticing the differences in the technologies, which put a natural limit on their tinkering.

"Good," Jim agreed. "Any more word from Starfleet?"

Bones shook his head. "Nothing's making it through the time distortion. I doubt they'd be overly fond of your plan, but I don't think they'll argue too much as long as we get the job done."

"Hah, fat chance of that happening," Jim snorted. "They'll argue till the cows come home, you know that". They walked along the dark narrow hallway and finally, reached the stairs that lead to the deck. Jim breathed n the fresh air, or at least as fresh as the planet could offer them.

"Well, you can't really blame them if they don't know what the hell to do with our mission reports after this," McCoy said with a shrug. "It's almost like they only ever get the insane stuff from us, isn't it?"

"I think Pike'd be bored if we started sending home standard reports," Jim said with a smirk. "So let's retrieve the device, get out of here and then make sure the time bubble is dispelled so we can send off those loopy reports."

McCoy sighed. "I know we have to, but I still don't like the idea of taking part in this race. Who knows what might happen, who might get hurt and how much?"

Jim slapped him on the shoulder as they walked across the deck to the bridge of the ship. "That's why I'm glad you're back with us, Bones."

"Uh, huh," McCoy replied, not sounding too convinced, but before he could continue, he stopped dead right inside the door of the bridge. "My God, Mr. Spock, what's that on your face?"

The only reply, apart from Jim trying very hard not to giggle, was the absence of sound that accompanied the raised eyebrow of his second in command.

"It's a goatee, Bones, even you should be able to tell that," Jim said with a laugh. He grinned as Spock's eyebrow went up another notch. Not for the first time, he was a bit envious at the prime example of a goatee that Spock was spouting. If pushed, Jim might even admit that it was pretty sexy, at least to himself. Spock's goatee was pristinely cut, close to the jaw and over his upper lip. The most Jim had ever had the patience to grow was a scruffy looking three-day-old stubble. Of course, with Spock's control, it was possible that he was making it grow so damned perfectly by sheer will.

"I can see that," McCoy said with a shake of the head. "I just didn't think that you'd do it."

"Well, as you can see, Doctor McCoy," Spock said evenly. "I agreed with the Captain that it was an interesting idea. It may also have the merit of drawing attention from my eyebrows and, as you would put it, pointy ears."

"I'd have liked to be a fly on the wall for that conversation," McCoy said, trying not to laugh.

Jim coughed to get their attention, but also to keep from laughing out loud at Spock's questioning look. "Figure of speech, Mr. Spock, figure of speech. Bones is just sorry he wasn't there when I ...posed the idea to you."

"Indeed," Spock replied.

Not for the first time since Jim had started working together with Spock, did he get the distinct feeling that Spock was privately laughing at them.

He kinda liked that idea.

Captain's log, stardate... well, it's hard to tell when you're caught in a bubble of displaced time.

We've been here on Vego for a few weeks now, and we're one step closer to taking part in the race the day after tomorrow. I hope we can figure out what happened here, if there's any survivors of the science expedition that was out here to conduct their experiments, but our main goal is to regain the device that is causing all this trouble.

As far as I have been able to find out, the expedition aboard The Carrion wasn't supposed to have conducted high level experiments with their research, but it seems too much of a coincidence to have the ship disappear and then this temporal anomaly appear.

A large temporal displacement had been recorded in this solar system and the Enterprise arrived to find a bubble of displaced time engulfing four of the system's eight planets. According to Mr. Spock, the bubble is expanding. If this expansion is not stopped within the next week, it will swallow up the entire solar system and continue towards the neighboring star system, jeopardizing its three inhabited planets. Vego itself has had no civilization in nearly a millennia and none of the other planets of this solar system have had any signs of civilization either.

However, as the bubble has swallowed up the planet, it has been drawn into its own past and there is a now a civilization comparable to Victorian Earth. We have located the device causing this temporal disruption of space but can only retrieve it by taking part in an annual air race. The device looks like a crystal, about the size of a fist, and since the native inhabitants don't know any better, it's being used as the prize for first place. There is no chance we can risk beaming it out, because not even Mr. Spock is certain what that might do to the device or the bubble of time.

Yawning, Jim sat back in his seat, tiredly rubbing his eyes. He trusted his crew and friends to be able to get them through all this, but it didn't stop him from worrying about what might happen if they didn't succeed. If they didn't win, they would have to steal the device, maybe even fight for it. Scotty's expression when Jim had first suggested beaming it out still haunted him, as did Spock's subtly worried face.

So here he was, aboard a steam-driven airship, getting ready to take part in a huge around-the-planet race that would start the next day at noon. He was glad that Bones was joining them now that the ensigns who had been hurt during the last mission had been put on medical leave and could do without his constant attention. Chapel was a damned good nurse, she didn't need her superior officer hovering constantly.

Jim stretched, working out the kinks in his shoulders. He looked around the cabin. It was fairly small but quite pleasant, even if Jim was unused to the constant low level smell of burnt coal that permeated the air of the planet. According to Spock's reports this was possibly what had destroyed the civilization in the first place. With the current level of pollution, with no long term plans for its reduction, the planet would choke itself.

No matter. It was in the past and right now their prime concern was bringing things back to normal. Spock was working on a plan on what to do when they did get their hands on the device because shutting it off might not work and in the end, it could destroy the Enterprise and the whole solar system. Hell, if they didn't, who knew how many solar system might eventually be swallowed up.

A light tap on the door drew Jim's attention. "Enter," he called out.

The door squeaked as Spock entered, closing it behind him. Jim was once again a little startled by his goatee. He wondered if Spock would keep it long enough for Jim to get used to it. He gestured at the chair across from his own. The room was just big enough for the narrow cot, a small table, and two chairs. "Report, Mr. Spock?"

Spock nodded minutely. "We are ready for the race tomorrow," he said quietly. "I am still not convinced that it is a good plan, Captain."

Jim hid a grin behind his hand. "Like Bones, you think I'm going with this plan for the thrill of it, don't you, Spock?"

Spock raised an eyebrow and pursed his lips a little. It was a move that never failed to make Jim stare at Spock's mouth, as much as he tried not to.

"On the contrary," Spock said, "I see no other viable plan at the moment, and time is of the essence."

Jim wondered if Spock saw it as a slight insult to even insinuate that he would ever agree with the ship's doctor on anything.

Jim bit his lower lip, trying not to show his surprise. He had fully expected that Spock would have told him just how illogical this whole plan was. It was almost as if Spock, in his own way, was looking forward to the race, although he'd never show it with the same child-like enthusiasm that Bones accused Jim of displaying.

"What are the odds of us doing this without getting caught?" Jim asked quietly, leaning back in his chair.

Spock was quite for a moment. "We cannot factor in all the risks of being revealed, but the chances are currently thirty-two percent."

"That much?" Jim asked with a small laugh. "We've faced worse odds."

"Indeed," Spock replied, his eyes revealing his own mirth, even if he'd never admit to it. It was one of those small things that Jim had learned to really appreciate in Spock and one of the things that he loved provoking. Taking a deep breath, he brought his mind back to the problem at hand.

"The odds will of course fluctuate as we learn of our opponents and their ships," Spock warned him.

"What have you been able to learn so far?" Jim asked curiously.

"Very little, Captain," Spock said as he lost some of his rigid posture.

It was another thing Jim liked to think only happened around him. And possibly Uhura, but Jim wasn't always entirely sure about that, not anymore.

"I did not wish to seem too curious and thus attract unwanted attention," Spock continued.

"But out of the fifty ships taking part," Jim mused, "are there any that you would say we should be particularly careful with?"

"According to the people I spoke with, last year's winner, the Starlight under a Captain Tarn is expected to do very well. As is last year's runner-up, The Firebird," Spock said. " Also...." Spock trailed off.

"Yes?" Jim sat forward, because Spock would rarely pause like that.

"I was also told that a certain amount of sabotage was to be expected," Spock finished, folding his hands in his lap, his dark eyes meeting Jim's.

"How are we doing for security?" Jim asked. "Do we assign more personnel?" Additional personnel meant more weight, compromising their speed.

"The number of crew members is vital," Spock said.

He was obviously thinking along Jim's line of thought and it struck Jim how well they were working together these days. What a year and half of danger and adventure couldn't do to put any initial problems they had had into perspective.

"I can't do without you, Scotty and Chekov," Jim said quietly. "I would prefer to have Sulu at the helm as well."

Spock nodded. "And Doctor McCoy, I hope, will not be necessary, but nevertheless it would be foolish to go without him."

"Oh, I hope it will be boring as hell for Bones, because that'd mean no injuries," Jim agreed, "but we both know that we don't always get it our way."

Spock inclined his head. "That brings the crew to six."

"We could do with maybe two security officers," Jim mused, "and I'd like to have Uhura down here as well. As much as the translator's doing a good job, I've noticed more than once or twice it's come out with some gibberish." He allowed himself a small smile. "Besides, not only do I feel better having her watch our sixes, but she'd probably never forgive me for letting her miss out on this."

"The language here has not been spoken in more than a thousand years," Spock said quietly, "it is sound to have the lieutenant here as well," he agreed. "Her intuition in regards to the ...gibberish so far has been very accurate." He paused for a moment.

If he'd been a human, Jim was sure he'd have been smiling fondly.

"And she would indeed prefer to be part of the ...action, as you would say," Spock added.

Jim nodded. Even though it had been a year since Spock and Uhura had ended their romantic relationship, the Vulcan probably still knew her better than most of them. "With two security officers, that would pretty much put us on the limit of weight aboard, right?"

"Mr. Scott wishes to leave lieutenant Keenser aboard the Enterprise. It seems he does not trust anyone else in charge of the engineering department."

Jim laughed quietly. "Can you blame him after the last ensign he caught with a bad calculation?"

"As some of those calculations could have put us in peril, I can indeed not fault his logic," Spock admitted.

"Well, would you say, adding two security officers would throw off our weight too much?"

Spock cocked his head. "No, Mr. Scott has the engine well under control and with Mr. Chekov aiding him, I believe two additional officers would keep the ship well within the required weight."

Jim let out his breath, a little surprised he'd been holding it. He wasn't sure how much they'd need the security officers, but he was pretty glad to have them on board. "How does ensigns Barry and Lieutenant Evans sound to you?"

"Also a sound choice," Spock agreed. "Will you be returning to the Enterprise tonight?"

Jim shook his head. "I can't sleep right now anyway, so I figure staying down here will cut down on the restlessness. Why? Am I needed?"

"All is well aboard the ship," Spock said with a lifted eyebrow. "However, the bed in your quarters aboard the Enterprise is far superior to that cot in the corner."

Jim laughed. "I know, but like I said, I'm a bit too restless to sleep."

"I did foresee such a problem," Spock said quietly. "So I brought our chess set from the Enterprise when I beamed down. If you are amenable...?"

"God, yes, Spock." Jim put his hands flat on the desk. "Please, go get it."

Spock stood in one fluent move and Jim wondered, as he watched him leave, if Spock had been more human, would he have been skipping along to get the game for them?

This high up, the air was fairly cool and Jim was pretty glad that the clothing style of the planet consisted of layers. He was actually fond of his own outfit. He thought it made him look pretty suave. Of course he could ask his crew, but he could already hear Bones' choked laughter.

Not to mention, imagining Spock's raised eyebrow.

They were all watching the floating sign up ahead. It was a strange contraption, held in the air by several small, steam-driven engines. It was covered in ghastly, bright lights and the countdown numbers were huge. They'd have to be to be seen by every ship hovering in the air.

Ten minutes till the start of the race. Jim turned around, heading for the bridge while trying to hide his grin. As dire as the situation was, he was enjoying himself. The look on McCoy's face told him that he hadn't succeeded in hiding that grin as he'd entered the bridge. He opened his mouth to do his pep talk (the one he'd been composing in his head since last night), but he stopped as the door he'd just shut was opened and Spock slipped inside.

"Chekov and Scotty ready in the engine room?" Jim asked him and Spock nodded. Jim keyed his communicator to make sure that the two could hear as well. He didn't want them to miss the speech, of course.

"I could go into great detail on the necessity of this race," Jim began and he caught Uhura rolling her eyes. This time he did nothing to hide his grin. "But I think we all know that a race is a race and a race has to be won."

"For the sake of obtaining the machine that has caused this temporal displacement," Spock said, but Jim caught the gleam in his eyes. No, he knew that Spock wasn't an adrenaline addict like he was, but he was pretty sure that even with the seriousness of the situation, Spock viewed his captain's joy of doing this with a certain amount of amusement.

Jim hid a smile. "I don't have to tell you that this race is important," he said quietly, forcing himself to be serious. "If we make an impact on this civilization, it can change this planet's future. If we don't succeed, who knows when the time distortion will stop expanding. It may not stop at all. Short version: we need to win for the greater good," Jim added with a wink to Spock, who merely raised an eyebrow - in the way he did that always made Jim think that was his version of rolling his eyes. Another favorite of Jim's. Most reactions in Spock, were, if he was truthful with himself, a plus in Jim's book. Taking a deep breath, Jim grinned. "Now, before we head off for this amazing race of ours, anyone want to give your captain a kiss for good luck?" He didn't miss Uhura muttering something under her breath and Sulu shaking his head.

"Jim, for the love of everyone's virtue," McCoy grumbled, "this is not an excuse to sexually harass your crew - no one's going to kiss you. I suggest you focus on this because we're basically riding in a steam driven-deathtrap."

Jim considered sticking his tongue out, but thought better of it. He wasn't trying to harass anyone, just... well, blow off some steam. It wasn't as if he didn't worry about the race, what could happen if they made a wrong move. Jim was torn from his worries when Spock brushed his hand against his, getting Jim's attention, the touch causing him to shiver just a little, raising goose bumps underneath his heavy waistcoat.

"I shall join Mr. Scott in the engine room," Spock said quietly and somehow his quiet calm made Jim lose more than a little of his own nervousness. "We shall need precision and hard work to keep it running the way we need it to."

"I trust you, Scotty and Chekov to keep her running, as always," Jim said just as quietly and gave Spock a small smile. He wondered if he was seeing things, because he could have sworn there was a slight greenish tint to Spock's cheekbones, but he quickly pushed that idea aside after Spock gave him a curt nod and headed back to the engine room.

Jim headed back outside, throwing a quick grin and wink at Uhura when he passed her. She did, he had to admit, look absolutely stunning. He'd grown used to seeing her with her hair tied back, but since they'd arrived at Vego, she had followed fashion to fit in. Now it was curled up in an elaborate coil on her head, held back by a red band. Her dress was as red as her standard uniform, but that was all it had in common with it. The skirt was a bit longer, though tied to her side to allow her to move more freely and the top was a tight corset. It was easily ten times as sexy as her everyday uniform, if anyone asked Jim. Not that he'd tell her, he valued his dignity too much to risk her usual verbal ribbing, however good-natured it was these days.

As Jim stepped outside onto the wooden platform around the bridge, he caught the loudly exchanged insults and jokes exchanged from the crews of the other ships. On the ship to their right, the captain, a burly man with an impressive moustache, leaned over the side and waved at Jim.

"Pretty ship, my good Captain, but surely you can see you are outmatched!" he yelled, his voice barely rising above the clamor of fifty steam driven airships.

Jim laughed, feeling the thrill of excitement rush through his body. "She'll rob you of your speech before the day is over!" he yelled back.

The man merely laughed and Jim turned his attention back to the sign up ahead. The noise of the engines rose even higher as the countdown approached zero.

With ten seconds to go, Jim turned a little, putting his hand on the railing, and looked back at the window of the bridge, catching Sulu standing at the rudder in there, waiting for the cue.



Jim tightened his grip on the railing. The air was heavy with smoke from the engines of so many ships and he could hear McCoy's griping in his head about how it would affect their lungs if they stayed too long.



He had back up plans if they lost, but they wouldn't need them. He trusted his crew and that gut feeling that they'd succeed.



The sky was full of colorful ships with even more colorful sails, giving the view an almost psychedelic air to it. Their ship, cheekily re-named the Enterprise in honor of their own ship was just as breathtaking. Sure, he'd won her more or less fair and square in a game of poker (or at least similar enough to it for him to pick up the rules real fast). Two weeks of around-the-clock repairs and she was magnificent.




The roar of engines rose to an ear-shattering crescendo but Jim simply grinned and braced himself the ships moved forward. He heard crashes left, right and below, knowing that some of the ships pilots had been too enthusiastic. He did hope the crews were okay, but it also made it easier for them to win if some of the ships took themselves or each other out of the competition even before they had crossed the starting line.

Air whipped around him and Jim put his free hand up to keep his hat in place. They were in luck and the ships in front of them shot forward at a fair speed. That coupled with some pretty insane maneuvering from Sulu and suddenly, there weren't a few meters between their ship, but a good hundred meters.

There were ships in front of them, but Jim could see that their own was keeping up beautifully. He coughed when he caught a plume of smoke from one of them. The look McCoy gave him told him it was time to go inside. Jim indicated for the Doctor and his communications officer to go right ahead and go inside and a moment later, he followed them.

Jim took a look behind the command bridge before going inside, seeing the majority of the ships keeping up, but several were falling behind as well. Ah well, this was the first day of three for this race, it was too much to hope for a 1st place so soon. Jim wiped his watering eyes as he stepped onto the bridge. Here the noise was a little less oppressive, thanks to the foresight of his brilliant engineer and his people. Nothing was visibly alien, but they'd tampered enough with the structure of the room to make it fairly sound proof.

"Really Jim," Bones grumbled from where he was standing next to Sulu who was trying to hide a grin of his own.

Jim knew perfectly well how he felt and he would have been piloting this ship himself if not for the knowledge that his pilot was far more skilled.

He turned his attention to his ship's doctor. "What's that, Bones? Anything you'd like to share with the class?"

Bones rolled his eyes at him. "I've told you once and I've told you a million times, stay out of the air when the ships are this close together. The air is poisonous enough on a good day here, but with this race it's absolutely vile."

"I know, Bones, sorry about that." Jim knew which battles he could win and which he couldn't. It wasn't as if he couldn't tell Bones was right, anyway. He could feel his throat burning from having inhaled so much shit in the air outside during the start.

Jim looked around the bridge, his bridge, his temporary bridge, not really wanting to get into a long ass argument with McCoy. Uhura was sitting at the updated communications console and Jim prayed that no one on the planet would inspect it, because it was not standard equipment they'd installed. He was willing to work with substandard parts, but they had to keep communications with the Enterprise open at all times in case something happened.

Barry and Evans were posted at the back of the Bridge and Jim gave them a curt nod. He hoped they wouldn't be needed, but he wasn't willing to take too many chances with this race and the safety of his officers.

"Captain." Uhura's voice was calm and controlled but Jim could hear puzzlement in her voice.

"Lieutenant?" He turned to her and walked over to her station.

"I'm getting a strange resonance from somewhere in the area." She shrugged. "I can't say for sure what it is, but it seems... off."

"Anything you can do to verify what it is?" Jim asked. He'd long since learned to trust her intuition.

"I'm transferring the information to the Enterprise for further analysis," she replied.

Jim watched her quietly for a moment, then nodded. "Keep your ears open, Lieutenant. I trust you'll find an answer."

She gave him a quick nod and turned her attention back to the readings on her monitor. It still looked like some of the original equipment, but it was hooked up with more than one PADD that gave Uhura more options than this planet's technology could have.

Jim took his seat at the center of the Bridge and kept his eyes on the window ahead, on the ships in front of them. He had brought paperwork with him and he would eventually get around to it, but for the time being, he focused on the race. If nothing happened, he would have time to get it done.

The first day was... surprisingly uneventful. Occasionally some of the other ships fell out of the race and Jim hoped they were alright. There had been more than a few foul moves, some aimed at their own ship. It was nothing major, but he'd learned to read the set of Sulu's shoulders, the way the tension lessened when a potentially dangerous situation was over.

And damn, he should give his young pilot a commendation in his files, because he'd earned it over and over again. At the tenth or so muted explosion in the distance, Jim didn't even flinch. Obviously more than one of the contestants were pushing their engines beyond what they could handle. Not for the first time did Jim thank providence, fate, or just the Universe's weird sense of humor for bringing Montgomery Scott into his life. Although, that would probably mean thanking Spock for marooning him on Delta Vega and the mere thought of that conversation gave him a headache. He would never be able to convince the damned Vulcan of the benefits they'd reaped from what Spock had done.

Night fell and when they could see the lights of the check point station, Jim drew a deep breath and let it out slowly. As they pulled through the huge arched goal and landed on the waiting docks, he had to admit they had done very well and he was quite glad that the day had been without too much excitement.

He could tell his crew were much in the same mood and when Chekov, Scotty, and Spock joined the rest of the bridge crew, Jim realized just how tired and dirty they all were. Inside, on the bridge, the air was alright, but in the engine room, even with all their modifications, McCoy had insisted any prolonged stay was only endured wearing breathing masks.

Jim allowed himself a small grin as they pulled their masks off and the pale skin that had been covered by the masks was a sharp contrast to the rest of their dirt stained faces and hair. "A job well done so far, gentlemen," he said quietly to the three. Once again Jim's attention was drawn to the goatee that Spock had grown. Just for a challenge. While he knew Spock enjoyed challenges within science, he couldn't quite understand how Spock could have considered growing a goatee a logical one. Yet here they were, Spock with a goatee that definitely didn't help put a lid on Jim's budding infatuation with him.

Jim forced himself to not let it show. "Good job all of you," he repeated. "I know there are dining areas set up at the checkpoint station, so go get cleaned up and we'll grab a bite to eat. You've all earned it."

Dinner was surprisingly tasty. A lot of the food was a bit on the fatty side, but Jim happily ignored McCoy's evil eye. No talk of diets tonight, thank you. He was glad to see that Spock had found something to eat that didn't include meat. He'd warned them all not to get into too many deep conversations with the other participants, but still keep their eyes and ears open. The translators were still a bit dodgy on the language and Jim didn't want to tip the scales. They were doing so very well so far.

He couldn't get out of a few of the conversations as some of the other captains were gathering, but he kept a low profile, even if that idea would have had McCoy laughing until he'd split something.

When they returned to the ship, Jim sent the security back to the Enterprise, ordering two new officers to guard the ship and keep an eye out for anything suspicious.

The evening weather was pretty decent and while Uhura told him she'd be beaming back to the Enterprise to have another look at that anomaly she'd picked up, he wasn't too worried. If there was anything in whatever it was she'd picked up that could pose a problem for them, she would find it and they'd deal with it accordingly.

Without asking, at least out loud, Spock brought the chess set out again. All he'd done this time was raise a questioning eyebrow and Jim had grinned in answer. These were the type of off-duty things that he had come to cherish after he'd taken over the command of the Enterprise, what he'd learned to love about his friendship with Spock was that it grew from grudging admiration to being at ease with each other, something that Jim hadn't expected to find outside his friendship with McCoy.

Another knock at the cabin door and Jim grinned as Bones stuck his head inside and upon spotting the chessboard, he shook his head.

"Bones, what can we do for you?" Jim asked.

"I won't be joining you. Ensign Rosar has had a minor mishap and although sickbay can handle it, she's almost as allergic to half our meds as you are."

"Ah," Jim said. "What happened?"

"Well, she got a bit careless in one of the science labs, got her hands doused in something that has her allergies going a bit haywire," Bones said.

"So my department has informed me," Spock said. "she is a most capable ensign and one of my team's more skilled members."

"Don't worry, Mr. Spock," McCoy replied with a quirk of his lips, "she'll be back on duty in no time."

"Her current experiments are not of vital importance," Spock said, "so there is no need for her to return until you deem her well enough to do so."

"Was that a compliment, Mr. Spock?" Bones said, faking a gasp.

"As much of one as you'll ever get," Jim laughed out loud. "Let me know how it goes and just remember, we are due to start in our time slot tomorrow at 0200 hours, ship's time."

"Will do, Jim, will do. Don't stay up all night," he called as he left them and closed the door.

"Of course not, mom," Jim replied with a smile, ignoring Spock's raised eyebrow and focused on setting up the chessboard.

The game was... good. Not as long and on-going as it normally would be. It was almost like an unspoken agreement to not end it too late, to get a good night's sleep.

Jim sat back in his chair after Spock had bid him goodnight. He looked down at the leather bound notebook that Bones had given him, joking that if he was going to captain an old ship like this one, he might as well have a good old-fashioned log book.

Jim grinned as he gripped the pen that accompanied the book. It had been ages since he'd written anything by hand, but it felt right and calming. Staring at the blank page, he put the tip of the pen down and started writing. There was no ship's business to log, just his own thoughts.

Race Day 1

On this planet, it is the fifth day of the seventh month of the 3,598th year since time was first recorded.

The crew is working as hard as ever, and although we did not win this day's race, we're still in it and we'll be starting in a pretty good time slot tomorrow.

I find myself enjoying the evenings here. Although it is imperative that we win this race, and barring that, steal the prize from the winner, I have been finding time to spend with Spock, playing chess. Most of all though, I've been enjoying his company, not caring much who wins or who loses.

Tomorrow will be a new challenge, but I would prefer to win the prize instead of liberating it from whomever wins the race. We can't even say for sure if it will be possible to steal it should we fail to win it.

However, I have faith in my crew and I know we'll make it. We've come far since we were thrown onto the Enterprise and into Nero's path.

Jolting awake, Jim wondered what had woken him and where the hell he was. He realized where he was at the same time as he noticed his communicator was chirping. Grabbing it, he activated it. "Kirk."

"Scotty here," came the rushed reply, "sir, we might have had some nasty visitors trying to get aboard the ship."

"Where are you?" Jim asked, instantly awake and snagging his discarded clothes. He skipped the vest and jacket and simply buttoned up the shirt as he rushed out the cabin door and along the narrow hallway.

"Engine room, sir."

"I'm on my way, Kirk out." Jim cursed under his breath as he stuffed the communicator into his pocket and buttoned his pants. Running a hand through his unruly hair, he almost ran over Uhura who looked as if she was on the verge of punching someone.

He opened his mouth to ask, but she shook her head. "I don't know, Captain," she said. "I just picked up some strange interference when I returned half an hour ago - and I could have sworn it was someone scanning us."

"That's impossible with the level of technology of this planet," Jim ground out. Just what they needed. Additional problems. Uhura preceded him down the stairs to the engine room, and he realized she was still in her starfleet uniform. "Lieutenant, I thought we'd agreed no uniforms while we were down here."

"I know," Uhura ground out, "I was going to change when I caught the scan and..."

"Yeah," Jim agreed, "this is more important."

They entered the engine room and Jim could have simply followed the string of curses he could hear Scotty spewing from the engine well.

"Captain." Spock's voice made both him and Uhura turn their heads to where the Vulcan was waiting for them.

"Report, Mr. Spock," Jim said, wincing when Scotty switched to swearing in Klingon, and he didn't miss the slight flush of Uhura's cheeks.

"It seems someone gained access to the ship and planted a device in the engine well, designed to cause our engine to burn out when we engaged it for the race start in the morning," Spock said, not letting on that Scotty's swearing wasn't abating one bit.

"Did we get them?" Jim asked.

"Unfortunately, no, but security must have made them nervous, because according to Mr. Scott, they did not finish their job."

"And security?" Jim asked as he turned to try to catch Scotty's attention.

"They are searching the ship as we speak."

Jim nodded. "Mr. Scott," he said loudly, "please, my virgin ears are bleeding."

"With all due respect, sir," Scotty yelled back, "virgin ears?"

Jim hid a smile behind his hand. "Alright, then. Mr. Scott, there's a lady in the room who is capable of understanding Klingon."

Scotty was quiet for a moment, then popped up from the engine well, rumbling some instruction to a harrowed-looking Chekov. "Aye, apologies, lass," he said to Uhura who merely rolled her eyes.

"What happened, Mr. Scott?" Jim asked.

Scotty growled and held up some strange looking contraption with a lot of cogwheels. "This had been strapped to our engine, well out of sight."

"How did you find it?" Jim asked curiously.

"I came down here to check something on the schematics because I couldn't sleep and someone damn well near ran over me. Couldn't see who with the lack of light down here, but it was someone in a hurry."

"Is the engine unharmed?" Jim asked.

"Yeah, there's nothing wrong with it."

"Good," Jim took a deep breath, held it and then let it out slowly. "Let's have a look at the thing you found. If there's anything we can figure out from it. I'd like you, Mr. Scott, to get some rest as well. If we are targeted by saboteurs, we need you on your toes tomorrow." Jim held up his hand when Scott moved to argue. "I'll make sure that extra security is beamed down here, directly into the engine room - they will stay here while we get some rest and then beam back up tomorrow before the race starts again."

"I'll see to it," Spock said.

Grudgingly, Scotty agreed.

"Mr. Chekov," Jim called down into the well, then reached down and gave the young man a hand up. "Get some sleep as well."

"Captain, if I may?" Spock interrupted.

"Always, Mr. Spock."

"I have already meditated and will need no further rest before the race tomorrow. When I have made sure that security is in place, I shall investigate the device."

Jim sighed. "As always more logical than is good for you," he said with a wry smile. "Our luck, however. I do trust you to rest as you need, Mr. Spock."

"Of course, Captain." The slight exasperation wasn't lost on Jim.

"Uhura, make sure you rest as well," Jim told her. He knew she hadn't been to bed yet. Workaholic like the rest of them.

"I will. I've asked communications back on the Enterprise to keep their ears open for the strange resonance from yesterday, as well as any attempt to scan this ship."

Jim managed to force himself into a few more hours of sleep, but pretty soon he was up and pacing the ship again. As so many times before, not thinking about where he was going, he ended up at Spock's cabin on their airship.

The morning sun was just tinting the horizon when he knocked on the door.


Jim pushed the door open and leaned against the frame. "Am I interrupting?" he asked, expecting the completely logical reply of 'yes'.

Spock looked up and it struck Jim how interesting a gadget the Vulcan was wearing. "I didn't know you needed glasses."

Spock raised an eyebrow and took the weird-looking glasses off. One half was covered with several smaller circular glass pieces. "This is an interesting device that Mr. Scott developed a few weeks ago and that I have been improving with his blessing."

Jim grinned widely. Scotty started who knew how many gadget ideas he never finished. He wasn't surprised that one might've caught Spock's attention. Even if Vulcans claimed to not be emotional, Jim was sure he'd caught Spock almost ecstatic, or at least his version of it, more than once when his curiosity had been piqued by something.

"So," Jim said, moving over to sit on Spock's bunk, watching curiously as Spock poked the device with some needle-like instrument. "What's it do?"

"Mr. Scott's device or this one?" Spock asked, and Jim was sure the corner of his mouth twitched a nano-millimeter upward.

Jim narrowed his eyes. "Both, but I'd settle for the unknown device we pulled out of the engine last night."

Spock straightened in his seat and nodded. "It is of an origin I cannot fully discern, but it has traces of the planet's current technology, but the rest... well," Spock paused and frowned a little as he twisted the needle instrument. "There are parts that are native to at least fifty-three percent of the federation planets of our time."

Jim stared at him, unblinkingly for moment. "Did you just say there are parts of that device that are from our time?" he asked. "It's not just jury-rigged from whatever might've fallen down along with the time distortion device?"

Spock gave him his usual look , that told Jim he was either being stupid or not paying attention again. "This was not made from discarded materials. The probability that someone on this planet, at this point in its evolution, could have fused two vastly different technologies in so short a time is zero point zero zero five percent."

"That still means there is a chance of it," Jim said, simply because he enjoyed arguing with Spock when they weren't exactly in danger of losing limbs or their lives. The look Spock shot him clearly told Jim that Spock was onto him. "We've got two hours before we're starting in our time slot," Jim said, quickly changing track. "See what more you can make out of the device, I'll ask the Enterprise to scan this ship before we launch it again."

"You fear more tampering with our ship?" Spock half asked, half stated.

Jim nodded. "Let's just say a certain amount of caution is never a bad idea."

"Do not let the doctor hear you say that," Spock said, switching one of the smaller pieces in front of the glasses in favor of another.

"Why's that?" Jim asked as he stood, getting ready to leave Spock on his own so he could see to his own tasks.

"Because Dr. McCoy would never believe that you were of sound mind if you chose the cautious way out," Spock said, face as inexpressive as ever.

"Oh, ha-ha-hah," Jim grumbled, "very funny."

Spock's only reply was the customary raise of his eyebrow, in this case meaning Vulcans did not make jokes.

Jim mock-glared at his Vulcan first officer and made a tactical retreat before he could say or do something he might regret later.

Half an hour later, Jim was swearing as loudly as Scotty was. Their choice of words only slightly less bad as Chekov's, who was swearing in Russian. For the first time, Jim was thankful that that hadn't been one of the languages he'd learned.

All three of them were hunkered underneath the hull of the ship as it stood on four supporting pillar structures.

"It was a good idea with the scan, Capt'n," Scotty said, scratching the back of his head as he watched Chekov remove another device that was wedged in right underneath one of the aft rudders. It wasn't because Jim or Scotty had wanted him to, but his hands were slimmer and there was little room to get to the device.

Jim turned his back so he was shielding his communicator. "Spock?" he said quietly.

"Yes, Captain?"

"We've got another device on the outside of the hull," Jim said quietly. "Chekov's removing it right now and when we're sure it's safe, we'll bring it up to you. Might give you some more clues."

"Very well, Captain," Spock replied after a moment of silence.

"It's all the scan showed," Jim continued, "but I won't breathe easily until we're well away from the planet and the timeline's returned to its order."

"I concur, Captain," Spock replied. "I shall endeavor to reveal the devices' origin. Spock out."

Jim flipped the communicator shut and turned back to Scotty and Chekov, who were examining the device they'd taken off the hull. "Gentlemen, if it's safe, get it inside. I don't want to let our saboteur know that we're onto him or her."

"Aye, sir," Scotty said and he and Chekov exchanged a few muttered words. "It's actually a fairly simple device, Captain. Very easily disarmed." He held it while Chekov pulled out a cutting tool and severed two of the wires.

"That should do it, Keptin," Chekov said with a more relaxed look on his face. "It's safe to bring it aboard now."

Jim nodded. "We've got to get the ship off ground within the next 20 minutes, so saddle up, boys. We've got a race to win."

Both men nodded and headed back aboard the ship. Jim stayed where he was for a moment, looking at the other ships getting ready for the race as well. Considering that there had been two attempts at their ship, Jim was wondering if someone was onto them.

A few cheerful calls from some of the other ships tore Jim out of his contemplations. He grinned and waved back at their competitors. It seemed, even with the ships that had been forced out of the race because of engine failures and general cock ups, everyone was really enjoying this crazy thing.

Jim made his way back aboard the ship. On the bridge, he found Sulu, Uhura and Bones getting ready for the race as well.

"The security officers are making their second-to-last round of the ship before we take off," Uhura told him when he closed the door behind him.

"That's good," Jim said. "We had another device attached to the ship's hull."

"Someone really doesn't want us to take part in this, huh?" Bones said from his seat off to the side.

Nodding, Jim took his own seat. "Let's just keep our eyes and ears open. Anything, even smallish stuff, could turn out to give us a hint as to who's after us."

Jim looked over the starting papers he'd been given the night before. "Lady and gentlemen," he said cheerily, trying to focus on what was ahead instead of worrying about possible sabotage, "the number of ships are down to 32 and our timeslot for starting is as number eight. Well done yesterday."

Sulu turned his head from the helm and grinned.

"Let's do even better by tonight, everyone," Jim continued, "I'd rather win the device than steal it off whatever poor soul ends up winning it."

The look Uhura and Bones gave him told Jim that he wasn't entirely convincing them. Sure, he enjoyed the rush of this race, but he'd really rather have it well over with as soon as possible. He wanted to be back on his own ship, his own time and damn it, with a few less acts of sabotage.

The second day went better than Jim had dared hope for. However, they did witness more than one of their opponents falling out of the chase, more than once with some pretty spectacular explosions and those times Jim would exchange a look or two with his bridge crew. How many of those explosions were due to sabotage? With the sheer number of them, it couldn't all be coincidence; it could prove to them that maybe their saboteur wasn't so much onto them as trying to get rid of the competition in general.

As they closed in on the goal of the second day, Jim's grin widened. There were several competitors behind them and he was pretty sure that there were only a few ahead of them who'd already reached the day's finishing line.

Sometime along the day, Spock had joined them on the bridge and as they watched the heavily lit arrival area, Jim turned his head as Spock came to stand next to him, a brush of his hand against Jim's drawing his attention.

"If you have the time later, Captain, I would like to show you some interesting things I've found out about the devices," Spock said quietly.

For a split second Jim almost laughed. Did Spock ever understand just how often his phrasing could be interpreted less innocently? The answer, if yes, would mean Spock was having a continuous laugh on their behalf. If no, which it probably was, Jim wanted to leave him in the dark, because he didn't ever want Spock to change that.

"Of course, Mr. Spock," he replied evenly. "We'll make sure we have everything settled here after we land and make sure we get some extra security down here without drawing any attention."

Spock nodded in reply, but did not, to Jim's approval, move away again.

"Uhura," Jim said, turning a little to look at her, "Anything out of the ordinary?"

"No, Captain," she replied, "though it seems that a few more ships have had to pull out of the race. There have been more than a few casualties today as well."

"Sabotage?" Jim asked quickly.

Uhura held up her hand, listening to whatever might be on the communications lines. "So far no one's mentioned it outright, but some are expressing concerns that there might be more than faulty engineering at play here."

Jim nodded. "Bones," he said, turning to the other side where McCoy was leaning back against the wall, looking partly worried and partly bored. "How do you feel about taking Uhura out for a drink tonight? I think the crews tend to meet up for a drink or two in the evenings."

"There is an establishment listed in the racing papers," Spock said.

"Anything you'd like us to look for?" McCoy asked when he came over.

"You're used to bars and Uhura has the ears of a bat," Jim said with a grin, "I want you to see if there are any rumors of sabotage and keep a low profile. We want to know, but we don't want to draw unwanted attention."

"No problem, Jim," McCoy said with a nod.

Jim looked from one to the other. "Be careful."

"Aren't we always?" Uhura asked with a small grin.

"You are," he admitted, "but we don't know who's behind the sabotage so be doubly careful."

They both nodded in agreement and Jim turned back to look out the front window.

Crossing the day's finishing line had Jim breathing a little easier. As Uhura acknowledged that their time had been logged with the race authorities, he gave the order to prepare to set the ship down, leaving the bridge to Spock.

Jim entered the engine room, and not for the first time, marveled at the noise and stench of the place. It was nothing like his beautiful ship, all sleek and pretty. This was gritty, angular and ran on coal. His engineer and navigator looked as if they'd been bathing in it, streaks of dirt and coal dust mixed with sweat covering their clothes and faces. He was glad Bones had told them to wear masks to cover eyes and nose and mouth to prevent them from breathing the dust itself. However, it meant when they took those off, they looked absolutely hilarious.

"How is the engine, gentlemen?" he asked as he leaned against the open door.

"She's runnin', Capt'n," Scotty replied, wiping grime off his face, or rather, redistributing it around his face with an equally grimy looking rag. "Wouldn't mind if you'd let us do some tweaking tonight, though. The lad here," he continued and slapped Chekov on the shoulder, making the poor guy stumble and sending up a dusty cloud of coal dust, "has some pretty good ideas."

"As long as your tinkering will make her run better, Scotty," Jim replied. "I don't want to have to worry about blowing up because of what the two of you are doing down here."

"We'll be careful, Keptin," Chekov told him solemnly.

"We know what's at stake," Scotty said, part in defense and part because he knew Jim liked to hear it, even if he'd trust Scotty with his life.

"Well, if you're down here, keep an eye out for anyone who's not supposed to be here and if you leave have security beam a couple of officers down here to secure the area," Jim said, "after last night we really don't need any more attempts at sabotaging our chances for winning. Not to mention risking our lives in the process."

"Of course not, Capt'n," Scotty said, giving Jim the look that told him his chief engineer was on top of things and to damned well stop worrying so much.

Jim held up his hands, not even trying to hide his grin. "Don't forget to get some rest as well. The both of you," he said with a smile. "You're no good to me if you're falling off your perch."

Scotty made a shooing motion at him. "Go play yer chess with Mr. Spock, we know our limits."

Jim raised an eyebrow, knowing well it'd annoy Scotty beyond words. And he was right when a moment later he found himself almost thrown bodily lout of the engine room.

Because his engineer was a genius, Jim headed for the cabin that Spock occupied. The narrow hallway felt almost claustrophobic to him and he missed his brightly lit corridors. Knocking on the door, Jim waited for the 'enter' and pushed the door open.

"Captain," Spock said, beginning to stand, but Jim waved him back down.

"Come on," Jim said with a tired smile, "it's after hours and we're on our own. It's 'Jim' and then tell me what you have found out."

Spock raised an eyebrow at him. "Your requests are illogically phrased," he said, and Jim was pretty sure that there was a twitch of mirth to the corner of his mouth.

Jim shook his head, catching himself before he could stare a little too long at Spock's mouth. That just showed how damned tired he was. At least it seemed as if Spock hadn't noticed as he plowed on.

"As we are to speak of the two devices," Spock said calmly, nodding at the parts spread over the small table in front of him, "it would mean, as you would put it, 'shop talk' and that would indicate us being at work still and thus Captain would be the right way to address you."

Jim gave him a level glare and shook his head. "I swear, you get more and more stubborn every day."

"Indeed," Spock said, gesturing for Jim to join him at the table.

"Though I'm on to you," Jim warned, leaning forward and well into Spock's personal space. He was the only one who could do so without being silently ordered to back off.

"In which way?" Spock asked, his voice a low rumble that did some serious things to Jim's legs. Made him glad he was already sitting down.

"You know more than you let on and on the inside, you're laughing your ass off at our expense."

"Fascinating deduction," Spock said, very carefully not rolling his eyes. He didn't have to. He did it all in his tone of voice.

"So, whatcha got?" Jim asked, enjoying the heat he could feel from Spock all the way down his right side.

"From the manufacturing and parts used in both devices," Spock began, "there is a ninety-five percent probability that they were made by the same person or persons."

"And we still agree it's too advanced to be someone native to this planet and time?" Jim said, feeling a cold knot in the pit of his stomach, fully focusing on what was at hand and not his flirting with his first officer.

"Affirmative," Spock replied, taking a pin-like instrument and turned one of the pieces over. "Here and here are obvious marks of joining that have not yet been developed on this planet, and these parts," he continued, "are not consistent with their level of technology but can instead be found aboard any Federation ship."

"Are you saying it's Federation equipment?" Jim asked with surprise. He hadn't expected that.

"If I may, Jim," Spock said quietly, "I can give you an estimate."

Off the record, Jim read from that. This was between the two of them, not the captain and the first officer. "Your estimates are often better than any factual statements from other people," Jim admitted. And they were. It had taken him ages to get Spock to see why he wanted the guesses as well as the deductions. He could understand why Spock would be reluctant to offer theories not backed up by impenetrable logic, but he wanted to hear them anyway.

"Theoretically, the Carrion was never found, it was believed destroyed in the creation of the time distortion field," Spock told him.

Jim stared at him.

"It is a theory based on very little..." Spock stopped when Jim held up a hand.

"The Carrion wasn't a federation ship, it was a research vessel funded by private investors," Jim said slowly.

"However," Spock put in, "a lot of the equipment aboard would have been purchased from the same sellers that provide the federation-funded ships."

"It's a wild leap," Jim said, "it's not like you to do so. There's more, isn't there?" he asked.

Spock was quiet for a moment. "We do not have access to the full database of Starfleet to confirm any new registries," he began.

"Just hit me," Jim said, "come on, what did you find in the database?"

"While the information in the personnel files of the Carrion are not as painstakingly thorough as a Federation ship's would be, there are a few things in there that might point us in the right direction," Spock said carefully. "More specifically, one of the scientists, whose name was vaguely familiar to me."

"What did he do and who is he?" Jim asked curiously.

"One Doctor Reynard Mion had proposed some farfetched theories on time travel, and if I remember correctly as far as I recalled, he had filed his request for a research grant with both the Federation and Starfleet. He was turned down. Time travel is not something you tinker with."

"Tell me about it," Jim muttered to himself. Looking up he frowned. "When was this?" he asked.

"Approximately ten years ago," Spock replied.

Jim nodded slowly. "What happened between that and his name popping up in the Carrion's personnel files?"

"He drew away from the public eye, most probably to continue research, however..." Spock stopped and stared down at the devices on the table.

"I'm not going to like what you're about to say, am I?" Jim asked, getting at ugly vibe nice and clear.

"I am unable to verify the information with Starfleet, but it appears that Dr. Mion has been inquiring about the Narada incident."

"Time travel," Jim said, feeling the dread settle in the pit of his stomach.

"Indeed," Spock said.

"What was the Carrion officially doing out here?" Jim asked. "The flight log said research, but nothing else."

"Officially, they were researching a variety of projects. The history of the civilizations on the planets of this solar system, running tests of any and all variations, I believe. Including some involving matter and antimatter."

Jim nodded. "It sounds a bit too obvious to be a coincidence," he mused. "Dr. Mion, with his interest in time travel and the Narada, then the appearance of this time distortion bubble."

Spock turned his head slightly, inclining it in agreement.

They sat in contemplative silence for a moment and Jim realized he was leaning against Spock's side. He didn't want to call attention to it by pulling away too abruptly, but he felt jittery about it now that he'd noticed. However, the heat from Spock was nice and comforting, reminding him that he should probably get some sleep at an earlier time tonight than last. It hadn't been a joy getting out of bed this morning.

"Chess?" he asked half-heartedly. Wanting to, but knowing that he'll probably fall asleep halfway through their first game.

"As tempting as such an offer is," Spock said quietly, "I believe we would both benefit from rest instead."

"You're just being nice," Jim grouched. "You're saying I need rest because we both know you can just keep going and going and..." Another yawn broke his babbling.

This earned him a raise of both Spock's eyebrows and Jim couldn't help but grin through the next yawn.

"I'm going, I'm going," Jim said, holding up both hands, jokingly warding off Spock's logic. "I need to check to see if Bones and Uhura are back yet, see if they've learned anything."

Spock nodded when Jim reluctantly got to his feet. "I shall let you know if I find anything more of interest," he promised.

Jim grinned. "You should get some rest as well, Spock, I mean it. And don't give me that 'humans require more sleep than Vulcans do' schtick."

"But Captain," Spock said evenly, the corners of his mouth lifting a little barely noticeable bit, "Vulcans do require less sleep than humans."

Jim narrowed his eyes at Spock, but couldn't keep his glare stern when another yawn took him by surprise. "Okay, okay," Jim said, giving in. "Just try to get a little sleep before tomorrow morning."

Spock gave him a curt nod and Jim shook his head, leaving Spock's cabin behind. Approaching the deck, he stopped to take a few minutes to enjoy the cool evening air. It was a little cleaner than what he'd been breathing during the day, but the air still left a lot to be desired. It was no wonder that pollution had dragged this civilization under in the end.

He heard low voices and leaned over the railing, finding Bones and Uhura returning to the ship. Jim allowed himself a small smile. He was glad he had the back-up of his bridge crew on this mission.

Heading to the lower levels of the ship where the ship's entrance ramp was located, he nodded at the two security officers posted there. "Evans, Barry," he greeted quietly as he passed by them. They stood inside, out of sight. He wanted anyone watching to believe that the only people aboard were his bridge and engineering crew. The fact that he had people posted at possible entrances as well as two other officers sweeping the ship every twenty minutes was one he wanted to keep a secret.

"Captain," they both replied in low voices.

"Jim!" McCoy kept his voice fairly low as he pulled the entrance closed behind him and Uhura. Still, it echoed off the walls of the more open room of the cargo hold.

"Uhura, Bones," Jim greeted them as he waited for them. "Any news?"

"Well, apart from a nice evening out with more than pleasant company," McCoy drawled with a small smile, "the answer is yes."

Uhura answered his smile with one of her own before turning back to Jim, all business. "You're not the only one who suspects sabotage," she said bluntly. "Many of the other captains are thinking the same, and although it was a pleasant evening, as the doctor said, the tension was pretty obvious."

"Not to mention the superstitions," Bones grumbled. "Every other sailor we spoke with yammered on about curses of the race. Seems there are a lot more 'accidents' this year than there normally are."

"The general consensus is that there are too many coincidences for anyone's liking," Uhura put in.

Jim nodded. "It doesn't surprise me," Jim said quietly. "I want the two of you to get some sleep tonight. I want to have a quick meeting on the bridge tomorrow in good time before the race starts."

They both nodded and said their good nights.

Jim leaned back against the hull of the ship. He wondered how much of Spock's findings he should share with them in the morning. As plausible as a lot of it sounded, there was no guarantee that it was the truth. Spock had said so himself, that those were deductions based on very little fact.

Jim yawned again and decided to make his decision in the morning, although he figured the more he shared with his small crew on this mission, the better they would be equipped to handle whatever might happen tomorrow.

Tomorrow night the race would be over and it might be the last chance for their opponent to strike against them.

With one last wave at the security officers, Jim headed off to his own bunk and hopefully a few hours of sleep where he wasn't staring at the ceiling, worrying about the outcome of the race.

The morning was a little cooler than the previous, and it had been raining most of the night, leaving the deck of the airship slippery. Jim carefully made his way across, heading for the bridge. The start was still two hours away, even though they were starting a little earlier than expected. They had finished better than he'd hoped for, at third place, it would mean a much better starting position today.

Entering the bridge, Jim found his small bridge crew was waiting and they'd been joined by Scotty and Chekov as well. Jim closed the door and took a deep breath. "Report."

"Communications are running at top efficiency," Uhura said, "and the Enterprise is keeping a good eye on us."

"What about the local communications?" Jim asked.

"So far, there has been nothing out of the ordinary," Uhura replied.

"Nothing new about what you heard last night?" Jim asked.

"Nothing, no," Uhura said.

"I've noticed more than a few of the remaining ships seem to have more guards than the last few days," McCoy put in. "Either that, or they are just more visible now."

"Trying to warn off any saboteurs," Jim agreed with a nod. "Can't say I blame them. Mr. Spock, how's our security doing?"

"We have guards at all entrances, as well as patrols throughout the ship and sweeps along the outside hull until the time of our departure," Spock replied. "The additional security officers will beam back aboard the Enterprise at this point."

Jim nodded. "We have things to do, a race to get ready for. Everyone, I expect you to do your utmost best and kick some competition ass." He ignored the rolling of eyes from Bones and Uhura. "Scotty, Chekov, do your magic in the engine room."

"Aye, sir."

"Yes, Keptin."

Both men headed for the engine room and Jim turned to the rest of his crew. "Keep your eyes peeled," he told them. "Any sign of trouble is worth investigating, no matter how insignificant it may look." He turned to Spock and shook his head. "I'm not explaining that one, Mr. Spock. You know damned well what I mean."

"As you wish, Captain."

Jim gave him the evil eye. Or at least tried to. It never seemed to work on Spock anyway.

"Captain," Uhura broken in, at least giving Jim something else to focus on than the almost-smirk he was absolutely sure he'd caught on Spock's face.

"Lieutenant?" Jim went over to her when she held up her hand for moment, listening to the communications stream.

"Out of the fifteen ships that finished last night, only eleven of us are listed for the start up line today."

"More sabotage?" Jim asked.

"I'm not sure," she said, "they're not saying it outright, but there are a few of the ships that have been broken into last night, so it'd be a logical deduction, sir."

Jim sighed deeply.

"I can go out and ask around," McCoy offered.

Jim wondered for a moment if McCoy felt a little underused. As long as no one was hurt or needed any sort of medical attention, McCoy had time on his hands.

"Nah, I don't think that would be a good idea. If I'm right, most of the captains will be more than a little paranoid. Not that I blame them, but if we start asking questions we might be seen as knowing something they don't."

"Which is not only logical, Captain, but also the truth," Spock put in.

Jim rolled his eyes. "Of course we know more, but I can't see any way of explaining if asked, without giving more away than we should."

"I agree, Captain," Spock said evenly.

Jim tried not to laugh at the look McCoy shot Spock. They hadn't yet reached the point where Jim and Spock were. With McCoy, it was barely hidden exasperation, whereas Jim had already learned to enjoy his First Officer's dry wit, whenever it surfaced. "Let's get ready for the final leg of this race," Jim said, clapping his hands together. There was no need to let the two of them get to the point where words were exchanged.

Time flew faster than Jim had expected. Before he knew it, they were lining up in their allotted timeslots. Jim stood at Sulu's side with ninety seconds on their start. He didn't miss the small confident smile on his pilot's face.

"Looking forward to the race?" Jim asked quietly.

"Absolutely, Captain," Sulu replied. "It's been interesting, even though I'm missing the Enterprise."

Jim grinned. "Don't worry, Mr. Sulu. We all do."

They stood in silence until the countdown reached ten seconds to go. Jim gripped the railing in front of him as Sulu widened his stance a little, one hand on the steering wheel and the other on the throttle.

Their countdown reached zero and Jim felt the surge forward. This may not be the real Enterprise, but she still packed a hell of a punch.

Jim's smile widened as they managed their start without so much as a hitch and far more smoothly than he'd expected. Keeping his balance, he made it to his captain's chair at the middle of the bridge and sat down.

Jim made the mistake of getting complacent as the day went on. He should have known better than to jinx it by even thinking that way. If he hadn't been there to see for himself, he wouldn't have believed what happened roughly an hour before sunset when they were about half an hour from the goal. The sun was coloring the sky in hues of yellow and orange, ending in blood red as the sun went lower.

At first, Jim didn't notice, but then he caught the frown on Spock's face.

"Anything wrong, Mr. Spock?" he asked quietly.

"I am unsure, Captain. There is a dissonance that I cannot fully place."

Jim had long since learned to trust Spock's sense of hearing, so he turned to the rest of the bridge. "Uhura, anything?"

"I am picking up some background noise as well, but it's an unfamiliar sound," she admitted.


Jim turned back to Sulu, who was staring out the window at the weirdest thing Jim had seen in a long time.

"Rocket packs?" McCoy spat out, staring at the two figures landing on the deck outside.

"Spock, where's our security?"

Spock reached for his communicator and called for the officers as the two men landed, discarded of their backpacks, and made their way toward the bridge, brandishing, of all things, fencing foils. Jim was well aware that it was part of the dressing style; he'd bought one for Sulu for that reason as well, but he'd never expected...

The door was kicked open and Jim reached for the phaser he wasn't wearing, cursing himself for leaving it with his jacket in the captain's seat, several meters away.

"Gentlemen," one of the men said as they burst through the door. "I suggest that whatever weapons you have, do not use them. You could blow a hole in something vital." He was pretty unassuming to Kirk, a bit shorter and less muscular, but he was an invading enemy. There was also something annoyingly familiar about him. He reminded Jim of someone.

"Professor Mion," Spock said quietly and Jim realized that the man who'd spoken was the same one Spock had showed him some old file photos of the night before.

"What's going on here?" Jim asked, making sure he was in place to keep an eye on both men. It was still too far to leap for the phaser, though.

"Well, it seems you have an advantage over me," Mion said, "as I don't know who the hell you are, but you seem to know me."

"You were reported as killed when the Carrion was destroyed," Spock replied and Jim caught his eye, wondering if he was planning something.

"Well, I was having trouble keeping my little experiment a secret any longer, so I figured it would be better if the ship and I... parted ways."

Jim took a deep breath. "Does that mean you destroyed the ship?" Jim asked.

"What of it?" Mion asked, his eyes a little too crazed for Jim's liking. He wondered if the guy was on something.

"If that is the case, it will be added to the list of charges that have been found during your absence. When we bring you back to the Federation, you will be facing the court." Spock had taken a step forward and Jim silently cursed him for standing between his captain and the intruders. He really had to have a heart-to-heart with Spock about standing between trouble and Jim Kirk. It may have saved Jim's life most of the time, but it took a year out of him every time.

Jim took a step to the left while Mion was staring at Spock, who unfortunately hadn't covered up his ears. While the rest of them could pass as Vego inhabitants, Spock couldn't. At least the step Jim took brought him closer to Sulu. They had to take out the intruders as soon as possible.

"I can't believe it, you're Vulcan! I picked up some strange readings from this ship, but I never expected to find a damned Vulcan on board!" Mion exclaimed, pointing his foil at Spock.

Now, if Jim had any idea how to use a foil, he'd be wearing one, but both he and Spock had opted out because they didn't see why they should be wearing a weapon they didn't know how to use.

Out of the corner of his eye, Jim caught Sulu looking at him intently as the man Mion had brought with him pulled out his own foil and blocked the door.

A split second later, everything pretty much exploded into action on the bridge. Mion advanced on Spock; Sulu grabbed Jim's hand and slapped it onto the helms wheel, while drawing his own foil. Bones yelled, Uhura yelled, and Spock took a step back as the mad-eyed scientist moved forward.

Jim realized that he couldn't do anything but keep the ship as level as possible. Sulu... now Sulu moved faster than Jim had thought him capable of and ended up in front of Spock. The metallic clang of foils rang out as the two opponents circled each other.

Burning to cut in, to challenge the right to fight and defend his crew himself, Jim gripped the wheel harder. As much as he wanted to, he knew that Sulu, in this instance, could do so much better than he could ever hope for.

Surprisingly, Mion held his own and Jim wondered if there was something he's missed in the man's personnel file, because Jim knew how good Sulu was and Mion was barely sweating.

Jim gestured at Bones and Uhura to step toward the back of the bridge, well out of the way of the two combatants. Jim noticed that Spock was slowly circling to stand beside him, while keeping his dark eyes on the man at the door. He spared a moment to wonder if those two were the only ones aboard the ship or if others were targeting the engine room.

Almost as if to answer Jim's unspoken question, they started losing speed and the ships they had put behind them would probably overtake them. Jim watched Spock for a moment, then turned his attention out the main window, even if it was hard to focus on anything but Sulu and Dr. Mion.

There it was. The ship in front of them was putting more distance between them and up alongside came another ship. Jim knew they'd never regain their position now. Cursing under his breath, he turned and found that Spock had moved a little closer to the goon guarding the door. Thankfully, the fight had the man's full attention.

Spock and Jim exchanged minute nods of the head as they silently came to the same plan of action. Preparing himself, Jim thought it was damned lucky that Spock had an almost preternatural ability to keep his balance. Wrenching the wheel to the side, Jim prayed that no ship was off to that side. They could do without crashing into another airship.

Luck was with them and the whole deck tilted, causing everyone but Spock to stumble. Jim could only hope that his crew wouldn't get tossed around so violently that there's be injuries.

Sulu did some fancy sidestepping to both keep his balance and advance on his opponent. He whipped the foil right out of Mion's hand, nicking it as well. From the howl escaping Mion, one would have thought he'd been mortally wounded. Jim righted the ship as Spock took out the guard at the door, spinning him around and taking his weapon away. The man obviously didn't know about Vulcan strength because he continued to fight until Spock, with an almost annoyed look on his face, grabbed his neck and shoulder. The man sunk the deck, bested by a Vulcan neck-pinch.

"Secure them and then we'll head down to the engine room," Jim told Spock, handing over the wheel to Sulu before opening a small utility door and pulling out a coil of rope, throwing it to Spock who deftly caught it. "And while you're at it, gag Mion, will you?" Jim was beginning to get a little annoyed with the man's whining.

"Mion, you made a wrong choice," he told the man. "Just how wrong, we still have to figure out. Until then, we'll keep you and your... accomplice under lock and key. I take it he's a local?"

Mion made a sour face but didn't answer.

"It can easily be checked," Bones said, stepping over with his medical tricorder. "If his blood has a high concentration of the pollutants of this planet, he's a local. Show's in the bones as well," he added, taking his readings, while Spock tied up the man.

"Uhura, have the Enterprise beam them up and put them in the brig until after we're done here," Jim ordered, waiting for McCoy's verdict. "Make sure that there are sufficient security officers to greet them."

"Yes, Captain." She turned to the communications console and executed his order.

"He's a local, Jim," McCoy told him after a few moments of studying the readout.

"Is there any way we can keep him sedated?" Jim asked. "He's already seen Spock's ears. I'd like to limit what else he sees."

"No problem, Jim," McCoy replied. "I'll beam up with them and keep an eye on him."

"Good." Jim nodded at Uhura, who relayed the orders to security and the transporter room.

A moment later McCoy and the prisoners shimmered as the transporter was activated. Jim picked his phaser out of his jacket pocket and he and Spock made their way down to the engine room after leaving the bridge in Sulu's hands.

"We should leave our weapons out of sight," Spock said quietly as they moved along the narrow corridor leading to the engine room.

"A little late for that," Jim replied, "besides, I don't have your strength, Mr. Spock, and we don't know how many, if any, might be down here."

In the end it turned out they didn't even have to handle the intruders in the engine room. When they entered, Jim almost burst out laughing at the sight that met them. Right there, in the middle of the room, were two unconscious men, trussed by Barry and Evans.

"Good work, gentlemen," Jim exclaimed.

"They put up quite a fight," Evans admitted, "but Mr. Scott hit one of them over the head with a big wrench and the other was no problem either. We were on our way to the bridge."

"You missed the action," Jim said with a grin. "We've taken care of two up there and you can take these two up as well. Have Dr. McCoy check if they're locals and if that's the case, keep them sedated until we can dump them off the ship again."

"Yes, sir," Barry and Evans chorused before following his orders.

"Mr. Scott," Jim called out, then turned when a loud clang from the engine well caught his attention.

Chekov popped up, looking frazzled. "Keptin!"

"What's going on down here, Mr. Chekov?" Jim asked.

"Mr. Scott's fixing the engine," Chekov told him, reaching for a tool and passing it down and out of sight.

"We took a bit of a bang when the ship did a wild turn, sir. On top of our intruders, I had to do a bit of patching." Scotty explained when popped up next to Chekov.

"Anything you can do to tune up the engine, Scotty?" Jim asked. "We've fallen a bit behind because of that little maneuver."

"Well," Scotty said, exchanging a look with Chekov, "we might have an idea or two, sir."

"Hmm," Jim said, taking a deep breath. "Well, whatever you can do, do it."

"Give me five minutes and rid me of those two idiots, and I'll call you on the bridge."

"Barry and Evans have already beamed up with the saboteurs," Jim informed him "Do your best, Mr. Scott. Your best is short of a miracle sometimes."

"We'll do our best, Capt'n." and with that the engineer disappeared and Chekov shot Jim a wide boyish grin before following Scotty.

Jim turned around. "Let's get back to the bridge, Spock. We should probably brace ourselves for whatever Mr. Scott comes up with."

Spock raised an eyebrow and followed Jim. "Past experience does show that Mr. Scott has an ability to come up with strange but effective alternatives."

Jim grinned as they all but ran back to the bridge.

It wasn't completely lost on him when Spock brushed his hand with his own as they entered, but he pushed it to the back of his mind to deal with the current situation.

Filling the rest of them in, they waited. Jim felt as if they were waiting longer than necessary. They were flying a fine speed, but not enough to overtake their two opponents up ahead.

Uhura looked up from her console. "Sir, Mr. Scott is asking us to brace ourselves."

Jim grabbed the railing, and everyone else grabbed whatever was bolted down. A second later, the ship shot forward and Sulu let out a shout of surprise but managed to keep her steady.

Laughing, Jim promised himself that he'd make sure that Scotty got a commendation for this one because at the speed they were going, they were not only catching up, they were actually overtaking one of the two ships ahead as the finish line appeared in the distance. He would have loved to have seen the expressions on the captains' faces.

"Come on, come on," Jim chanted under his breath. The ship shook and shuddered, but it held and they shot past the leading ship just short of the finish line. Their own ship seemed to have made it just in time . There was a burnt stench to the air and they were losing speed fast. "Keep her in the air, please," Jim breathed out. They barely managed. Once or thrice, Jim thought they were going to fall out of the sky, burning up in a crash.

When they landed, the whole ship shook and tilted before righting itself, but Jim had already let go of the railing. He would have fallen to the deck if Spock hadn't caught him. It took a while before Spock let go of him but Jim wasn't complaining.

The post race party was one Jim would have loved to beg off, but he couldn't very well do so. With Scotty's insanity and Chekov's ingenuity, they had made it, by half a ship's length. There was, of course, a ceremony where they would be given the prize, and that was what Jim was impatiently waiting for so he could give the order to get off Vego.

"Captain Kirk," a woman called, making her way through the crowd, a glass of something violently green and sparkling in one hand. "You are a hard man to track down."

"Oh?" Jim felt Spock's presence at his back and relaxed. He was glad that he had his officers around him to help buffer the well-wishers.

"Congratulations. From what I've seen, you take your chances and make your own opportunities." She was a gorgeous, tall woman. Long blonde hair held tightly underneath a lacy hat, a dress that hugged her bodice and a long flowing skirt that gathered up one side, showing off quite a bit of leg, stocking, lace, and boot.

Normally he'd be tempted, but damn, he just wanted to get back to his real ship. "I have a good crew," Jim replied pleasantly. "One that I always trust to deliver a miracle or two."

She tilted her head back and laughed out loud. "I can believe that," she admitted. She held out her hand, reminding Jim of the real Victorian Earth as he leaned forward and lightly kissed her hand. When he straightened back up, he caught the quick flash of disapproval on Spock's face out of the corner of his eye. What the hell was that all about? He was just following the cultural dos and don'ts.

"I am Captain Tarn, of the Starlight," she introduced herself, a pleased flush coloring her cheeks. "Which was the ship you overtook just before the finishing line."

Jim raised an eyebrow, not even having to fake his respect. "I am duly impressed, Captain Tarn, you were a hell of an opponent."

"I shall take that as a compliment, Captain," she said with a wink and this time Jim definitely caught the glacier standing next to him. It seemed, so did Captain Tarn, who looked at Spock and raised her eyebrow with a small grin. "I simply wanted to offer you my congratulations and I hope you're taking part again next year."

"We'll see," Jim said quietly. Declining would mean unnecessary explaining.

"Oh, but you must," she said with a last smile, before heading off towards another cluster of captains. "You must allow me the opportunity to defend my honor," she called over her shoulder.

Jim didn't answer, but grinned widely and bowed to her, while her laughter filled his ears. Then she was off and Spock's hand landed heavily on his shoulder.

"We should be making our way back to the ship," he said quietly, his mouth so close to Jim's ear that the burst of breath made him shiver. He turned around and watched Spock for a moment. He looked fantastic, wearing a hat to conceal his ears; his goatee making him look almost like an old fashioned Victorian villain: His long-tailed blue coat, tapered pants and long black boots. Jim bit the inside of his cheek to keep from leaning into him.

They finally managed to get out of the place, with the device well in hand. They made sure no one was following them before heading down a narrow side street, heading for the outskirts of the city. When they reached a green area with groups of trees giving them some cover, Jim pulled his communicator out, asking for the shuttle to come pick them up.

The trip back to the Enterprise was done in companionable silence. They were all tired and needed sleep. They also needed to figure out how to switch the device off safely. He knew that Spock had ideas on how and he'd let his science officer do what he did best.

Stepping out of the shuttle, Jim stood by as the others disembarked, waiting for Spock to set up the containment field around the shuttle. The device would stay in the shuttle and the science officers would be conducting their studies there. Hopefully they would find a way to switch it off without any harm coming to the ship.

"Good work everyone," Jim said with a yawn. "Especially you and Mr. Chekov, Scotty. Damned good thinking."

"Aye, although it cost me a nice amount of me whiskey," Scotty said, making a sad face.

Jim smacked him on the shoulder with a laugh and made a mental note to get him some the next time he had the opportunity. "Debriefing in the morning," he continued. "Get some sleep everyone and send a team down to take the airship apart so we leave no trace behind. Let it have an accident if you must, but get rid of anything that doesn't belong to this period of time."

"I have already sent a team down just before we began the victory feast," Spock said calmly. "It should be well underway. It also seems that Dr. Mion had a data crystal on him, containing some of the specs. I shall be joining my science team shortly to assess the possibility of safely switching the device off. "

"Brilliant," Jim said, beaming at him.

The crew exited the shuttlebay and Jim hid a yawn behind his hand as he and Spock went last. Just before they went through the door, Jim sniffled theatrically. "Although," he said with a heartfelt sigh, "I didn't get a good luck kiss. I didn't get a victory kiss. To tell you the truth, I'm just not feeling the love. I'm the captain, it should come naturally."

Spock stopped short and Jim almost didn't notice for another two steps. Turning around, he found Spock watching him with a raised eyebrow.

"What?" Jim asked. He was pretty sure his banter didn't bother Spock all that much, and considering some of the shit that normally escaped him, what he'd just said was really not that bad.

"I beg to differ, Captain," Spock said, ramrod straight. "You have had several good luck kisses as you call it, as well as a victory one. All, I have to say, against my better judgment and nature, shared in public."

Jim blinked in confusion. "Did I step in and out of an alternate universe while we were doing all this or is there more than one bubble of displaced time?" he asked. "I mean, I think I would have known if I'd gotten any kisses," he argued.

"I assumed from your reactions and reciprocation that you understood the significance of my actions," Spock argued and Jim caught the implication that this was clearly his fault and not Spock's.

"What exactly are you talking about?" Jim asked slowly. There was obviously something he was missing.

If Spock had been prone to deep sighs, this would have been just such a moment. He stepped forward and Jim wondered what the hell was about to happen and if he should be making plans for escape around now. Spock, however, merely reached out and ran two fingers down Jim's.

"This," he said quietly, "is how a Vulcan shows affections, how we kiss."

Jim felt the same light flutter in his stomach that he had every time Spock had done this to him and he realized that it hadn't just been Spock being more touchy-feely than normally. "Oh," he said, finally getting it. He had to say in his own defense that he'd been a little too focused on their mission to remember any of his xenobiology lessons. Besides, he was pretty sure they'd never covered the subject of Vulcan intimacy at the Academy anyway.

"Indeed," Spock replied, retracting his hand, a slight flush of green across his cheeks.

Jim narrowed his eyes for a moment, gauging the chance of him taking Spock by surprise. A quick check around and he could see no crew in the vicinity. He gave a mental shrug and moved, trusting that Spock trusted him enough to relax in his company. One arm around Spock's shoulders, hand cradling the back of Spock's head, fingers buried deep in the soft, straight hair and the other on Spock's waist. He twisted the both of them and managed to dip Spock and cover his mouth with his own without Spock fighting back.

There was a bit of flailing, though Spock would probably never admit to that in a million years, then Jim felt Spock's arms around his back, clutching hard at his shirt. He breathed deeply through his nose and pushed the tip of his tongue gently against Spock's lips; surprised when they parted easily, allowing him to deepen the kiss just like he wanted. All sane thought fled and Jim simply held on tightly as they kept on kissing. For all his past history, Jim wasn't sure he'd ever felt such mixture of glee, happiness and contentment during one long, deep, and wet kiss. The feel of Spock's goatee against his face was a strange, but not uncomfortable one.

Eventually, the kiss softened and broke, though Jim didn't let go of Spock for a moment longer. They were staring into each other's eyes and Jim noticed Spock's surprise, though it was mixed with ... he wasn't sure, but it could be joy and satisfaction. The light coloring of Spock's cheeks had bloomed to a full flush, a visual reminder that Spock was not half as composed as he obviously wanted to be.

Jim slowly straightened, getting Spock back on his feet, reluctant to let go.

Spock made that decision for him, taking a step back, breaking their physical contact. He straightened his back visibly, smoothing down his coat and tugging the hem of his vest down with both hands. "Very well, ...Captain. I stand corrected, it seems."

Jim bit his lower lip, trying hard not to grin. The exasperated look Spock gave him told Jim he wasn't doing a very good job of it, though.

When Spock turned to leave, Jim reached out and brushed two fingers along Spock's. "I like your version too," he admitted quietly.

Spock cleared his throat and his face softened a little. "When we have taken care of the device," he told Jim sternly.

"A private victory party?" Jim couldn't help asking with a smirk.

"Now that would be illogical, Captain. You did your duty, that is its own reward," Spock replied coolly, before turning his back on Jim, exiting the shuttlebay.

Jim was sure the bastard was laughing on the inside again, but he couldn't find the heart to be annoyed this time. Leaning against the door frame, he laughed quietly. "Very well," he said, watching Spock slow his step. "It's a date, then."

"As you wish," Spock replied and sped up again, heading for the nearest turbolift.

It hadn't escaped Jim that Spock hadn't shot that suggestion down, so he allowed his smile to widen into a broad grin. He was glad the mission was over and he'd be even happier when he could corner Spock in private again. Pushing away from the door to allow it to shut behind him, Jim made his way toward his own quarters, whistling a soft tune to himself.

The End