Fandom: Star Trek Reboot (AU)
Rating: PG-13 (violence and language)
Disclaimer: My cats own all, I own nothing. They have no interest in Star Trek, so they made me trade it to Paramount for a bag of cat food and a catnip mouse. Cats, you make terrible agents! Now we're not even getting paid for this, geez.
Summary: AU, based on the Cupid and Psyche myth. How different would the world be if Surak's influence had never spread, if the Awakening had never happened, if Vulcans had never sought to control their emotions? It's the Federation, Jim, but not as we know it. Warlord Sarek's son has reached his Time and requires a mate. Who will brave the monster's lair?
Author's Note: Well, the poll has spoken, and people have volunteered ARTS AND MUSICS OMG, so wait for the next Big Bang I shall not! This story has been rattling around in my head for the better part of a year, and has finally demanded out. The title is from the myth of Cupid and Psyche in The Golden Ass by Apuleius, and the basics of that myth form the main plot arc for the story. It's my very favorite Greek myth, and it was ridiculous amounts of fun figuring out how to translate it into Trek. Anyone who wants to join in the fun, please do! Arts for everyone!
Some businessy things: Vulcans here are not ones you'll recognize. There are emotions on display, and out of control, and though logic is appreciated it's not remotely as revered as it is in the Trek you know and love. There are several more differences in the world in general, though hopefully those will become clear in time as the story goes on. Remember, though: AU. Normal rules do not apply.
ETA: OMG LOOKIT THE BANNER anoncomment7 MADE FOR ME IS IT NOT BEAUUUUUUUTIFUL?
And set on rock of yonder hill aloft:
Her husband is no wight of human seed,
But serpent dire and fierce as may be thought,
Who flies with wings above in starry skies
And doth subdue each thing with fiery flight.
The gods themselves and powers that seem so wise
With mighty Jove be subject to his might;
The rivers black and deadly floods of pain
And darkness eke as thrall to him remain.
--The Golden Ass
Jim ducked, cursed, and drove the half-moon blade of his lirpa hard at his assailant’s chest.
The air was thick with red dust kicked up by scores of trampling feet, and Jim could taste it at the back of his throat with every labored breath he managed. His band had moved in at twilight, when the heat of the day had faded slightly and Eridani’s light still reflected off of the L-langon Mountains, providing adequate visibility. Despite their precautions, however, the battle was taking its toll; with every moment that passed the odds shifted more in favor of the K’tash clan’s warriors. Even with the tri-ox compound that had been administered before they headed out, the Humans in their merry little band of mercenaries were tiring rapidly, and Jim was no exception.
His blade made contact with the Vulcan’s chest, slicing through armor and sinking deep into flesh with a spray of thick, green blood. The man dropped, and Jim took a moment’s pause to breathe and wipe some of the gore from his face.
It was a mistake, one he knew better than to make. His heartbeat of inattention ended when a thick leather strap flew over his head to tighten around his throat; he felt his feet leave the ground as he was hauled back against a wide chest. For an endless moment his hands scrabbled frantically, uselessly at the strap. Then his training kicked in and they dropped to his belt, fumbling for his knife. It was unlikely to do any good, he knew: the armor these bastards were wearing was thick and tough, so unless he got in an extremely lucky shot his knife would be about as effective as a bee sting. It was possible he could sever the ahn-woon, but his vision was already beginning to darken around the edges and he didn’t love his chances.
A second warrior in the K’tash colors approached, lirpa poised to strike. Jim had very nearly resigned himself to the fact that he was well and truly fucked this time when the advancing Vulcan’s eyes went wide and a long, flat blade burst out of his chest. He fell with a gurgling, choking sound, and Sulu yanked his sword free with a twist of his wrist that flung droplets of blood in a wide arc.
“No gloves!” he shouted as another warrior closed on him, and Jim immediately slashed backwards with his knife, aiming for where he could feel strong fists digging into the back of his neck.
A blood-curdling scream sounded directly in his ear as the pressure abruptly eased, sending him tumbling to the ground. Jim coughed and choked, trying to draw air into his starving lungs through a half-crushed windpipe. The warrior who had been choking him a moment before was still screaming at the long gashes over both of his hands; Jim’s lirpa was lying within reach, but he’d never be able to lift it yet. Instead his fist closed around the bloody end of the abandoned ahn-woon, and he struck out with all the force he could muster. The heavy metal weight at the end struck the injured Vulcan square in the temple and he dropped like a bag of stones, dead or unconscious but either way out of the fight for now.
Jim hauled himself to his feet, dragging his lirpa with him as he maneuvered until he was back to back with Sulu. “Pike?” he yelled.
“Holding the far side. We just have to—”
An inhuman, enraged scream rent the air even above the din of battle, and Jim looked frantically around in time to see a figure in their own colors fall. There was a crackle of static inside his helmet, and then Pike’s voice was shouting in his ear.
“Clear a path, people! For fuck’s sake, get the hell out of her way!”
The screaming hadn’t stopped, and it was growing closer with every passing moment. Jim grabbed Sulu by the shoulder and hauled him to one side, striking out again with his borrowed ahn-woon whenever an enemy soldier presented himself in close enough range. Another K’tash body fell five meters to his left; T’Pring didn’t spare him so much as a glance as she wrenched her lirpa free and sprinted off. Her helmet was gone, and her long dark hair trailed behind her like smoke.
“Stonn must’ve gone down,” Jim called to Sulu. “Can you see him?”
“No. I think she found him, though: it looks like she’s stopped.”
Jim glanced over and saw that Sulu was right: T’Pring was prowling back and forth now, her face contorted with rage and splattered in green gore as she slashed fiercely at anyone who approached. One warrior nearly succeeded in drawing her out, darting and feinting until she was two, then three steps away. Behind her another K’tash stepped in, his lirpa raised to strike at the body on the ground. Suddenly T’Pring sent her own blade flashing forward, darting inside her opponent’s guard and slicing across the thin strip of exposed flesh at his throat. The momentum from her strike turned into a complicated twisting turn, and less than a full second later the blunt end of her weapon connected with the second Vulcan’s head in a savage uppercut that flung him back almost two full meters.
The entire thing happened in the space of three breaths.
Jim tore his attention away from the bloody scene and took stock of his surroundings. Much of the K’tash contingent had fallen, but there had been more here than they had expected and too many were still up and fighting. He was in the middle of wondering where the hell Beta Team was when his helmet crackled again and Pike’s voice bellowed in his ear.
There was no more warning than that. None was needed. Their entire team hit the ground as one, Stonn yanking the helmetless T’Pring down to sprawl beside him. There was a moment’s confusion, and then the whirr thump of several dozen arrows finding their targets. A body fell next to Jim, the Vulcan’s eyes wide and unseeing, and Jim scrambled back from the blood that was pouring out onto the sand. Beta Team’s arrows had punched right through the thick Vulcan armor, just as Scotty had said they would.
“Nice.” He heard Sulu shifting to his right and looked over to find his friend grinning at him, gesturing at the bright kara feathers that formed the arrows’ fletching. “I like the blue.”
“All right, team,” Pike’s voice crackled, “safe to stand. Time to do the mopping up.”
It was a routine sweep of the camp after that, in the baffling mix of callousness and emotionalism that Jim had yet to grow quite accustomed to even three years in. The camp and all its assorted bits and pieces was considered fair game: rations, equipment and personal items alike were swept up to be catalogued back at the base until all that remained were the bits that weren’t worth taking.
Meanwhile, the bodies of the fallen were treated to the full measure of respect that was due to them as warriors. Small pyres were built from the cache of tir-nuk wood that every Vulcan camp stockpiled, for their own deaths or those of their enemies. Stonn, his side bandaged, stood supported by T’Pring as he recited ceremonial words as others tossed fragrant packets of hla-meth onto the fires. The now-familiar funeral dirge echoed back from the nearby mountains as the last of the day’s light faded and the funeral rites came to an end.
“Fucking creepy,” Sulu muttered when the last squad leader had made her report and departed. “I hate twilight strikes; at least when we fight at dawn they’re not doing that in the goddamned dark.”
Jim snorted. “You’re just pissed off you’re not invited.”
“It’s separatist bullshit and you know it,” Sulu replied without bothering to deny the allegation. “Pike’s unit’s supposed to be all about integration, isn’t it? But every time we fight they all strike out into the desert and snarl at any Human that gets within fifty meters. What if one of us wanted to pay his respects?”
“Then you do it after they’re finished,” Jim said firmly. “Their planet, their rules, and don’t forget it. Vulcans are the ones who pay us, so they’re the ones who say how things get run. C’mon, man, you know all this.”
“Doesn’t mean I have to like it.”
“Fair enough,” Jim shrugged. “But you know,” he added with a leer, “there’s more than one way to integrate.”
Sulu just snorted. “And as soon as we get a female Vulcan recruit who isn’t a conceited, bonded bitch I’ll be more than happy to do some integrating. In the meantime I’ll just have to keep waiting for the next leave.”
“Suit yourself, but I’d recommend trying a little bit more flexibility.” He shook his head. “We’ll talk about your heterosexual rut later; right now I’ve gotta get these reports to the captain. Make yourself useful and start people loading up the mules. Hopefully we can get back to base as soon as the funeral’s finished, because I’m freakin’ starving.”
Pike was busy in what had been the K’tash commander’s tent, filling a satchel with PADDs and rolls of thick dun-yar paper. He looked up as Jim entered. “Just the man I was looking for. Gonna have some work for you when we get back to base.”
“Coded?” Jim snagged a PADD from the makeshift table in the center of the tent and scrolled through the initial menu.
“Looks like it. I don’t know what the real story here was, but it sure as shit wasn’t the simple little raiding party we were expecting.”
“Bad intel?” Jim frowned. “Or a set-up?”
“Let’s pray to any gods that might be listening that it’s the first. If T’Sain’s decided to screw us around, we’re pretty well fucked.” Pike shook his head. “But however it’s playing out, I want to know before we find ourselves flung into another situation that overreaches our expectations. Now.” He took the PADD that Jim had picked up and nodded to the one that the younger man still held. “Report.”
“Yes, sir.” Jim glanced at the screen. “Ten wounded, but only six of those are serious enough to be a concern and all of them can hold until we make it back to base. I’d guess there’s probably another dozen or so who’ve failed to report something relatively minor. Not too bad, all things considered.”
“Seem pretty standard. Should supplement our own well enough, but I no one’s found anything particularly exciting as far as I’ve heard.”
“Very good, soldier.” Pike hauled the satchel up over his shoulder. “Mules are loaded?”
“Sulu’s seeing to it. You know we’re going to have to pry him away from the things when we make it back to base.”
“Well.” Pike clapped him on the back, sending a cloud of red dust flying. “That’s what I have my field sergeant for.”
Beta Team had beat them back, and by the time the rest of the unit arrived the celebration was already well underway. Jim hung back to see that the Ifis-hali barges—the ‘mules’ as most of their Human contingent had taken to calling them—were all anchored and accounted for. He didn’t quite have to pry Sulu’s fingers away from the controls, but it was a close thing. The privilege of rank came into play then, and he drafted a dozen of the able-bodied to haul their take to the supply tent while he headed for his own tent.
Stripping out of his armor after a battle was always a moment worth savoring, but Jim only let himself indulge for a few moments. Cleaning his armor and weapons would take a good twenty minutes, even with the start he’d made on the trip back, and the longer he dawdled the longer it would be until he got something to eat. The smell of cooking meat was almost a torment; after canned and dried food for weeks, Jim was more than ready to take advantage of their monthly supply run to Shi’Kahr. He seriously needed a bath, but that would have to wait. Pike probably wouldn’t need him to get started on hacking the K’tash tech before morning, but Jim wasn’t about to count on that and risk another reconstituted dinner.
The main cooking fire at the center of the camp was crowded and noisy—unsurprising, since this was where the enticing smell of roasting meat was originating. Along with a half-dozen pots of what smelled like fresh vegetable stew, some large unfamiliar animal had been spitted over the fire. The attendants turning it were keeping the hungry crowd at bay with warnings that it wasn’t finished cooking yet, so Jim snagged a bowl of stew and a slab of bread that had probably been baked fresh that morning.
“Jim!” He looked over to see Chekov waving to him from halfway across the fire. Jim headed over, noting as he went that Scotty was there as well, pouring something violently green into Chekov’s cup. Most of Beta Team was surrounding them, all talking animatedly amongst themselves.
“Hey, Pavel,” Jim said with a nod, and sent the rest of the group a pointed look. “You guys sure took your sweet time tonight.”
To his surprise, there was a chorus of delighted laughter in response. “They had a bit of a distraction on the way there,” Scotty supplied when no other answer was forthcoming, topping off his own cup from the flask he held.
“It was little Pavel’s big day!” Lokar rumbled, reaching out with one gloved hand to ruffle Chekov’s curls.
“I killed a le-matya!” Chekov said excitedly, gesturing to the fire, and Jim’s eyebrows shot up.
“No shit?” He looked back at the carcass that was slowly roasting and let out a low whistle. “They’re bigger than I thought.”
“It jumped us on our vay to the lookout.” Chekov’s eyes were bright with excitement and, Jim was sure, a decent amount of Scotty’s favored saya. “Ve had to take more time to make sure its mate vas not in the area.”
“One shot,” Lokar said in admiration, his hand now clasped firmly over Chekov’s shoulder. “Straight through the eye at twenty meters.”
“Mr. Scott’s arrows are wery good,” Chekov said, and Stelen snorted.
“You are a skilled shot,” he countered warmly. “The arrows are an asset, certainly, but it takes a steady hand and a keen eye to manage what you have done.”
“Aye, lad,” Scotty agreed. “Don’t be afraid to do a bit of braggin’.”
“They say that I vill keep the pelt,” Chekov confided excitedly. “Because it vas my kill.”
“And a fine kill it was,” Kintha added.
Jim didn’t bother trying to hide his smile. When Chekov had joined their unit two years ago, it had been an unspoken rule that his age made him off-limits. Even the Vulcans, with their relatively relaxed standards, had asserted that a child had no business being involved in mating. If the looks he was getting now were any indication, though, it looked like those days were quickly drawing to a close. Jim figured Lokar had the edge, but Stelen might just give him a run for his money. Either way, the kid was probably going to be knee-deep in suitors before the month was out.
“Make sure to show me that pelt after it’s been tanned,” Jim grinned. “Now I’m gonna find somewhere to sit and eat this stuff before it goes cold, and see a lady about a bet.” With his free hand he flashed a discreet sign at Scotty, and the other man nodded. He’d keep an eye on the kid and make sure that the herbal liquor didn’t carry away his judgement. Reassured, Jim set off for one of the smaller fires scattered throughout the camp.
“Well, look what the sehlat dragged in.” Uhura looked up from polishing the last of her knives, the others lined up neatly on a blanket on the ground in front of her. “Come to bring me dinner? That’s so sweet.”
“Not so fast,” Jim cautioned, holding bowl and bread out of her reach with a superior smile. “Two and a half.”
“And a half?” Uhura raised her eyebrows. “How does that work, exactly?”
“Sulu got the kill.” Jim settled onto a free spot on one of the flat rock seats that ringed the fire. “But only because I provided a cunning distraction by getting garroted by another one of the bastards. Call it an assist.”
“Only you, Kirk,” she laughed, “would try to spin almost getting asphyxiated as a cunning distraction.” Uhura inspected the her knife once more before she nodded in satisfaction and slipped it into her boot. “Not that it matters,” she added with a smirk, securing the rest of her blades in the half-dozen sheathes hidden across her body. “I got three.”
“Ask Syrrik,” she said smugly. “He was there the whole time, saw all three.”
“He’s hardly an impartial witness,” Jim grumbled. “He wants to get in your pants.”
“Oh, honey, who doesn’t?” She took the food that Jim grudgingly held out. “So thoughtful. And remember, it’s ten credits per.”
“I remember, I remember.” He dug into his pocket for his money and counted out thirty credits, handing them over with a mournful look at the stew that Uhura was already spooning up. “I knew I should’ve eaten before I came over.”
“Live and learn,” Uhura said with a sweet smile.
“And cultivate generous friendships.” An inhumanly warm body settled next to him, and a moment later Jim found a new bowl of stew being pressed into his hands.
“Sava.” Jim smiled in triumphant gratitude. “Your timing’s impeccable. Thanks.”
“It is my pleasure; I had twenty credits wagered on Uhura, istaya t’nash-veh.” The firelight painted Sava’s skin the color of polished bronze, and the appreciation in his eyes was undisguised as they scanned Jim’s face.
“UT didn’t pick that one up,” Uhura remarked, abandoning her food to pick up the PADD sitting beside her.
“ ‘My desire,’ ” Sava provided, his gaze never leaving Jim’s. “Have you given my proposal further consideration, Jim?”
“It’s . . . tempting.” Jim’s eyes slid over the Vulcan’s body in turn. “But sort of a daunting prospect.”
“I do not wish to press you to a hasty decision, but my Time draws near.” Sava leaned a breath closer, his heat an enticing lure in the rapidly cooling night. “Come to my tent tonight,” he suggested with an inviting smile. “Let me see if I can not tempt you further.”
“No use in doing so.” They all looked up at the sound of T’Pring’s voice as she approached. Unlike the rest of them she had taken the time to fully bathe; her hair gleamed in the firelight, dark waves that tumbled down her back. “He has several of you all sniffing after him; he will pit you against each other until you fight like krinti over a bone.”
“Well I won’t now that my evil scheme has been revealed,” Jim said, rolling his eyes. “Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Healer Telev is seeing to Stonn’s injuries. I do not require the near-constant nourishment that an inferior Human metabolism requires. I have taken the time to wash so that others may not be offended by my stench.” She lifted an eyebrow with a cold, pointed smile. “In short, no. I have nothing more pressing to occupy my time than ensuring that my fellow Vulcans do not defile themselves by choosing to couple with a Human during their Time.”
“We do not all share your distaste for Human mates,” Sava said calmly, and his eyes slid over Jim again in a nearly tangible caress. “I would be honored should such a creature choose to fill my bed.”
T’Pring visibly shuddered in revulsion. “I would sooner mate a dumb beast than a barely-sentient savage such as these.”
“Now hold on,” Jim chided mildly. “I like Stonn; you really shouldn’t talk about him that way.”
T’Pring snarled and took a step forward, but Uhura was faster. “Lovely to talk to you as always,” she said, wrapping a hand around Jim’s arm and hauling him to his feet, “but Jim’s needed in the medical tent just now.”
“He will be in greater need if he does not learn to see to his mouth,” T’Pring snapped.
“And I’ll have to report you to Pike if you make another threat against your teammate,” Uhura shot back.
“She is right, T’Pring.” Sava rose to his feet, casually but unmistakably lending the full weight of his presence. “You overstep yourself.”
T’Pring stared at Sava for a moment, the disdain in her eyes only slightly less than what she directed at Jim and Uhura. Then a slow smile crept across her face, and she was coldly lovely once more.
“Of course,” she murmured, inclining her head agreeably. “I misspoke. By all means, Kirk, accept Sava’s offer.” Icy eyes locked on him again as her smile widened. “It would certainly be agreeable to me to witness the aftermath.”
“Are you insane?” Uhura hissed at Jim as she dragged him away. “What part of taunting the vicious, Human-hating Vulcan seemed like a good idea, exactly?”
“Pretty much all of it, actually. Where are we going?” he demanded.
“I already said, you’re needed in the med tent.”
Jim rolled his eyes. “I’m fine.”
“Did you or did you not tell me ten minutes ago that you were almost choked to death earlier tonight? You’ve had some food, so your stomach won’t seize like it did last time you got hypoed with anything besides tri-ox.”
“You,” Jim said slowly, “are a sneaky bitch.”
“Flattery will get you nowhere. I promised Chris I’d get you in for a once-over when we got back, and like hell are you getting me to break my word.”
“You know, you could’ve just led with ‘Chris wants to give you a once-over’ and I’d have gone along willingly.”
“That’s my wife you’re talking about,” McCoy reminded him as they stepped into the med tent. “Your raid’s over so I doubt Pike would bitch too much if I injected you with something nasty.”
“Think again, Bones; codes to crack, enemy security to reduce to rubble. Lots to do.” Uhura released his arm at last and Jim sauntered over to the table where Christine Chapel was wrapping up Sulu’s ribs. “I heard you wanted to see me, gorgeous?”
“I wanted you hauled in here because Len will gripe until he’s verified you came home in one piece otherwise,” she snorted without so much as looking up. “If you’d come in right away you might’ve had me patching you up; as it is, I’ll leave you to my husband’s tender mercies.”
“Tough luck, Jim,” Sulu grinned, though his smug look was ruined with a wince when Christine tugged the bandage taut. “Looks like I got the good-looking one.”
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” Jim said slyly. “I don’t mind putting myself in the doc’s capable hands.”
“Cut that out,” McCoy snapped, “and get over here so I can make sure you’re not dying.”
“Sweet talker,” Jim laughed, but obligingly hopped up onto the free bed.
“Well, what’s the damage this time?” McCoy asked, tilting Jim’s head up with one surprisingly gentle hand to shine a light into his eyes.
“Scrapes and bruises, mostly. I’m really fine.”
“He almost got choked to death.” Uhura smiled when Jim glared at her, lifting one shoulder in a delicate shrug. “Not much point in lying; he’d figure it out on his own.”
“Don’t you have anything better to do?”
“Is there anything better than bothering you? T’Pring may have actually had a point there.”
“You had a run in with her, too?” Sulu rolled his eyes. “She was in here a few minutes ago checking on Stonn. It’s too bad, really; she’d be so hot if she weren’t such a raging bitch. I don’t envy the two of you,” he said, glancing back and forth between McCoy and Christine.
“Why?” Jim frowned. “Something happen?”
“Tried to give her the required physical, since Telev’s still busy with Stonn over there,” McCoy said, nodding towards the other side of the tent. “Had a look on her face the whole time like I’d washed my hands with garbage. Chin up.”
“I’m fine,” Jim insisted again, but tilted his head back so that McCoy could pass a scanner over his throat. “It hardly even hurts.”
“I’m sorry,” McCoy said, “was I asleep when you got a medical license of your very own? No? Then shut up and let me do my job so I can find out if you’re actually fine.” He scowled as he read the results on the tricorder. “Damned bat-crazy planet,” he muttered. “Can’t use phasers like any other civilized society; no, have to give me lirpas and goddamned ahn-woons to clean up after, the tradition-obsessed bastards.”
“Dr. McCoy.” They all glanced over at the sound of Healer Telev’s voice; the thin, dark-skinned Vulcan stared back inscrutably from the other side of the tent. “I am willing to make certain concessions in the interest of a harmonious working environment. However, I will have to ask you to choose between allowing flirtations with you and your wife, or maligning my culture’s traditions. Both together, I am afraid, is too much for me to bear with equanimity.”
“My apologies.” McCoy sounded gruff but sincere as he turned to face the Healer directly. “I’ve been acting like a jackass, haven’t I?”
Telev broke into a smile. “You have, indeed. Given the circumstances, however, I can hardly blame you. The next time T’Pring comes in for an examination, I would recommend gagging her.”
Christine made a noise that might have been choked-back laughter, but her gaze darted nervously to the occupied bed behind Telev. “I know he’s in a healing trance, but . . . you did say that he would remain aware of what was going on around him, didn’t you?”
Telev raised an eyebrow. “If Stonn has remained unaware until this moment of how T’Pring is widely regarded, then he is more of a fool than I had believed.”
Jim laughed at that, and was about to hop down off of the table when McCoy turned back to him. “Not so fast. Have you eaten?”
“Oh come on, Bones,” Jim groaned, but McCoy just rolled his eyes.
"Don't be an infant. Now, are you going to take your painkillers and dermal regeneration like a man, or do I need to hold you down and administer a sedative?”
Jim glanced at Telev again. “Why don’t you decide between bitching about Vulcan custom and letting people hit on you and Chris before I answer that?”
McCoy rolled his eyes again and jabbed the hypospray Christine handed him against Jim’s neck, none too gently but well clear of the bruises that ringed Jim’s throat. The hum of the dermal regenerator started up, shockingly loud in the small space.
Christine looked at McCoy, frowning in confusion, and then at the machine still silent and inactive.
“Outside,” Jim said sharply, and jumped down from the table. He, Uhura and Sulu were pushing aside the entry flap a moment later. Jim stopped short, sending the others colliding against his back as he stared up into the sky. “Fucking hell,” he rasped.
“Are those . . .?” Sulu pushed forward, his eyes wide as he tracked the sleek, light aircrafts streaking through the sky above the camp. “Those are Zephyrs. Terran-made; Cochran Enterprises’ latest. These weren’t supposed to make it to Vulcan for another two years at least. There are dozens of them. How the hell . . .”
“Shit,” Jim breathed. “The K’tash. Isn’t Lord Sarek supposed to be bonded to a Human?”
“No way,” Uhura said, but her voice was unsure and unsteady. “That’s just a legend; propaganda to unsettle the other clans. Vulcans don’t bond with Humans. All the evidence says they can’t, even if they wanted to.”
Jim took off for the center of camp without waiting to see if his friends followed. He had to find Pike. He had a sinking feeling that the size of the camp they’d hit earlier had just been explained, and if that was the case there was no time to stand around gawking. He rounded the corner of a tent just in time to see Pike and his wife burst out of theirs, strapping on weapons as they went. Number One was still favoring her left foot and the injury that had kept her out of battle today, but her eyes were bright with challenge and she gripped her ahn-woon in a deceptively loose, practiced grip.
The alarms began to sound too late; unfamiliar guards were already marching in among their own unarmed men and women, taking uncontested control of the camp in a matter of moments. If the ones that Jim could see were representative there must have been easily a hundred of them; even armed, Pike’s complement of thirty-odd Humans and Vulcans would be grotesquely outmatched.
One of the soldiers, his armor accented by a broad purple sash tied around his waist, stepped forward to meet Pike.
“Greetings,” he said with a shallow bow, “from S’chn T’gai Sarek, High Warlord of the K’tash clan. On his authority, we have come for the one named T’Pring. Surrender her now, or suffer annihilation.”