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Chapter Eleven

2387 - Prime Universe

"Jim, wake up."

Jim blinked his eyes open to see Spock standing there, not only already dressed but feeling like he'd been awake for hours -- and not for a good reason.

"What happened?" Jim asked, sitting up.

"The Hobus star is preparing to go supernova. A massive stellar flare yesterday obliterated one of the planets in its system."

Jim shook his head and rubbed his eyes, swinging his legs out of bed. "You tell me the significance while I get my coffee," he said, pulling on a pair of pants and a shirt and shuffling out into the kitchen. "Because stars go supernova and destroys their planets all the time. This one wasn't inhabited, was it?"

"No, but it was full of decalithium deposits."

Jim stopped cold. "You're sure?" he demanded.

Decalithium was an isotope the Romulans had discovered; one of its properties was to convert mass into energy. Jim hadn't been allowed to work with decalithium, but he had been allowed to study simulations of it for possible uses in engineering. He had not yet found any safe ones.

If a star going supernova was infused with decalithium, the resultant explosion could be catastrophic for more than just the planets in its system.

"A mining ship had made certain before sensing the stellar flare. They are sure." Spock had already prepared his coffee the way he liked it, and handed the steaming cup to him.

"Hobus star...where is it? How close?" Jim asked, in between sips. His brain was starting to wake up properly, but he didn't even really need the coffee to realize how bad this had the potential to be.

"Close enough to be a threat to the Romulan Empire," Spock told him grimly. "I go now to the Senate to argue that steps be taken, but I wanted to be certain you were aware."

"Thanks," Jim said, already making plans. "I need to ask Turomek what he knows about decalithium, and see what kind of simulations we can cook up. And I should probably start packing up our stuff, shouldn't I?"

Spock confirmed the idea with a short nod. "I do not know if the senators will believe in the danger, but I do. I want us prepared to evacuate, along with whoever we can convince."

"I'm on it," Jim said, pressing a quick kiss to Spock's mouth. He drained his coffee quickly before going back into the bedroom to get dressed properly. When he was appropriately dressed by Romulan standards, he asked, "Do you have a plan to deal with the supernova itself?"

Spock's mouth twisted wryly. "Not one the Senate will like," he replied. "The Vulcans have recently been experimenting with what they are calling red matter, which is a product of decalithium. I believe red matter injected into the supernova will be able to counteract the explosion, but the technology only exists on Vulcan. You and I and other non-Romulans may be able to live here freely, but I expect Romulan isolationist tendencies to speak loudest today."

"Still, you have to try," Jim said firmly. "You never know. They might be reasonable."

Spock nodded. "Captain Nero, of the mining vessel Narada, will also be speaking in the Senate today. Perhaps the voice of a native and an expert will sway the Senate."

"You have to try," Jim repeated. "And I'll see what I can do. They might listen to Turomek and me if our simulations can back your theories up."

Spock kissed him again, and Jim smiled at him. "Good luck," he said, and turned away. He had plenty of work to do today, if he intended to help Spock convince the Senate of their danger.


Jim sent Spock a file on his padd containing the results of his simulation -- one depicting Romulus and Remus being consumed by a decalithium-powered supernova. He and Turomek had run the simulation several times, both with and without the presence of decalithium. Without that substance, the Hobus supernova would be no threat -- but with decalithium in the mix, the Hobus supernova had the potential to be an even bigger threat than he thought Spock knew.

But when Spock came home that night, he bore discouraging news. The Senate had not only declined Spock's proposal, they had decided no interference would be made at all. They intended to do nothing about a threat that could possibly destroy them utterly.

"The Senate and the Praetor are the highest authority," Spock said. "I have no power to even ask for evacuation. We could be deported if I were to act on my own."

"Well, we do have some time left," Jim reminded him. "You keep working on the Senate, and Turomek and I will see how much we can learn."

They continued like that for weeks, though Spock made little progress with the senators. Spock had taken to spending his evenings on the roof, where they had a telescope. As soon as darkness fell, Spock was on the roof, looking at the supernova through the telescope. He'd hurry through his dinner to go back to studying Jim's simulations and calculations, and making more of his own.

One night he told Jim that Captain Nero, the Romulan in command of the mining ship that had first encountered the Hobus star, had asked to see them. When Nero arrived, Spock greeted him respectfully, and Jim did the same.

"Ambassador Spock," Nero said, coming in enough for Spock to close the door behind him. He looked at Jim. "Dr. Kirk."

The greetings finished, he stood in the foyer looking jittery, until finally Spock suggested, "Why don't we go up to the roof? The night is clear."

The roof was one of Jim's favorite places to spend an evening, before Spock and his palpable anxiety took over. They had set up a comfortable sofa there with a table, so he and Spock would sometimes eat their evening meal there. Jim especially loved the telescope, for moments when his homesickness overcame him. As much as he missed the stars, seeing them close up was better than nothing.

Spock brought with him a carafe of a Romulan drink similar to coffee and enough glasses for them. Once they were out under the open air, Nero seemed to settle. He took a seat at Spock's gesture, and a glass when Spock poured him a drink.

"Thank you for taking the time to see me, Ambassador," Nero said. "I know how busy you must be." He looked at Jim. "And you, Dr. Kirk. I understand you've been creating simulations to determine the danger the supernova poses."

"It is the least I could do after you came to my defense in the Senate," Spock replied.

Jim nodded. "This isn't good for anyone," he agreed.

Nero took a sip, and so did Jim. After a moment, Spock continued, "Whatever time I have, I spend studying the supernova, and that time is running out."

Nero put his glass down on the table. "That's why I came to see you," he said. "The Senate won't do anything. After all your years here working for peace, they still don't trust you."

Jim watched Spock's face, but Spock gave no indication their distrust pained him. Well, he wouldn't. But his side of the bond was quiet as well. Jim wondered for a moment if the Romulans would have trusted Spock more had he remained married to Saavik, and if he had never left Romulus to indulge Jim in seeing more of the Federation with him.

But there was no way to know, so Jim let the thought go.

"But I do," Nero went on. "I offer you my services. My ship. My crew. We can mine the decalithium for you. There is a small deposit in the Kimben system, at the farthest edge of the Empire."

"Doing so would be a direct violation of the Senate's order. If you are caught, you will be sentenced to life on a prison planet," Spock pointed out. "You would never see your family again."

Nero took his glass again and rested it in his hands. He leaned forward, saying, "But if I do nothing, I lose them all the same. This is not a decision I make lightly. After my wife, there is nothing I love more than the Empire, and I will do anything to save it."

Jim and Spock exchanged a glance, and Jim tilted his head just slightly at the telescope behind them. Spock nodded with just as slight a motion.

"I'm beginning to believe you," Spock told him, setting his glass down. "Let me show you something."

He stood and indicated the telescope as Nero joined him. "I've been watching the supernova growing for weeks," he said, moving aside so Nero could step up to the eyepiece. "Look."

Nero bent and looked. "My God," slipped out of his lips, and Jim knew what he saw. He'd been looking at it himself, when Spock would let him. The star loomed large through the telescope, pulsing and throbbing an angry red.

"It's hungry, Nero," Spock said. "And every moment that passes it grows hungrier still." He paused. "If we are going to do this, we must leave now."

Nero pulled back and looked at Spock. "My ship is repaired and ready," he said. "I just need to round up my crew. Thank you, Ambassador." He looked at Jim. "Dr. Kirk."

"Thank you, Nero," Jim replied, and Spock nodded.

"Thank you for your trust," Spock agreed.

Nero just nodded at him and, when they saw him to the front door, slipped out of the house without another word.

And that was it. The end of their life on Romulus.

Even if they saved the planet, they would never be allowed back. Jim wasn't sure if he was sorry or not. He hadn't loved it, and even after much of the past fourteen or so years spent here, he didn't consider it home, but he had lived here.

"Come on," he said, when Spock stood there staring at the stars through the window. "We're probably never coming back. We have to pack up anything we're not willing to lose."

Spock closed his eyes and inclined his head. How difficult would this be for him, Jim wondered. Making a lasting peace with the Romulans had been Spock's work for twenty years. Jim could feel the conflict in him, but he also felt the resolve.

Finally Spock moved, heading to the bedroom. Jim followed him. They could leave plenty of things behind, but he still had enough things he wanted to keep and not enough time to properly pack.

They would have to be quick. According to his simulations, they did not have a lot of time.


The Narada left Romulus with no issues, Jim and Spock on board. Nero watched the planet on the viewscreen, and kept staring at it even after they passed warp and all he could see was stars streaking by.

He invited Jim and Spock into his ready room and poured them glasses of water from a pitcher on his desk. "Please forgive my ignorance," Nero said to Spock, leaning back in his chair, "but are you the Federation or the Vulcan Ambassador to Romulus?"

"I am the Federation Ambassador," Spock replied, taking a sip of his water. "Sular represents Vulcan."

"Sular...I've never heard of him," Nero said.

Jim snorted, and Nero looked at him. "Sular doesn't advertise himself much," he explained. He rarely even spent time with Spock, the only other Vulcan on the entire planet. "Probably how the Vulcan High Council prefers it."

Spock nodded. "That is another thing Vulcans have in common with Romulans," he said. "A tendency towards insularity."

"Interesting," Nero responded, looking thoughtful. "The average Romulan would probably guess you were the Vulcan Ambassador. You are certainly the most famous Vulcan."

"Half-Vulcan," Spock corrected.

"Noted. But if you're the Federation Ambassador, which half is that? Just the human?" Nero watched him from behind his glass of water.

"I sometimes wonder myself," Spock replied, with some amusement. "It is not an easy line to see. I know the Vulcans would never have chosen me for that very reason."

"So many shifting allegiances," Nero said, pouring himself more water. "Which makes me wonder...I made a rash decision, offering to help you. But how do I know I can trust you?"

"Would you like to meld with my mind?" Spock offered. "I could show you what I truly believe."

Jim sat back and watched as Nero drained his glass and proclaimed himself ready. Spock fit his hand against Nero's face and told him, "Try to relax. Keep breathing...and open your mind."

Jim watched them, but less than a minute later Nero pulled away -- mind melds could distort time in strange ways, feeling very long inside one's head while in reality taking almost no time at all. Jim had even caught an image of a pregnant Romulan woman -- probably Nero's wife, he imagined -- though their bond was always dampened when Spock engaged in a meld with someone else. Nero must have been thinking about her very strongly for Jim to have caught the image as well.

Nero wrenched himself away and ended up on his hands and knees, breathing hard. "I'm sorry, Ambassador," he said between breaths. "May we continue some other time?"

"Of course, Captain," Spock agreed, though he didn't offer to help Nero up. Nero was the kind who would want to stand on his own. "Of course."

As Nero returned to the bridge, Spock went back to stand at Jim's side. He believes me, Spock's voice said within their bond, but he still worries, in a way I do not find reassuring. This mission is of vital importance, and its failure would be catastrophic, but there is something within Nero...I do not know how to identify it. I do not know what he would do should we fail.

Then let's make sure we don't fail, Jim replied, sending him a mental caress of reassurance and confidence. And we'll keep an eye on Nero.

Yes, Spock said, as the two of them remained in Nero's ready room for now. They would be of no use during the mining operations, and would be better off thinking of ways to persuade the Vulcan High Council. Though they allowed Spock and him access to the planet, they had always been dubious about Spock's work with the Romulans.

They returned to the bridge when the Narada reached the Kimben system. The crew was about half-way through their mining of the decalithium when alarms on the bridge went off and three Reman ships warped into view.

Nero ordered their shields up, but the Remans had already warped onto the bridge. They immediately started taking hold of the crew, and Jim fumbled for a phaser he didn't have. Nero placed his body between Jim and Spock and the Remans and demanded to know what they were doing.

The Remans wouldn't answer, and the miners had only just started fighting back when the ship started shaking. Out the viewscreen, they could see a ship attacking the Reman vessels -- a very familiar ship.

"That's a Federation ship!" Nero breathed.

"Not just any ship," Spock replied as Jim started grinning, "and not just any captain. That's an old friend."

The Federation ship hailed them, and Nero ordered it on screen. The bridge of the Enterprise appeared, Data in the center. "Attention Reman ships," he said. "This is Captain Data of the U.S.S. Enterprise. You will cease hostilities at once."

Data beamed away the Remans' weapons, and then he beamed onto the Narada himself with two other officers Jim didn't recognize.

"I didn't realize you activated the beacon," Jim whispered to Spock as Data appeared. Spock just looked smug, then stepped forward to greet Data.

"Captain Data! What a pleasant surprise," he greeted, taking Data's hand once the Remans had all been subdued.

"It is good to see you as well, Ambassador, Dr. Kirk," Data replied. "We came as soon as we picked up your identification beacon. We have disabled the Reman ships and are holding them in tractor lock."

Spock nodded, then turned to Nero. "Captain Nero, meet Captain Data of the Federation starship Enterprise. He is an old and dear ally of mine."

Nero looked incredulous. "Captain? But...he's a machine."

"An android, to be precise," Data said. "The pleasure is mine, Captain. Pardon my unannounced visit to your ship, but circumstances dictated a quick response."

"And we're still in a hurry," Jim interjected. "We need the rest of that decalithium."

Ayel discovered the Reman attack had damaged the drill enough for them to be unable to mine more decalithium, but Data pointed out there was some in the holds of the Reman ships. It would be well within his rights for the Enterprise to confiscate it. Nero quickly agreed.

The Enterprise further offered to help the Narada with repairs and an escort to Vulcan, and after a moment, Nero accepted that as well. He even accepted the invitation for him to travel on board the Enterprise, leaving Ayel in charge of his ship during their journey through Federation space.

Jim and Spock, too, accepted the invitation to travel on the Enterprise, and after the obligatory tour, dinner, and entertainment, Nero asked to be escorted to his quarters so he could rest. Jim and Spock initially went to their own, but later that night, Data requested to see them in his ready room. Jim had only just gotten to sleep, and he grumbled a little, but he figured he could take a nap the next day.

God, naps. He hated getting old.

"Thank you for joining me at this late hour," Data said when they arrived.

"Not at all," Spock replied. "It is always nice to meet with an old friend."

They'd last seen Data almost four years ago, just after Picard had retired from Starfleet and Data had been commissioned as the Enterprise's captain. Before that, they'd only seen him once after his "death" during the Shinzon affair and later "resurrection" with the successful implantation of his neural nets onto B-4, another android created by Dr. Noonian Soong.

He and Spock actually liked to joke, in a strange Vulcan-and-android way, about their unique experiences with death and resurrection. Jim usually just left them to it.

"Something tells me," Spock said, "that you disturbed our sleep for a reason."

"Indeed," Data replied. "I received a Starfleet command communiqué regarding the Hobus phenomenon." A benign way of putting it, Jim thought caustically. "The Federation has authorized a covert operation to the Hobus system to drill directly into the star to prevent it from going nova."

"A covert operation into Romulan space?" Spock looked disturbed, and Jim was too. The Romulans were not likely to be pleased if they caught the Federation in their space, no matter their intentions.

This would make an already complicated situation even more so.

That was all Data wanted to tell them, but it was enough. Jim and Spock went back to bed, but Jim knew he stayed awake for longer than he liked, and he was pretty sure Spock did too.


When they arrived at Vulcan, there was a minor snag. The Vulcan Security Forces didn't want to allow the Romulans onto their planet, despite the urgency of their mission and their peaceful intentions. The Vulcans were even demonstrably unhappy with Spock for bringing them. Finally the Vulcans let them pass.

The praetor of the Vulcan Senate met them once they arrived, but though he offered the traditional words of greeting and the ta'al to Data and to Jim, he didn't acknowledge Nero at all, and was short with Spock.

They were actually unhappy Spock wanted to make peace with the Romulans. They hadn't acted like this last time Spock and he landed on Vulcan -- though maybe because Spock hadn't had a ship of Romulans in tow.

Well, Jim didn't have any patience with that. "Have you forgotten Surak's principles?" he asked mildly, what he knew was a big insult to a Vulcan. That drew the praetor's attention.

"Please explain yourself, Dr. Kirk."

"'Offer them peace, then you will have peace,'" Jim quoted, one of the phrases every Vulcan learned as a child. Surak's teachings on peace and nonviolence were part of the foundation of their culture. "'He talks peace if it is the only way to live.' 'Reach out to others courteously.' 'The spear in the other's heart is the spear in your own.'" He finished with, "'We have differences. May we, together, become greater than the sum of both of us.' Spock has been acting in accordance with Surak's principles. Have you?"

Sometimes Jim thought Vulcans cared more about stubbornness and tradition than they did about logic. This was one of those times, because the praetor and his guards just stared at him.

Then a new voice said, "Indeed. Ambassador Spock has been acting as an ambassador and a Vulcan should. That is why I requested that the Romulans be allowed to land." Picard, now the Federation Ambassador to Vulcan, walked into view, taking first Spock's hand and then Jim's. "It's good to see you, my old friends."

"And you, my friend," Spock replied warmly. "We have not seen you since your investiture; it has been too long. Many thanks for your assistance. We come on a mission of utmost importance."

"As your communications made clear," Picard replied. He turned to Data and clapped him on the shoulder. "Captain Data! I hope you're taking good care of our ship?"

"My ship, Ambassador," Data replied. "Indeed."

"And you must be Mr. Nero," Picard said, finally turning to Nero. "Kirk and Spock speak very highly of you."

"It's an honor, Ambassador," Nero responded, shaking Picard's hand. "I read of your distinguished record in the Enterprise's archives."

Picard had arranged a meeting for them with the Vulcan Science Council, and Jim went as well. He still had the disk with all of his simulations, though he wasn't sure how high his hopes were of the Vulcans actually listening and realizing the danger. Their welcome to the planet had not been auspicious.

Jim's hopes, and his opinions of the Vulcans currently in power, plummeted further on their meeting with the science council.

"You present a compelling case, Ambassador Spock, Dr. Kirk, Captain Nero," the high councilor said. "We have been studying the impending supernova as well, from our safer vantage."

"With respect, High Councilor," Spock replied, "it is my belief that no vantage will remain safe from this danger for long. It threatens the entire galaxy."

"I have been studying the effects of decalithium on the supernova," Jim added. "It's going to act as a mass-to-energy transfer. Once the star goes supernova, the more it eats, the greater its power will become. It's not going to stay in the Hobus system, or even just the Romulan Empire."

"Perhaps," the high councilor told them. "And perhaps it will burn itself out well before then. If we help you, we will be giving the Romulans knowledge of our most secret experiments with red matter manipulation. The chances of that knowledge being abused by a militaristic culture are not inconsequential."

"And that is the choice the Council faces. Whether to hold fast to old prejudices, old fears," Spock said, "or to honor the better side of our nature with the intent of saving us all."

The high councilor's face remained blank and impassive. "Very well, Ambassador. The Council will now recess to make a final decision."


But it turned out the Vulcans did value their stubbornness more than logic. They refused to help.

"I knew it!" Nero shouted, his face twisted in fury. "We've been wasting our time, Spock! We never should have waited for the Council to help -- we should have just taken what we need!"

"It is not that simple, Nero--" Spock began.

"It is that simple," Nero interrupted him. "You're starting to sound like the politicians that have done everything to stop us! The time for talk is over!"

"There's more, Nero," added Picard, who had brought news of the Council's decision. "The star is increasingly unstable. The Romulan Senate has issued an evacuation order for the planet. Federation ships are en route to help, but time grows short."

"Enough," Nero said, cutting through the words with a wave of his hand. "I'm leaving now. I'm going back to my wife and child before it's too late!"

"Nero, wait!" Spock said, reaching out. His hand dropped when Nero turned to face him again. "There's still a chance. Leave the decalithium with us. We will do whatever we must to see the plan through."

Nero gave him a long, considering look. "Very well," he agreed eventually. "You can keep the decalithium. Do your best." His eyes turned hard. "But I warn you, Spock...if Romulus dies, I will hold your people responsible."

He turned away, and Jim watched him leave, feeling strange. He too was angry at the Council's decision, but he could see both sides. Like Spock said, it really wasn't as simple as just taking the red matter -- but though the jab about politicians had been aimed at Spock, Jim had felt it keenly.

He had once been a man of action. When Sarek had warned him about leaving Spock's body on Genesis, he had asked permission to go back -- but when he hadn't been granted it, he simply took the Enterprise. Spock's soul had been worth too much to him for him to take any chances. Like Nero, Jim would have been willing to spend the rest of his life on a prison planet if Spock was safe.

Jim looked at Picard, Data, and Spock. "He's right," he said flatly. "We can't do nothing, no matter what the Council decided."

Spock came forward and took his hand. It was the human gesture of support, not the Vulcan ozh'esta, but still a mark of how emotional Spock felt that he was willing to hold hands in public.

"We will not," Spock replied firmly. He looked at Picard. "We will remain on Vulcan for the time being. I do not think it likely the Council give us access to their red matter experiments, but we will do whatever we can."

Picard nodded, and then Data informed them, "And I will return to the Enterprise. We will continue to monitor the Hobus star."

"Now we just have to pray we're not too late," Picard said, casting his eyes up into the sky, looking towards Romulan space.


Days later, Picard had Jim and Spock at his residence, which was laid out as a traditional Vulcan dwelling. It even had the firepit in the middle of what humans would consider the living room.

"Are you really prepared to go through with this, Spock?" Picard asked. "Even if we manage to convert the decalithium to red matter, delivering it is a suicide mission."

Jim glared at Spock -- they'd spent half the day yesterday arguing about this. But Spock told Picard what he'd told Jim.

"Have we any other choice?" Spock looked down into the unlit firepit. "My path was set the moment I learned of the threat from the Hobus star. I knew that as hard as I might try...as hard as I have tried all these years...even the threat of mutual destruction might not be enough to ensure their cooperation. I do what I must."

The computer console nearby beeped with an incoming message. Picard ordered it played, and Data's holographic image appeared before them.

"Ambassador Spock, Ambassador Picard, Dr. Kirk," the image said. "Enterprise has received a priority one message from Starfleet Command. The Hobus star has gone nova."

Not long after that communiqué, they received confirmation the supernova destroyed Romulus and Remus as well. Jim hoped Nero had gotten his wife away, but he couldn't help clenching both hands into fists.

They might have been able to stop it. Jim knew could-have-beens were useless, and only made people feel worse. Still, it was hard not to wonder what might have happened.

They might have been able to save Romulus, Spock's home for twenty years and his for nearly as long -- and the home of the race Spock had been working so hard to reconcile with his own.

Jim looked at Spock's face, as still as if it had been carved from stone, and wondered what this would do to Spock.


The Vulcan Science Council saw the logic of their position when the supernova destroyed Romulus and showed no sign of stopping. The decalithium-powered supernova acted exactly as Jim predicted it would and continued to reach more and more systems.

Now the Council could see the danger to Vulcan itself, they were willing to act. Jim could sympathize heartily with Nero's impatience with politicians.

Not long after they agreed to process their decalithium into red matter to stop the supernova, the Jellyfish, the ship that would carry the red matter to the supernova, and its pilot arrived. The Jellyfish was aptly named, Jim decided when he saw it -- a wide rounded cone of a body and what looked rather like tentacles orbiting the engine.

Jim, Spock, Picard, and Data met the Jellyfish as it docked. As its pilot walked down the ramp, Picard called, "Greetings, Mr. LaForge!"

"Got here as soon as I could!" Geordi LaForge called. "Just wish it was under better circumstances, but it's good to see you all!"

Picard took Geordi's hand and shoulder in his hands, and Data said, "And you as well, Geordi." Jim and Spock held back from the meeting between former crew -- they knew the bonds that formed there.

"Thought I'd left all the adventure back in Starfleet when I took off to design my own ships," Geordi said. "I've been itching for a new challenge. So let's get to work!"

Spock led them to the science council's main laboratories, and to the classified one holding the red matter. The five of them looked at it for a moment, floating in its airless tube.

"Red matter. A simple name for a most dangerous technology," Spock mused, gazing at it. "Derived from decalithium, it is inherently unstable."

"Sounds like the Jellyfish is just the ship to hold it," Geordi replied confidently.

"A single drop of red matter will be fired from the Jellyfish into the heart of the Hobus star," Data said, holding up a smaller tube carrying just such a drop. "The resulting explosion will create a unique singularity that will absorb the energy unleashed by the supernova. Together with the Vulcans, we have run every possible scenario under which the threat could be neutralized. This is the only plan with any chance of success."

Jim nodded in agreement -- he'd been the one running many of those simulations. It had given him a new appreciation for Turomek's fondness for them.

He wondered if Turomek had gotten off Romulus.

But he didn't need to follow that kind of thought. He had to focus now, because he knew the look in Spock's eye. Spock would not be satisfied sitting on the sidelines for this one.

"A unique singularity, huh?" Geordi said, taking the tube from Data and looking at it himself. Jim wondered what he could see with his technologically-enhanced eyes. "You mean a homemade black hole."

He sounded half-admiring and half-incredulous. Jim knew the feeling.

"Precisely," Data confirmed. He took the red matter back from Geordi and held it close and protected in his sure hands.

Just that single drop, if let free, would be enough to consume all of Vulcan if Data's hands were to slip.


Jim waited until they got back to Spock's family holdings that night before he began the conversation he knew they had to have.

"You want to do it yourself, don't you," he said, once they had settled in bed. Jim propped himself up on one elbow to look at Spock. "Geordi volunteered to fly the Jellyfish, but you want to do it."

Spock closed his eyes and didn't look at Jim. "Mr. LaForge is a young man, with many years ahead of him."

"And we aren't," Jim said. His hands traced Spock's form in the dim light. "But Spock, our lives aren't over yet."

Now Spock turned to face him, his eyes open and locked on Jim's. "So would you consign young Mr. LaForge to what is almost certainly a suicide mission?" he asked fiercely. "Jim, I understand that you wish to protect me, but this is not an instance in which you can change my mind. I must do this."

"We must, you mean," Jim replied, scooting forward and taking one of Spock's hands. "Because there's no way you're doing that without me."

Spock didn't argue. He knew what it would do to Jim to let him do the mission alone, particularly if it ended as they both thought it would.

"I understand, though." Jim rubbed his thumb across the back of Spock's hand. "You worked so hard for Romulus, and now you feel like all of that work has been for nothing."

"It has," Spock said gruffly. "Romulus is gone. Nero surely blames Vulcan, as he said he would. I have accomplished nothing."

"So your career's over," Jim reproved him affectionately. "That doesn't mean your life is. Isn't that what you told me once? I think you could do more than a famous last stand..."

Spock shook his head. "Jim, I cannot--"

Jim pressed a finger against his lips. "Hey, I understand. Who more than I would understand? But we'll be together, Spock, and that's what's important. It's been my lifeline, you know."

"I do know." Spock's voice was as tender as his eyes. "Jim...my James...I am always grateful for your presence and commitment. Your love and companionship are worth far more than a career to me. I simply--"

"Simply nothing," Jim interrupted, moving closer and wrapping him in his arms. "Focus on what you still can do, right?"

"Sage advice," Spock murmured. Jim smiled, and brushed a kiss against his forehead.

"We'll stop the supernova, the two of us. Just like old times, huh? I never did want to die in my sleep."

Spock closed his eyes again, and when he opened them, Jim could see the swirling mixture of gratitude and pain. "Jim--" he began, but fell silent.

"It's okay," Jim said, leaning forward to brush a quick kiss against his lips. "It's okay."

They ordered the lights off and prepared for sleep, but Spock's arms closed around Jim and tightened, drawing Jim closer and closer until Jim wondered if Spock hoped he could make them one person through sheer physical proximity.

But Jim didn't mind. He just held Spock back, closed his eyes, and tried his best to fall asleep.

Whatever happened, they would be together. That was all that mattered.


"You had something we needed to see, Ambassador?" Jim asked as Picard welcomed them into his quarters.

Picard nodded as they sat down, then activated a hand-held hologram. It showed...bodies floating in space. "Members of the Romulan High Council," Picard explained. "They were found floating in space near the last known location of the Federation evacuation group that we sent to Romulus. Along with the body of the praetor, stabbed through the heart. No sign of their vessel, and no trace of the Federation ships. It's as if they simply disappeared."

Spock's expression didn't change. "Nero."

"Possibly," Picard said as he shut the hologram off. He put it down and curled on hand over the other, propping his elbows up on his legs. "In the past few days, there have been reports of more ships vanishing close to Romulan space. Federation. Cardassian. Even Klingon."

"But the Narada was a simple mining ship," Jim protested, but he narrowed his eyes. The same thought occurred to Picard.

"Indeed," Picard agreed. "Unless he found new allies." Picard got up to grab some steaming tea from the robot who brought it in. "When he left here, he all but threatened to return to Vulcan for retribution should Romulus be destroyed. You knew Nero better than I, but there was something about him that made me inclined to believe what he said."

Spock only nodded in confirmation. He too had noticed Nero's determination -- had noticed it, and its darker side, during the mind meld Nero had agreed to. "Which means," Spock said heavily, "that we must depart in the Jellyfish even sooner than anticipated."

"You in the Jellyfish?" Picard looked between then two of them. "I thought Geordi had volunteered."

"I convinced him otherwise," Spock replied. "It is potentially a one-way trip, as you might say. And he is still a young man." Spock stood up, and Jim stood up with him, taking his hand. This was Spock's decision. Despite the hard choice he'd made, it was Spock's decision, and Jim would support it.

Spock squeezed Jim's hand and continued, "It was I who first warned of the danger from the Hobus star. It was I who convinced Nero to help me try to stop it. And it was I who failed to predict when the star would go nova. I was there at the beginning and I must be there at the end. I only pray that Nero does not carry out his threat."

"I understand," Picard said. "And I know there is no point trying to convince him otherwise. Jim, you agree?"

Jim nodded. "It has to be done," Jim said grimly. "We're as qualified for it as anyone, and better than many. And I feel -- I feel like I've had sixteen extra years. They were wonderful, but now the bill has come due. And Spock and I...we're no strangers to danger."

Picard looked grave, but he nodded. "As for Nero, if he is planning to see through on his plans, I've made arrangements to see he does not get the chance. General Worf of the Klingon Empire is looking forward to meeting him."


"All modifications to the Jellyfish are complete, Spock, Jim. She's all yours now," Geordi said as they stood outside the ship in the heat of the Vulcan day. Jim actually appreciated it, even as he sweated and had to regularly take tri-ox. He felt almost as if he would shiver himself to pieces if the heat weren't so oppressive.

Like he'd told Picard, he and Spock were no strangers to danger. They were even accustomed to danger with a small chance of coming back alive. But usually they faced it on short notice. This was drawn out, giving him time to actually think about what would probably happen.

But he took a deep breath and settled himself yet again. He didn't want to die, and he didn't want Spock to die, but if they had to, this was probably the best way. Doing something meaningful and important, and together.

"The controls are encrypted," Geordi continued, "with a voice activation lock that will respond to you two and you two alone. Even if someone wanted to steal it, they couldn't."

"Many thanks, Commander LaForge," Spock replied, just gazing up at the Jellyfish. "Your work exceeds even your legendary reputations as an engineer."

"There are reports that the Klingon fleet has engaged Nero's ship at the borders of the Empire," Data reported.

"Good old Worf," said Geordi.

Picard turned to Jim and Spock. "If Nero is on his way to Vulcan, now would be the best time for you to depart on your mission."

"Ambassador Picard and I have determined that the wisest course of action is for the Enterprise to assist General Worf in his battle with Nero," Data informed them. "We will all reconvene once you have neutralized the Hobus threat."

"I appreciate your optimism," Spock replied wryly. He didn't expect to reconvene. "But I fear Nero will not stop looking for retribution even if I succeed."

"Leave Nero to us," Picard said decisively.

"Remember, at heart Nero is a good man," Spock said, from his bottomless well of compassion. Jim, too, could sympathize with Nero's pain, though not with his subsequent actions. "What drives him now is an incalculable pain. Perhaps we may yet save him from himself." He looked off into the unshaped rock rises of Vulcan wilderness. "We will leave for the Hobus star this evening. And if our paths should not cross again, my friends, I know that we leave this galaxy in the most capable hands."

Picard, Data, and Geordi then left on the Enterprise for the neutral zone between Klingon and Romulan space, where they hoped to meet with Worf. Jim and Spock were, of course, bound for the supernova.

"To our ships at sea," Jim murmured, watching the Enterprise turn away and go to warp. He wished it luck.


They approached the supernova. Jim concentrated on flying the ship while Spock readied the red matter and narrated his final ship's log, which would hopefully be left behind on a log buoy when the supernova was neutralized.

"This is the final flight of the Jellyfish," Spock's voice intoned. "In my discussion with Ambassador Picard, I overestimated our chances for survival. It will be impossible to escape the pull of the singularity we hope to create. This broadcast may never be received, but in the event that it is, please deliver it to the Science Academy on Vulcan that it may be included in the Archives."

As Jim got as close as he dared, Spock ejected the red matter. Together they watched it spin toward the supernova -- and impact.

"The red matter containment and delivery systems worked perfectly," Spock continued. He joined Jim at the helm and reached down to take his hand. "All we can do is watch, and wait."

The center of the supernova darkened, and right in front of their eyes, funneled into a black hole. The growing singularity had a sort of mesmerizing beauty to it, but Jim turned away to look at Spock.

"The singularity grows according to our calculations," Spock said, his voice growing quieter.

Then the proximity alarms started blaring, and not for the black hole.

A massive ship appeared in front of them, dark and foreboding, with long, cruel-looking tentacles. Even one of those protrusions dwarfed their little Jellyfish.

The hailing signal beeped, and Nero's face appeared on screen. "Spock!" Nero hissed. "You've done it, haven't you? You've saved your people, and all it cost you was the death of mine!"

The sleek Narada's previously smooth lines and curves had been turned into this monstrous thing? Jim was no longer surprised at the reports of disappearing ships and suspicions of Nero's part in them. The Romulans must have been developing this weaponry secretly, and had given Nero the prototype in order to act out his revenge.

"You used me, Spock!" Nero spat. "You used my ship, my crew, my trust in you! But I'm not finished!"

But he was. As alarmed shouts broke out over Nero's own bridge, the singularity had taken hold of the Narada as well. It was pulling him in too, and he had been closer to its heart.

"Spock!" Nero roared. "I will have my vengeance! I will have--"

But the singularity consumed the Narada.

Spock quickly ejected the log buoy, but Jim didn't know if it would last long there, in this most dangerous section of space. The Jellyfish too had been caught in the singularity's pull, and would not be able to escape.

But it was all right. Jim felt a wave of peace wash over him. "Spock," he murmured, and reached out to cup Spock's face with the hand not holding Spock's.

"Jim," Spock returned tenderly, his own free hand moving to Jim's face. His fingers stilled on the meld points, and he brought their minds together one final time.

They would never separate from this. They would never separate again.

Jim had no regrets.


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