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[personal profile] velvetfiction
Written for the 2010 [ profile] trekreversebang, where the artists drew first and then the authors wrote for the image.

Title: Clean-up Duty
Artist: [ profile] bryannamorgan
Author: [personal profile] velvetmouse
Universe/Characters: Reboot; Kirk-centric, ensemble cast
Rating: G (art)/PG (fic)
Word Count: ~11,500
Summary: Sometimes Kirk feels like the universe is out to get him. When he's ordered to go back to Chicago, 1929, he's sure of it.
Warnings: Tommy guns and bad dialects.
Notes: Ideas and methodologies liberally cribbed from the TOS episodes A Piece of the Action, Tomorrow is Yesterday, The City on the Edge of Forever, and Assignment: Earth.
Many many thanks to [ profile] sherylyn and [personal profile] mari4212, who are two of the best betas a girl could ask for.
Link to Artwork:

The being observed the universe with calm detachment. It would not do to get excited. He was simply to observe, nothing more. Things were progressing nicely in this one. No major hang-ups, no unexpected events that would cause the whole thing to come crashing down. That had already happened to him twice, with other universes that he was assigned to. Management assured him that they did not blame him in the slightest. These things happened, they said. One atom slightly out of place, and boom, the whole thing could go up, just like that. It was a wonder any of them survived at all. But still, he worried.

Then a slight ripple in the fabric of space-time caught his attention. He watched with a frown as a handful of creatures and two of their space vehicles tore through from a neighboring universe. That was potentially problematic. The being looked deeper into his universe, wondering if he would have to report yet another collapse to the management. But no, even as he watched, the universe shifted, adapting itself to allow for these intruders, reweaving its threads to patch the hole they created. The tugs on the strands would eventually be felt all over the universe, but the changes were greatest at the point of entry.

The being watched as a great many creatures were killed and their destinies were rewoven. It was beautiful, the way this universe was adapting. Upon a closer look, the being realized that even as some creatures were killed, one was brought into existence. And this one was the knot into which the universe was tying all the abandoned destinies, the very lynch-pin by which this universe was holding itself together.

The being sat back with what any humanoid creature would recognize as a smirk. Perhaps watching this universe wouldn't be so dull after all.


The entire bridge crew stood in stunned silence as the transmission from the planet below was disconnected. The faint hum of the engines was the only thing that could be heard for several long moments, before any of them cracked. But then a snort escaped Chekov, which sent Sulu off into a fit of giggles, and soon Scotty's booming laughter joined in. Uhura was chuckling as she fiddled with the controls at her station, and even Spock seemed to be radiating an air of amusement, if the twitching corner of his mouth was any indication.

Oddly, the only one not visibly amused was the captain. He slumped back into his chair, pinching the bridge of his nose, and trying manfully not to whimper.

"Why is it," Kirk asked, "that the entire universe seems to think I'm here merely to solve all their little problems? That was a rhetorical question, Mr. Spock."

The first officer shut his mouth with a snap and busied himself at his station.

"Well, now that I have successfully proven my worth as a yente, perhaps we can -"

"I'm sorry, sir. As a what?" From his station, Sulu looked back over his shoulder with a confused look.

Next to him, Chekov smiled, glad for once to be doing the explaining. "A yente. An old Earth word - Yiddish I think? - that basically means match-maker."

"As I said, perhaps now that I have successfully brokered a marriage between the Taleen leader's daughter and his rival's son, we can finally proceed to Starbase 15. Mr. Sulu, please lay in a course, maximum warp. And for God's sake, don't stop for anything!"

"Aye, Captain."

"Mr. Spock, you have the bridge. And if anyone else calls asking me to negotiate their marriage contracts, tell them that I'm going to start charging a fifteen percent fee on all dowries and bride-prices, and any payments in the form of livestock must be converted to standard credits first." Kirk almost made it into the turbolift before he stuck his head back out onto the bridge. "And the first person who starts singing anything from Fiddler on the Roof gets delta shift for a week."

As the lift doors were closing, he faintly heard Spock asking what he meant.


Kirk awoke to his comm beeping at him.

"Bridge to Captain. Bridge to Captain. Captain, please respond."

Blearily, he shuffled over and smacked the button. "Kirk here. Dammit, Uhura, we can't be at Starbase 15 yet."

"No sir. I'm afraid we have another problem."

"Not another herd of cows, is it? I don't think I can take another one."

"No sir." Uhura's voice sounded amused for a moment, but then she grew serious again. "I have a priority transmission from Admiral Pike. He needs to speak with you immediately, sir."

Kirk ran his hand through his hair and let out a long sigh. "Alright, Lieutenant, put him through to my ready room and tell him I will be there in a few minutes. I need to make myself presentable before I see what the brass want."

Being captain, Kirk reflected wryly, allowed for the development of a whole host of unexpected skills. Never would he have thought that he would be able to wake up, be dressed and on his way to a meeting in under five minutes.

And yet there he was, walking into his ready room exactly five minutes after Uhura's call. Taking a deep breath to steady himself, he stood before the small view screen and reached out to accept the incoming transmission.

However, before he could do so, the sound of the door opening again distracted him, and he turned to find Janice Rand standing just inside the room, holding a steaming mug. Then the smell hit him, and he smiled blissfully.

"I thought you could use it this morning," she said. "But don't expect this to be a regular thing." His yeoman strictly rationed his caffeine in-take, and Bones backed her to the hilt. Kirk was convinced it was all part of a conspiracy to drive him nuts.

"Mmm," he replied.

"I'll be in my office when you need me," Rand said. "Captain. The incoming transmission?" she prompted as Kirk continued to commune with the mug.

"Oh, right. Thank you, Yeoman."

He then turned back to the view screen and initiated the call from Admiral Pike.

"Admiral," he said as soon as his mentor's face appeared.

"Good morning, Jim," Pike replied, but then he frowned. "I thought they cut you off from that stuff."

"Rand decided that a wake-up call from an Admiral after three hours of sleep merited coffee. She has assured me that I shouldn't get used to it."

Pike chuckled. "Good woman."

"What can I do for you, sir?"

"I'm afraid we have a problem, Jim, and you're going to have to be the one to fix it."

"As long as it isn't negotiating more marriages, I think I can probably handle it."

"This is serious, Kirk."

"So were they."

Pike resisted the urge to roll his eyes, but he did sigh. "How familiar are you with temporal mechanics?" he pressed ahead.

"Intimately," Kirk said, but for once there was no trace of boasting or arrogance in his tone. Pike made a noise of surprise. "I had the basic course in the Academy, of course, but since we pretty much proved two years ago that my entire life is due to someone screwing around in time, I thought I should learn as much as I could about it."

"Good, that will make this easier then. As you know, the easiest way to create a time-slip is to approach a dense enough star at warp speeds. We have just received reports of a research vessel approaching a white dwarf near Farstation Wright. It was said to be approaching much faster than the ship should have been capable of, and then it vanished. Another ship was sent out to investigate, but their scanners found no signs of debris; as far as we can tell, the research vessel simply vanished. That would have been the end of it, but some ambitious young ensign got curious and started doing some digging about that vessel."

Kirk winced. He was beginning to see where this was going.


". . . and so we have a nut-job who has now traveled back in time," Kirk said solemnly to his senior staff. They were all squeezed into his ready room, which really wasn't big enough for eight people. "Some of the brainiacs on Farstation Wright reverse-engineered the calculations for the research vessel, based on speed and trajectory and the like. Those, combined with the log entries belonging to Dr. Fashin, were enough to convince the brass that they were heading back to early 20th century earth."

"To what purpose?" Spock asked.

"It seems that Dr. Fashin has become obsessed with the mobster, Al Capone. Capone ran one of the big gangs in Chicago during the 1920s and became something of a legendary figure. Fashin, we think, fancies himself a direct descendent of Capone, although that cannot be proven. From what was decoded in his journal entries, he wants to go back and ensure the complete success of something called the 'Saint Valentine's Day Massacre.'"

From somewhere to his left, Kirk heard Scotty hiss in recognition.

"I take it you've heard of it, Mr. Scott?"

"Aye, sir. It was one of the bloodiest executions of its time. Seven members of a rival gang were lined up in a warehouse and shot. At the time, no one could ever prove that Capone ordered it done, but that was the most likely explanation. It turned out that the leader of the other gang, a guy named Moran, was supposed to be there as well. Only he got spooked and didn't show up."

"And that, right there, is what it seems Fashin wants to change," Kirk added. "He wants to make sure that the hit men actually kill Moran this time."

McCoy shook his head. "And by doing so, he would change the entire balance of power in Chicago at that time. Without his greatest rival, Capone would have been able to maintain full control of the bootlegging business, and lord only knows what the repercussions of that would be. Fashin will destroy the entire timeline!"

"And that's what we have to prevent. Scotty, I need you and Chekov to work through the equations to send us back as quick as you can. We don't know exactly when Fashin went back to, but aim for late 1928 or early 1929. We'll need to give ourselves some time to insinuate ourselves into the society and to find Fashin."

"At once, sir," replied Scotty, who was already bent over his PADD, typing quickly.

"Mr. Sulu, I want you and Spock to figure out a way to pinpoint and track Dr. Fashin when we get there. And find a way to hide the ship from the natives. I don't want to see any newspaper headlines about UFOs."

"Yes, sir."

"Lieutenant Uhura, I need you find out everything you can that will help us fit in. What we'll be wearing, where we're going, any local slang or dialects we need to be aware of. We have to do this with as little impact on the timeline as possible."

"Of course. I will speak with the quartermaster about getting you properly outfitted."

"And Bones -"

"I'll be working on vaccines for everyone. Damned if I'm going to let you reintroduce polio to the 23rd century."

"Always a ray of sunshine, aren't you, Bones? Alright, people, as usual, we have too much to do and not enough time to do it. Let's get to work."

Kirk had a slight smile on his face as he watched his team file out of the small room, but as soon as they had left, he slumped in his chair and rubbed his eyes wearily.

"They'll get it done," said the only other person left in the room. "There's nothing your crew wouldn't do for you."

Kirk sighed. "I know that, Jan, and that's what worries me. I keep asking them for the impossible and they keep delivering. I'm afraid that one of these days I'm going to have to ask for something and they're not going to be able to pull it off."

"Possibly. But I don't think this will be that time. But there's more, isn't there?" Rand asked shrewdly, moving to the seat that Spock had vacated, directly across from her captain.

"I'm scared, Janny. I've already seen just how much can change when you start screwing around with time," he said, tapping his forehead. "Before, it's always been my life, and the life of my crew at stake. Sometimes even the lives of a whole planet. But this? This could mess up the entire universe."

"No, Captain," she said firmly. "Messing up the entire universe is what you're going to prevent. Fashin is the one to blame if anything happens. Remember, you're simply trying to prevent him from interfering in what you know is going to happen. That's a lot easier than trying to make changes."

She stood and placed a PADD on the desk. "Here is some of the information you wanted. I'll have the rest for you by the end of the shift." She paused. "Go back to bed, Captain. You'll be able to think more clearly after you've had some more sleep."

"But -"

"Bed, Captain. Or am I going to have get Dr. McCoy to sedate you?"

Kirk threw up his hands in surrender. "Fine, I'll go. But only until the end of the shift."

Rand looked dubious. "We'll see."


The 'end of the shift' turned out to be accurate - if one allowed for the fact that it was the end of the following shift before Kirk awoke. The Enterprise had been running hard for the past month, and her captain had been doing twice as much work as anyone else. While he coaxed and bullied his crew into getting the required amount of rest, Kirk himself had pulled more than a few double (and sometimes even triple) shifts, and had only relented on the few occasions when Bones threatened to declare him unfit for duty.

At least most of the crew would get some down-time, he reflected as he readied himself to face the world.

The door chimed as Kirk was nearly ready, and he opened it to discover his first officer waiting patiently on the other side.

"Captain," Spock said as Kirk ushered him in.

"Ah, ah. I'm not on duty yet. What have I told you?"

"Jim, then."

"That's better." Kirk smiled. It had taken almost two years of constant nagging, but he was finally getting his overly-formal commander to unbend a little bit.

"I have spoken with Mr. Scott and he assures me that they will have the equations completed within two hours. I believe they have, in fact, completed them now, and merely wish the extra time to reassure themselves that their calculations are correct."

"Under the circumstances, I find it hard to argue with a little extra caution."

"Perhaps. I have also reviewed the briefing that Admiral Pike transmitted, as well as Lieutenant Uhura's research." Spock hesitated for a moment. "Jim, have you given any thought to how we are to proceed once we reach 20th century Earth?"

"I had hoped that we would be able to find Fashin and remove him before he had the chance to really do anything. I take it that won't work?"

"No. Because Dr. Fashin is fully human, there is nothing markedly different about him than the inhabitants of Chicago in 1929. There might be a few mutations that took place over the intervening two centuries, but any scan that could pick up on them would have to be done at close range with highly specialized equipment. Even if we could recalibrate the ship's scanners to be that sensitive, we would have to maintain such a low orbit that even the primitive telescopes of the time would be able to see us."

"Dammit. So much for the easy way out. Speaking of which, where do you recommend we position the ship when we get there?"

"There are two possibilities. The first is that we take up a geosynchronous orbit with the moon in between the ship and the view from Earth. This removes any possibility of detection by the technology of the time. However, it will also impede our communication and transporter functions between the away team and the ship. The second option is that I believe we can reconfigure the deflector shields to block any wavelengths visible to the human eye. Effectively, we would be blocking those wavelengths from escaping from the area of ship, rather than preventing matter and energy from reaching us. That would, of course, leave us more vulnerable to attack."

Kirk chuckled. "Spock, if there is anything in the vicinity of Earth in 1929 that is capable of attacking us, we have much greater problems. How long would it take you to reconfigure the shields?"

"Perhaps an hour. The theory is straightforward. It is merely a matter of applying it. That is your preferred option?"

"Yes. I don't like the idea of leaving us deaf and stranded with the Enterprise just out of reach on the other side of the moon." Kirk paused, frowning in thought. "Now, what happens when we get there? You reconfigure the shields, we move into orbit over Earth, and we beam down. Then what? Looking for one man in all of Chicago is not going to be quickest task."

"Lieutenant Uhura has put together a considerable amount of data regarding Chicago in early 1929," Spock said, sliding a PADD across the table. "I believe there are two logical choices for Dr. Fashin. Either he will attempt to meet up with Capone's gang and assist in the massacre that way, or he will attempt to infiltrate the North Side Gang and sabotage events from there."

"So we'll need people in place on both sides to make sure that everything happens the way it is supposed to."

"I agree. I believe Lieutenant Uhura and I should attempt to make contact with Capone's gang while you and Dr. McCoy approach Moran."

"You just want to see your girlfriend in one of those dresses with all the beads," Kirk teased.

It was a mark of how far their relationship had come that the corner of Spock's mouth actually twitched a little before he replied. "While I admit the prospect of seeing her in period-appropriate clothing is not unappealing, there is a much more practical consideration."


"Bugs Moran's North Side Gang was largely composed of men of Irish and Polish descent. I believe that you and Dr. McCoy will have a much easier time gaining acceptance with them than either myself or the Lieutenant would."


"Lieutenant, please contact Admiral Pike and put him on screen."

"Yes, sir. . . Admiral Pike on screen. . . now."

Kirk turned towards the large viewscreen at the front of the bridge. "Hello again, Admiral."

"Hello, Captain. Am I to assume by this call that you are ready to proceed?"

"Yes, sir. Our calculations should put us down in late January of 1929. That gives us several weeks to try to find and extract Fashin before he can disrupt the timeline. At worst, we plan to be on hand for the actual event to ensure that everything goes as it should."

"Very good, Captain. You may proceed. Come home safe."

"Yes, sir. See you in an hour," Kirk added with a wry grin. "Kirk out."

The screen went dark and he turned to look each one of his bridge crew in the eyes. He saw only determination and readiness, and once again he was reminded that he was probably the luckiest sonofabitch in the whole damned universe.

"Mr. Scott, ready whenever you are."

"Aye, Captain. Mr. Sulu, lay in a course to these coordinates, maximum warp."

At the pilot's nod, Kirk seated himself. "Buckle up, everyone, this could be a bumpy ride!"


The Enterprise came out of warp with a jolt, causing everyone to bounce around for a moment.

"Is everyone alright?" Kirk asked when his teeth stopped rattling. At the various affirmatives of his bridge crew, he turned to his first officer. "Spock, report."

"All systems functioning normally, Captain. Warp core is stable, thrusters are online and functioning at 97%, and shields are still at 100%."

"Nice to know we made it through in one piece. Uhura, how is everyone else?"

"Reports coming in of a few minor injuries, but otherwise all departments report normal function."

"Good. Now, Mr. Chekov, where exactly are we?"

"Long-range sensors place us just inside of Saturn's orbit, sir."

"Well, we're in the right place, anyway. Now we just have to figure out when we are. Mr. Sulu, take us in and place us in high orbit around Earth. Mr. Spock, get to work on modifying those shields. Everyone else, get ready. As soon as we get into orbit, we're on the clock."


Jim Kirk had never been a particularly placid person, and the three-hour trip to Earth taxed his already limited supply of patience. He paced around his ready room, unable to concentrate on anything for more than a few moments, until his Yeoman kicked him out and ordered him to go to the recreation deck and work off some of his nervous energy.

Several hours later, a much calmer captain returned to the bridge.

"Captain," Spock greeted him as he settled into his chair. "The modifications to the shields are complete. I believe if we maintain them at 23%, that will be adequate to block any visible light that might emanate from the ship, but will still allow our transporters to function through them. Mr. Chekov is aware of how to reverse their configuration at a moment's notice, should we need them to provide their original function."

"Excellent work as always, Commander." He turned to the communications station. "Lieutenant, please scan the planet for radio transmissions. We're in the right place. Let's find out if it's the right time."

"Yes sir." Uhura bent over her console for a few moments, frowning and occasionally wincing. Then her face lit up. "I have something, Captain." She pushed a few buttons and suddenly a crackling audio transmission was heard on the bridge.

". . . beat the Blackhawks again, by the score of 1-0, completing the Americans' sweep of the home-and-home series. Chicago's record is now a pitiful 5 wins, 23 losses and 4 ties. For those who were hoping to see an improvement over last season, well, I'm afraid you're going to have to wait another year. The 'Curse of Muldoon' seems to be alive and well. It is a brisk 2 degrees above zero right now, at 8 in the morning. Today's date is February 10th, in the year of our Lord, nineteen-hundred and twenty-nine. . ."

"Ach! Dammit!" Everyone's heads turned towards Scotty as he slammed his hand down on his console. Uhura cut the transmission.


"I'ma sorry, Captain. We meant to come in several weeks earlier. I dinna mean to cut it so close for ya." Scotty's brogue, Kirk had noticed, got proportionally more pronounced as his irritation increased.

"That's okay, Mr. Scott. No harm done. We still have time to do the job we came to do."

"Thankee, Captain. I'll go back over those equations again. We canna afford to make the same mistake when we're going back."

"Alright," Kirk said to the bridge at large, "since we're in the right place and in the right time, it's time we saddle up and move out. Lieutenant Uhura, please advise Dr. McCoy that we are in position, so he should get changed, and meet us in the transporter room. Mr. Sulu, you have the conn. Scotty, the ship is yours. We'll try to check in as often as we can, but remember, don't contact us unless it's the most dire of emergencies. Trying to explain to the good denizens of Chicago why my pocket is beeping is not something I particularly want to do."

"Aye, sir," Scotty said as he moved to the chair which Kirk had vacated. "G'luck to ye."


The group that met up in the transporter room was a far cry from any Starfleet-sanctioned away team.

Kirk tugged his tie straight and send a moment of thanks towards his mother, for making him learn how to tie the blasted thing properly. The three-piece suit that Uhura had provided for him was an attractive slate grey that only served to highlight the blue of his eyes.

Spock and McCoy entered the transporter room, looking equally uncomfortable in their suits. McCoy's was a deep navy blue with pinstripes, while Spock's was somber black. Kirk looked critically at them, straightened McCoy's lapel, and then nodded in satisfaction. With the fedoras they were all sporting, he was confident they could pass unnoticed in Chicago.

A tap, tap, tap echoed through the sleek hallways of the spaceship and all three men turned towards the doorway. And froze.

Lieutenant Uhura entered the room, seemingly unconscious of the effect she was having on its occupants, but the twinkle in her eye gave her away. The dress she wore was black and beaded, matching the high-heeled shoes that she stood on. Her dark hair was confined by a bright blue ribbon. Over one arm was draped a long coat lined with fur and in her other hand she clutched a small purse.

"Alright, gentlemen," she said crisply, "don't just stand there. I believe you forgot something."

Kirk blinked several times and tried to focus on what she was saying.

"What do you mean, Lieutenant?" Spock asked.

Just then, Yeoman Rand entered the transporter room, carrying a number of large, bulky swaths of fabric that were taller than she was.

"I believe you gentlemen forgot the fact that you're going to be beaming down to Chicago. In February," Rand said pointedly, and started handing out the objects she was carrying. They proved to be long winter coats, which the three men shrugged into sheepishly.

"Much better," Rand nodded in approval.

"Alright, folks. Everyone take a communicator and phaser," Kirk ordered. "Phasers are to be set on stun only, and are to be used as the last possible resort. Spock, please check in with Scotty when you get settled somewhere this evening."

"Of course, Captain." Spock held out his hand and assisted Uhura in stepping up onto the transporter pad.

Kirk turned to the ensign on duty. "Ensign Moore, please enter the first set of coordinates and prepare to beam down the commander and the lieutenant." He locked eyes with his first officer and nodded. "Energize."

A moment later, he and Bones stepped onto the pad. "Ready, Bones?"

"For this kind of insanity? Never. But we might as well get it over with."

"Now there's a ringing endorsement," Kirk said in a stage whisper to Rand. Then he gave an exaggerated sigh. "Alright, Ensign, since I clearly won't be getting unconditional support any time soon, I suppose we should just go. Please beam us down to the second set of coordinates. Energize."

The forms of the captain and the CMO shimmered and eventually faded in a spread of sparkles, leaving only the ensign and yeoman in the room.


The first thing that Kirk noticed when they rematerialized was the smell. That was quickly followed by the bitterly cold wind that swept through the alleyway, causing both men to hastily button up their overcoats.

"I'd hate to be here in the summer," Bones remarked ruefully. "If it smells this bad now, when it's this cold. . ." He left the rest of the thought unsaid.

"For all the other problems we have, sanitation is definitely something we have going for us," Kirk said in agreement. "Come on, the restaurant should be right around the corner."

Kirk confidently stepped out of the alleyway and onto the sidewalk, having learned long ago that if you look like you know where you're going, people will pay less attention to you.

It was mid-afternoon and the street was bustling with people and cars. Next to Kirk, McCoy kept grumbling about never being able to find anything in this 20th century rats' nest, but soon they caught sight of a large hanging sign, cheerfully proclaiming the establishment below as "McGovern's Saloon and Cafe." This was their target, as it was the functional headquarters of the North Side Gang.

A large man was sitting idly by the door, but came alert as Kirk and McCoy approached.

"Can I help you gentlemen?"

"Well, now, I'm hoping you can. The name is Kirk, Jimmy Kirk, and me and my friend here, we're new in town. We asked around and were told McGovern's was the place to go for some right proper grub and good people."

"Right," said the guard skeptically. "We don't take none too kindly to strangers waltzing in here."

"Oh, come now. There are no strangers here, only friends we haven't met."

The guard's eyes narrowed. "Who exactly did you say you were?"

Kirk opened his eyes wide, letting the full effect of the baby-blues wash over the guard. "I'm just an Iowa farm boy. Good grain country, that is."

The guard grunted. "And him?" He thrust his chin towards McCoy.

"This here is Dr. Leonard 'Bones' McCoy. A real southern boy from Georgia. Has all sorts of old family remedies locked up in that head of his."

The guard considered them for a moment longer and then jerked his head towards the door. "Follow me."

He led them through the restaurant, which was already half full, despite the early hour, and to a small office in the back.

"Paddy," the guard said without preamble, "I've got a couple'a guys new in town. Think we can help 'em out?"

The man seated behind the desk looked up curiously. "Well now, Finn, that depends on what kind of help they're after." His Irish brogue practically dripped shamrocks. "Come in, gentlemen, and let's have a chat."

"As I said to our new friend here, the name's Kirk, Jimmy Kirk." He stuck out his hand, which Paddy shook firmly. "An' this here is my good friend, Dr. McCoy."

"Pleasure to meet y'all," Bones said, holding his hand out as well.

"I hear by your accent that you're not from around these parts," Paddy noted as they all took a seat with the guard standing at the doorway.

"Just arrived today," Kirk said easily. "I'm originally from Iowa, a little farm just outside of Cedar Rapids. Been traveling all up and down the Mississippi. Met McCoy here in my travels and we found we got on well together."

"Now what could an Iowa farm boy and a southern country doctor possibly have in common?" Paddy asked skeptically.

"I find traveling with the good doctor has its advantages."

"Oh? How's that?"

Kirk reached into his coat and withdrew a silver flask. It sloshed slightly, and the restauranteur's eyes widened.

"Medicinal purposes, you understand. Touchy stomach," Kirk said with a wink.

"Well, now, I can see how this here doc might be a mighty good companion then."

McCoy did his 'aw shucks' look. "Ain't nuthin'. A man's gotta keep himself healthy, y'all understand," he said, drawl thick enough to spread.

"Well, now, we're a bit sick of the traveling life and are looking to put down roots someplace," Kirk continued smoothly. "So we're looking for a place to stay and maybe a way to make ourselves useful, if ya understand me?"

"I think we understand each other perfectly, gentlemen. If you would follow me, I believe I can introduce you to someone who can help with both aspects of your dilemma."


Paddy led them through a small hallway and down a narrow set of stairs. There was a door at the bottom and at a precise set of knocks from the Irishman, it opened just wide enough for the three of them to slip inside.

Where the atmosphere in the restaurant above was one of restrained propriety, the speakeasy below was tinged with desperate enjoyment. It was far more crowded than the room above, and a small man in a large hat was playing rags on the piano that dominated one side of the low-ceilinged cellar.

Paddy led them to a door on the other side of the room, one that was concealed neatly by virtue of good craftsmanship and paint, rather than any trickery.

Before he knocked on the door, Paddy turned to his two guests. "I'ma gonna introduce you to the boss, 'cause that's what I see you're aiming after. But I warn ya - be on your best behavior or I'll whack ya myself!"

Without waiting for a response, he tapped lightly on the door, which opened up to reveal a small room with men crowded around a table, playing some sort of card game.

Paddy went immediately to a small man in an expensive suit on the far side of the table. "Boss Moran, I've got a couple gentlemen I think you oughtta meet. This one's Jimmy Kirk and his friend is Doc McCoy. I think they could be a real asset to your business, Boss."

The man - the famed boss of the North Side Gang, George "Bugs" Moran - beckoned to Kirk and McCoy to join him on his side of the table.

"Well, now, I kin see why a doc might do me some good, but what about the other one?" Moran asked in a surprisingly soft voice.

"We come as a team," Kirk said with a shrug. "Bones here has the medical license, which makes it legal for me to carry this around." He withdrew his flask again and offered it to Moran. Moran sniffed it and his eyebrows rose in appreciation. He then handed it to one of his guards, who took a sip.

The guard's eyes widened and he handed the flask back to Moran with a nod.

"Provided O'Leary is still alive in the morning, I'd say you've found yourself a pretty good partner there, Kirk," Moran said and offered the flask back to Kirk.

But Kirk held up his hands. "Keep it. As a token of my respect. You are right to be cautious, but I assure you I have not tampered with the whiskey in any way."

Moran nodded and set the flask aside. His demeanor seemed to thaw a bit. "Well, now that you've shown me how useful you can be to me, what is it you want from me?"

"Mostly, we're just lookin' for a place to hang our hats and somewhere to set up shop. We've been travelin' up an' down the Mississippi for the last few years, but me and Bones, we're ready to settle down someplace where we don't have to look over our shoulders every few minutes. We asked around, and everyone said you were the man to talk to."

"Well, that should be easy enough to arrange. There's a house on the corner of Lawrence and Beacon. Ask for Michael Green, tell him his boss sent you. He'll give you a room."

"Thank you, that's mighty kind of ya," Kirk said with a smile. Then he grew serious. "I do have one other piece of business for you. Are we good to talk?" he asked, eying the people all around.

Moran made a shoo-ing motion with his hand and most of the people in the room shuffled out to the main hall. Paddy closed the door.

"There, now. You and your friend are the only ones in here I don't trust implicitly," Moran said mildly.

Kirk let that pass. "You've got a problem, Moran," he said bluntly. "Capone's bringing ringers in."

Moran's eyes narrowed. "Somethin's goin' down, isn't it?"

Kirk nodded. "Yeah, and I don't think you can prevent it completely. You see -" But he was cut off by Moran raising his hand.

"Don't tell me the details. I don't wanna know. There's this little thing called plausible deniablilty." He stared at Kirk for a long moment. "And you and your doc? You're - ?"

Kirk smiled a cruel sort of smile. "You've got friends in higher places than you realize, Moran. They brought us in to stop as much as we can of what Capone is planning."

Moran gave Kirk another long look. "I'm gonna haveta trust you. Do what ya need to do. But I warn ya, if ya double cross me. . ." He left it hanging.

"Of course," Kirk agreed easily. "I'll be gettin' some - ah - inside information soon, and then we can figure out how to spike Capone's wheels."

"You got a mole?"

Kirk simply smirked at the most dangerous man on the north side of Chicago. Moran looked incredulous for a moment and then broke out into a surprisingly boyish grin.

"Say no more, Jimmy-boy, I don-a wanna hear it. Now get out there and get yourselves settled. We are respectable businessmen, after all," he said, straightening his tie pompously. "Stop by tomorrow, you and your doc. I've got some people I want you to meet. They should be able to help you get set up and making all that lovely liquid gold for me."


Kirk and McCoy found the house easily enough, and Moran's name carried all sorts of weight. They were led to a small, but clean, room with twin beds, and shown the blessedly in-door lavatory with actual running water. They would have to share it with the other occupants on the floor, but it was far better accommodations than either the captain or doctor had been expecting.

When they were reasonably settled in their room, Kirk pulled out his communicator.

"Kirk to Enterprise, Kirk to Enterprise, come in Enterprise."

"Enterprise here," came the reply in Scotty's familiar brogue. "It's good to hear your voice, Captain. Mr. Spock checked in a little while ago. He and Lieutenant Uhura have successfully made contact with Capone's gang."

"That's good to hear, Scotty. Do you have anything new to report?"

"No, sir. We've been pushing the sensors as far as they'll go, but we've found no sign of the research vessel that brought Dr. Fashin. Either they're hiding themselves better than we can find, or they're a-no longer here."

"Or they haven't arrived yet."

"Aye, that's a possibility too."

"Very well, Mr. Scott. Maintain orbit and keep and eye out of that research vessel. If she shows up, do not engage her. Just keep an eye on her. I need you where you are."

"Aye, sir."

"Oh, and Scotty? Send me down your whisky recipe, would you?"

There was a pause.

"I donna wanna know, sir. I donna wanna know. Transmitting one whisky recipe to your communicator. Enterprise out."

Bones turned to him with a baffled expression. "You're not seriously planning on making bootleg whisky, are you, Jim?"

"No, of course not. We won't be here long enough. But Moran doesn't know that, and I want to at least look like I know what I'm talking about tomorrow."

McCoy gave a harrumph that could have been expressing either amusement or irritation.

"Besides," Kirk said with a grin, "I've been trying for two years to get the recipe out of Scotty. I never thought about ordering him to give it to me before!"


Two days later, Kirk was ready to pull out his hair in frustration. Neither he nor McCoy had seen anyone who looked at all like the Dr. Fashin they were supposed to be tracking down.

Kirk paced restlessly in their small room.

"We're missing something, I just know it," he grumbled.

"Or maybe he's just not here, Jim. And for god's sake, sit down before I sedate you!"

Kirk grumbled and threw himself down on his narrow bed. A moment later he popped up again.

McCoy sighed loudly.

"We need a change of perspective," Kirk said, grabbing his communicator. "Kirk to Enterprise, Kirk to Enterprise, come in Enterprise."

"Enterprise here. Good evening, captain."

"Scotty, tell the transporter room to beam Dr. McCoy and me back up. And when Mr. Spock checks in, do the same for him and Lieutenant Uhura. We need to talk face to face."

"Aye, sir. Stand by for transport."

A moment later the plastered walls of their room were replaced by the sleek metal of the ship's transporter room.

"Tell the Commander to come to my ready room once he arrives," Kirk said to the ensign on duty.


Kirk felt oddly out of place in his three-piece suit, but didn't feel like taking the necessary time to return to his quarters and change into a regulation uniform. So he tossed his hat on his desk, loosened his tie and put his feet up, and began poring over all of the information that Pike had sent along. They were missing something, he was sure of it.

It seemed like only minutes later - although the chronometer on his desk said it had been well over an hour - when McCoy, Spock and Uhura entered the room, closely followed by Yeoman Rand, bearing a stack of PADDs in one hand and a plate of sandwiches in the other. She set the plate on the desk, swatted Kirk's feet off and distributed the PADDs in one easy motion.

"You're a live saver, Yeoman," Kirk said appreciatively, around a mouthful of sandwich.

"What is the purpose of this meeting, Captain?" Spock asked.

"Well, first, I wanted a slightly more detailed report of how you two were doing. Hearing from Scotty that things are 'fine' lets me know you're not dead in a ditch somewhere. It's not so useful for helping us figure out if we need to coordinate our efforts in any way."

"Very well. Twenty-three minutes after we beamed down to the surface, Lieutenant Uhura and I were able to make contact with a minor thug in Capone's gang by the name of Giovanni Gagne, or 'Little Georgie,' as he prefers to be called. We were able to convince him that we were 'outside talent' sent in to help with Capone's business ventures in the dog-racing tracks. Lieutenant Uhura was most - ah - helpful in convincing 'Little Georgie' to take us to his boss," Spock continued, looking visibly uncomfortable.

Kirk looked inquiringly between his first officer and communications officer.

"I threatened to cut off his family jewels," Uhura said in a stage whisper to Rand, and the men in the room winced.

"Yes, well, moving on, then," Kirk said hastily.

"Once we were introduced to Al Capone himself," Spock continued, "I perpetuated our story about being the 'outside talent' that he had been looking for. I was also able to indicate to Boss Capone that I had associates attempting to infiltrate the North Side Gang."

"Well, now, isn't that a coincidence," Kirk said with a straight face. "I told Moran the same thing."

"Indeed, Captain."

"If you two are quite through patting yourselves on the back," Uhura said with affectionate exasperation, "I believe we still have a rogue scientist to find."

"Well, we haven't seen hide nor hair of the scoundrel," McCoy said from where he was slumped in his chair. "Not that I'm really surprised. The man was obsessed with Capone. I don't think he'd be willing to slum with the enemy, even if it did mean getting a crack at Moran."

Spock and Uhura exchanged a long look. "I am afraid, Doctor, that your assumption may be in error. Neither of us have seen any indication that Dr. Fashin is in any way involved with Capone's gang."

Whatever Kirk was going to say in response was cut off by swearing, violent and sudden, coming from Janice Rand. Kirk looked over at her in alarm.

"Yeoman? Janice?"

Rand looked up from the PADD she had been skimming through, her face full of anger.

"I'm sorry, Captain, I screwed up."

"What happened, Jan? Tell me, and we can fix it." He quickly moved around his desk and knelt in front of his distraught yeoman.

She tapped a few buttons and all of the other PADDs jumped to a certain point in the report. "Read the section I just highlighted," she said through clenched teeth.

". . . overcame humble origins when he gained Federation-wide renown as a pioneer of the Malhome-Fashin technique for genetically altering grain crops to be more resistant to radiation," Uhura read aloud, "Dr. Armen Fashin grew up the son of the noted performing duo Emile & Emily. As a young child he - " Her voice faltered and Spock picked up the thread of the tale.

" - he quickly gained proficiency in the use of prosthetics and stage make-up, and by age eight was appearing in his parents' shows as a wide variety of characters. One critic praised the young Armen's ability to completely inhabit the character he was portraying, saying 'the youngest member of the troupe is, perhaps, the most skilled, convincingly portraying, as he does, everything from a wizened old man to a young Orion dancer. His ability to use makeup and costuming to enhance his roles should not be ignored, despite his young age.'"

"So we not only have a nut-job who wants to change history, but we have a nut-job who can possibly make himself look like anyone he wants?" McCoy asked, although it was largely a rhetorical question.

Rand nodded. "I'm sorry, Captain, I should have caught this earlier."

"Hey, hey, none of that," he said straightening up. "We all read through this report, and none of us caught the significance of that passage until you just pointed it out to us."

"Captain? A suggestion?" Spock said.

"Go ahead."

"If Dr. Fashin is indeed using costuming techniques to alter his appearance, he would need to have a place to do so without arousing suspicion. I also believe that he would only be able to change superficial features like the color of his skin or eyes or possibly the shape of his nose. Perhaps if we reviewed as many images of Dr. Fashin as possible one of us would see something familiar."

"If you can get me recordings of him speaking, I can try to isolate linguistic characteristics, as well," Uhura added.

"Okay, let's get a few hours of sleep in our own beds," Kirk ordered, "and meet back here at -" he glanced at the chronometer - "0400. That should give us some time to try to track down Fashin before we have to put in another appearance for the bosses."


It felt good to be able to do something constructive, even if it was only looking through photo after photo of the same person. Kirk wasn't sure how his yeoman had gotten her hands on so many pictures on such short notice, but on reflection, he decided that he didn't really want to know.

A few hours' sleep in his own bed had helped too, as had sending the suit through the cleaning process. Ironically, Kirk found he preferred the real-water shower in their boarding house.

The rest of his team looked equally refreshed and they all settled into the tedious task with surprising good grace.

"Wait, stop!" McCoy said suddenly. "Go back one. There. Jim, do you remember one of the guys who was helping us set up the still? The squirrely-looking one who didn't say much?"

"Yeah, but - "

"I know his face looked nothing like this guy, but look at the body language, the way he holds his shoulders."

Kirk peered again and swore as he realized the doctor was correct.

Uhura was the next to notice something.

"Wait a minute," she said slowly, staring at a picture of Dr. Fashin on holiday in some wintery resort. He was bundled up to his eyes but still managed to convey a cheerful air. "Spock, do you remember the guy who led us to the building we're staying in? Look at this picture and replace the thermal cap with a fedora and make the coat less bulky? Couldn't this be the same guy?"

Spock peered at the picture in question for a moment. "I believe there is a 92% probability that the overall profile of the two men in question would be a reasonable match. However, Dr. Fashin is of average height and weight, and therefore there would be over one million men who might fit that description in Chicago in 1929."

"I know that," Uhura said impatiently, "but the other thing I noticed about that guy was that he had a couple of odd vowel shifts - an elongated A and an almost glottal E. I noticed it particularly because there are not many Earth languages that would produce both. However, Andorian uses both. I checked back in Dr. Fashin's file - he's fluent in Andorian. I listened to a couple of his lectures and he has the same shift as the guy we were with."

"So he's playing both sides? Dammit."

"I'm afraid so, Captain. If I might make another suggestion?"

"Suggest away, Spock. Your idea has gotten us this far."

"While it is important for us to keep tabs on Dr. Fashin, and eventually return him to the proper time, it is imperative that we maintain the integrity of the timeline. At present, we have no way of knowing how Fashin plans to ensure Boss Moran's demise. He could be planning on doing the deed himself, or he could simply be setting up events so that someone else can kill him. I have insufficient data to form even the most tentative hypothesis."

"So what're you saying?" McCoy asked. "We ignore Fashin and work on just keeping Moran alive?"

"Approximately, yes."

"But we can't just leave him here!" the doctor objected. "If we succeed in keeping Moran alive through Valentine's Day, he'll just try again, and we'll be right back where we started."

"I am not suggesting that, Doctor. I am merely saying that we must prioritize Moran's continued life over tracking down Dr. Fashin."

"I have to agree with Spock," Kirk said. "And I have a hunch that if we do everything we can to keep Moran alive, Fashin will show himself in the end anyway. Let's get back down there and see what we can do."


As the morning of the 14th grew inexorably closer, Kirk became more and more nervous. They had caught several glimpses of the person he and McCoy had tentatively identified as Fashin, first as a laborer unloading one of Moran's shipments of whiskey and gin, and then later as one of the poker players in the perpetual game that went on in the speakeasy below McGovern's. But for all their subtle prodding, neither team could pin down what exactly Fashin's plan was. They were flying blind, with only the history books to guide them towards the correct path.

Finally, late the night of the 13th, a message came, inviting Moran and some of his associates to a meeting with some of the rum-runners who worked out of Windsor, Ontario. They were hoping that, in exchange for easing their way across Michigan, Moran might be interested in an exclusive deal. They were to meet the next morning in a garage not far from McGovern's, and from there be led to the meeting.

Kirk nodded at Moran's inquiring look. With a flick of his hand, Moran shooed out all of the poker players, leaving only himself, Kirk, McCoy and the omni-present guards.

"This ain't what it seems, I assume?" Moran asked.

"No. It's a set-up. There may be rum-runners there, but if there are, they're already workin' for Capone."

"An' I suppose yer gonna tell me that I can't just go in there, guns blazing, and take 'em out."

"Well, no, that wouldn't be the best idea you've ever had," McCoy said lazily.

"And just why is that?"

"For one, we don't wanna tip 'em off too soon," he explained patiently. "They'll have scouts out, sure enough, and if it doesn't look like you're gonna show, they'll bail."

"And second," Kirk said, "according to my mole, these aren't any of Capone's regulars. He's bringing in outside talent for the hit, and some of 'em are gonna be dressed as cops. Sure, you could clear them all out, but if just one person sees a bunch of dead guys in officer uniforms, there are gonna be way too many questions asked."

Moran glared at them for a moment and then wearily rubbed his eyes. "Alright, what do you suggest, then?"

"Make it look like you're goin' along and, at the last minute, don't show up."

"But if we don't show up, what's gonna stop those guys from high-tailin' it outta here and trying again later? I don't like the idea of them runnin' free. I got enough of a target on my back as is, without some outta-towners putting me in their sights."

"Then give 'em reason to stick around, even if you're not there," McCoy said bluntly.

"You want me to sacrifice some of my own people to ensure that these gunmen stick around long enough to get caught?"

Kirk winced. He had hoped Moran wouldn't bring that up. "I can't tell you what to do, Moran," he said, feeling all of the burden of his own command. "But you gotta decide what's more important for the overall good of the organization - your life or the lives of maybe five or six of your boys."

"You trouble me, Kirk. But I sees the point you and your doc are tryin' to make. I'll think about it. Come back in the morning and I'll tell you what we're gonna do."


When they returned the next morning, Moran looked troubled, but resigned.

"I thought about what you said, Jimmy. I donna like it, but you're right. A few of my boys are replaceable. But me? If I go down, Capone gets control of this whole town. I ain't got no one to step up for me, like I did for O'Banion. Unless you, Jimmy?" He trailed off, hopeful.

Kirk couldn't help but smile at the man. "I'm afraid not, Moran. I have other obligations, elsewhere. As soon as this business has been tidied up, the doc and I will be moving on."

Moran sighed. "I was afraid of that. Can't blame a guy for trying." Then he straightened and became all business again. "So I send my boys in, but get called away at the last minute?"

McCoy nodded. "I'll go with you, so if we have to, we can fake a medical emergency. Kirk is going to see if he can find the look-out and trick him into giving the signal too early. That way, we should have all our bases covered."

"You boys run a tight operation," Moran said in approval. "Now, stand with me outside and be conspicuous while Shannon brings the car around. Won't do any good if the lookouts are too dense to follow us."

When they made their way back out into the chilly February air, Kirk saw a familiar shape on the other side of the street. As subtly as he could, he glanced over to where Spock was loitering outside of the barber shop. As soon as he made eye contact, Spock nodded his head towards the alleyway. Kirk nodded and then turned back to Moran to continue their conversation.

A few moments later, his peripheral vision caught movement and out of the corner of his eye, he saw Spock retreat into the space between buildings. He moved to follow, when a hand grabbed his arm.

"Woah, woah, Jimmy," Moran warned. "Careful. That's the new guy Capone's been crowing about. Says he's got ice in his veins, he's so cool."

Kirk smiled and said in a low voice, "Remember the mole I mentioned?"

Moran's eyes widened and then he smirked. "Well, well. Carry on then. I'll see you when the dust has settled."

Casually, Kirk bid his two companions farewell, and made his way across the street. He loitered for a moment outside the barber shop, reading the headlines of the Tribune, and then ducked into the alley when a group of people passed.

"It just wouldn't be a proper gangster adventure if we didn't have to skulk in an alleyway, eh, Mr. Spock?" Kirk said quietly, knowing the Vulcan's sensitive hearing would pick it up.

"Indeed, Captain. I was unsure if you would be able to extricate yourself from Moran's company without arousing suspicion, so I thought it best to proceed cautiously."

"Good thought, but no worries on that score. Moran believes you're the mole I've been talking about, and any of Capone's people that see us together will assume that I'm your mole. So come take a walk and tell me what's going on."

Spock explained as Kirk led them to a small lot next to McGovern's. "Capone himself left yesterday for his house in Florida. I believe it is his intention to put as much physical distance between himself and today's events as possible. His second, a man named Jack McGurn, is the one who has been planning all of this."

"And what about Fashin?"

"I believe I have identified, with 96.7% accuracy, Dr. Fashin. However, he has not, in any of his guises, been involved in the planning of this hit. I believe it is his intention to follow Moran specifically, and take his chances that way."

"Well, I've got Bones riding with Moran, and they both know to stall before they get to the garage, so that should help. What now?"

"It was my intention to find the place where Capone's lookout is stationed near the garage, and take his place," Spock said, "thereby ensuring that the gunmen would be signaled too early, as they were in the original timeline."

"Excellent idea. C'mon, let's take the car," Kirk said, pointing to one of the vehicles parked in the lot.

"Are you proposing we unlawfully commandeer a land vehicle?"

"Why, Mr. Spock, you wound me! Besides, we don't need to steal it. I have the key right here in my pocket," Kirk replied, holding up a shiny metal object. "Moran gave it to me this morning, in case I needed to use it."

"Captain, I'm not sure this-"

"Don't tell me you're still afraid of cars, Spock."

"Not at all. As I have said before, it is your driving which alarms me, Captain."

"Oh, come on, I haven't driven a car off a cliff since I was ten."

"If you are attempting to reassure me, your methods are less than adequate."


In the end, they reached the garage in question without incident, although Kirk was sure that Spock's fingerprints were forever embedded in the dashboard.

Spock quickly identified one of the buildings as where the lookout for Capone's hitmen was to be stationed. Quietly, they crept through the building, opening doors silently, until Spock found the lookout himself. The Vulcan sneaked up on him soundlessly, and one quick nerve-pinch later saw Kirk and Spock manhandling the former lookout onto the floor of the third story room.

"Well, at least he won't freeze to death here," Kirk said, puffing a little. "Don't know what happened to him in history, but I'm guessing he didn't die of frostbite today."

"That is probably a correct assessment," Spock agreed.

They waited in a tense silence. Finally, Kirk saw several men he recognized enter the garage.

"Don't signal just yet," he said quietly to Spock. "They'll expect you to wait until Moran shows up."

Just as Moran's car turned the corner and came into view, a high-pitched scream cut through the noise of the street, and penetrated even the double-paned windows of the room. Kirk tensed. He knew that scream. He started to rush out of the room, but a hand on his shoulder stopped him.

"Lieutenant Uhura is most resourceful," Spock said in a low voice. "She is merely insuring that Moran and Dr. McCoy are assisting her and thus will be late for their appointment in the garage."

"I'll go make sure they don't need help," Kirk said. "You give the signal."

He made his way down the stairs of the building as casually as he could, and then took off down the street at a jog towards the commotion. He noticed the gunmen using the disturbance to slip into the garage unnoticed, and he tensed, trying not to listen too closely to the sounds of gunfire ricocheting around the concrete building.

When he reached the corner, Kirk saw Uhura on the ground clutching her ankle, while Bones bent over her. One of Moran's guards was standing over them, holding his gun menacingly to keep curious onlookers back, while the other guard remained in the car with Moran himself.

Before he could find out what happened, Uhura's head suddenly snapped up. "Fashin!" she shouted, pointing at Moran's car.

Kirk turned just in time to see a an emaciated-looking man pull a gun from beneath his grubby coat and wave it at the rear window of the car. Wasting no time to listen to what Fashin was saying, Kirk lunged at him and tackled him to the ground. Dimly, he was aware of the gun going off, but was too focused on wrestling it from Fashin's hands to notice where the bullet went. They struggled for a moment, and then strong hands pulled him off Fashin and Moran's two guards finished subduing the rogue scientist.

Kirk leaned against the car as the adrenaline left him, and slowly he became aware of a throbbing in his shoulder. Gingerly, he touched it, and was mostly unsurprised when his hand came away stained red.

He saw one of the guards preparing to cold-cock Fashin, and protested with what little strength he could muster. "No, wait!" The guards turned to Kirk with surprise. "The boss and I have an agreement. I helped him track down this guy, I get to deal with him."

The guards still hesitated, until Moran himself stepped out of the car, looking a bit shaken, but otherwise unharmed. "Jimmy's right, boys. I honor my agreements. These your associates?" he asked Kirk, with a thrust of his chin towards McCoy, Spock and the miraculously-recovered Uhura, who were all hovering on the edges of the conversation.

Kirk nodded, giving them a lopsided smile.

"Shannon, Palmer, release our gunman into their custody. Jimmy has assured me that he won't ever be after us again."

Spock quickly bound Fashin's hands behind his back, and whispered something in his ear that caused the scientist to stiffen, pale and then slump in resignation. Uhura occupied herself by describing most earnestly what had happened to the uniformed police officer who had turned up, probably drawn by the sounds of gunfire.

McCoy, on the other hand, had moved immediately to Kirk's side and was muttering under his breath about idiotic captains and septic shock and lead poisoning.

"He gonna be alright, Doc?" Moran asked in concern.

"Yeah, the idiot will live. Just need to get him back to our rooms so I can get the damned bullet out of his shoulder."

"You do that. I see my good friend Detective Black approaching now, so I assure you, I have everything under control here. You and your friends can disappear without a problem." He looked at McCoy somberly. "You patch him up good, Doc, and send word to me if you need anything at all. Jimmy here saved my life, and I always repay my debts."

"You're a good man, Moran," Kirk said, holding out his good arm to shake hands. "Keep safe, you hear?"

With a final nod to Moran and his guards, the five time-travelers stumbled back to the boarding house, Spock and Uhura keeping a close eye on their prisoner, while Kirk leaned heavily on McCoy. They made it to the room, where Kirk sat down heavily on his bed.

"Does anyone else need anything from here? No left behind technology, right?" he asked, with a glare at Fashin. At negative responses from everyone, he pulled out his communicator, wincing as he jostled his shoulder.

"Kirk to Enterprise, Kirk to Enterprise - "

"Enterprise here, Captain. It's good to hear your voice. Is everything okay?"

"Just fine, Scotty. In fact, more than fine. Five to beam up."

"Five, ya say? Well, that is good news. Stand by for transport. Welcome back, Captain."


When they rematerialized, Kirk allowed himself to be hustled off to Sickbay, while Spock and Uhura took their prisoner to the brig. However, once Bones had removed the bullet and given him a remarkable number of hypos, Kirk put his foot down about an extended visit. He pouted and begged until McCoy threw up his hands in disgust and discharged Kirk, muttering all the while about the insanity of starship captains.

When he reached the bridge, Kirk was greeted cheerfully by everyone, including his first officer and communications officer, who had made their way back to their accustomed positions, although both had stopped to change first.

"Scotty, are you ready to take us home?"

"Aye, sir. We should be arriving about six hours after we left."

"Excellent. Mr. Sulu, let her rip."

The sensation of being stretched and pulled was oddly comforting, and when they landed back in normal space, the jolt was barely noticeable.

Kirk shared a grin with his pilot. "Should I be worried that I'm getting used to the sensation of being flung through time?" he asked of no one in particular. Spock wisely kept his mouth shut.

"Synchronizing ship's chronometer with Federation beacon," Chekov said, before his captain could ask. "We have arrived back exactly five hours and six minutes after we left, Captain."

"Very well done, all of you," Kirk said, ignoring Scotty's grumbling. "Lieutenant Uhura, please contact Admiral Pike and let him know we're back."

"Of course, Captain."

A few moments later, Chris Pike's familiar face appeared on the forward screen.

"Welcome back, Captain. Since the history books don't seem to have changed, I assume you were successful?"

"Mostly, sir. We have Fashin in the brig, but we were unable to locate his ship," Kirk explained.

"Fortunately for you, the research vessel reappeared near Farstation Wright about an hour after the Enterprise left. It seems Fashin ordered them to drop him off and head back. He wanted to be stranded in the past. We've taken the ship and everyone on board into custody, pending your return."

There was a general sense of relief on the bridge. "That's good to hear, sir," Kirk said, absently rubbing his shoulder. "I'd hate to think we'd have to go back."

"No, no need for that." Pike frowned. "Jim, are you okay?" His concern overrode his usual professional demeanor.

Kirk gave him a lopsided grin. "I'm fine, sir. Just won't be playing tennis for a little while."

The worry on Pike's face cleared and he shifted back into admiral-mode. "Very well. The Enterprise is hereby ordered to proceed with all haste to Starbase 15 where you will be met by Starfleet security personnel. You are to hand over the prisoner and then stand down for two weeks of leave."

Even the well-disciplined bridge crew couldn't hold back a cheer at those words, and their captain was cheering loudest of all.

"Thank you, sir."

Pike smiled. "You've earned it, all of you. Oh, and Jim?" he said just as he was about to cut the connection. "Stay away from any stringed instruments and rooftops, okay? At least until the shoulder heals."

Kirk managed to refrain from making a gesture that would probably get him demoted back to ensign, and settled for rolling his eyes as the connection was cut.

"Not one single note out of any of you," he said, looking around the bridge with a mock glare. He was met by five pairs of wide, innocent eyes.

"Gamma shift for the lot of you," he grumbled as he seated himself back in his chair. "Mr. Sulu, let us try, once again, for Starbase 15."

"Aye, sir. Starbase 15 and no stopping for any herds of cows."

Kirk merely dropped his head and whimpered. He might be the luckiest captain in Starfleet, but he was sure no one else had these kinds of problems.


The being watched with a contented feeling as the space vessel that carried the lynch-pin rocketed across through space-time, continuing on its journey through the universe. The more he watched these creatures, the more impressed he was. They had their limitations, certainly, being bound by the universe in which they existed. But they constantly strove to push those limitations, and that was something the being could appreciate.

He turned his gaze back to the where/when the creatures had just left, and was impressed by how few ripples their incursion had created. There was a slight wrinkle here, a small bulge there, but overall, it was nothing that the universe couldn't compensate for.

The being settled back to watch some more. He had been correct. Watching this universe wasn't dull at all. Not while the lynch-pin was still running around, anyway.


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