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Chapter 5

The room was silent as the admiral scanned through the file. He read for twenty minutes, during which conversation began to pick up. Jim, however, had his gave fixed on Tom. "Did any of you stay in contact?"

Tom shrugged, looking sad.

"At first, no. We all just wanted to forget about Tarsus, but the last couple years that's changed. Four or five of us get together and we talk about all the stuff no one else can understand. We don't speak in Common, though. We only speak in-"

"Volcan?"

Tom smiled slightly. "Considering how little time there was for you to teach us, we still are all able to speak in it. I checked."

"Why'd you join Starfleet?"

"Why did you?"

"I was dared."

Tom gave a small start. "Not the answer I was expecting, but okay, that seems like what I remember of you. I joined to make sure that Tarsus IV could never happen again. I'm training to be a communication officer."

Jim gave him an appraising look. "When I'm captain, I'll look you up. You as good as Uhura? She's a language expert."

Tom actually grinned. "I know thirty-six languages. When you taught us Volcan, I already knew five. Hoshi was my next door neighbor on Tarsus." He sobered. "She made it, you know. Apparently she got a group out of dodge that day and kept them alive like you and Sky did."

"Sam. His name's Sam, not Sky. How are you so calm, talking about this stuff?"

Tom shifted. "We talked to each other about what happened. We talked over everything so many times that it was no longer scary."

"I don't think I could talk about what happened."

"What are you doing right now?"

"Truthfully? I'm breezing over the highlights, and ignoring the details as much as possible. They get the same story Sam got that first night- in other words nothing other than my life sucked beyond belief. They don't get the story you got. You are the only one who will ever know about that."

Tom gave Jim a tight hug. "Once you're done with your captivity, I can take over for a bit. They'll get the story you fed Sk- Sam as well, kay?"

Jim smiled gratefully. "You're a good friend." His words were in Volcan.

The admiral finished reading a few minutes later. "Thomas Lauding, we apologize for our accusations. If you would like to return to your seat?"

"You are still going to make him continue?" Tom had known they would, but it still seemed cruel.

"Everyone rescued from that planet was required to explain what happened to them on the planet. James Kirk is not exempt from that, even if it was overdue."

"I will stay where I am, thanks. Jim has not had the same opportunities as the Twelve to get counseling. Making him relive it in this fashion is detrimental to his mental health."

"Fine. Kirk, get on with it."

Jim felt a flash of anger at their callousness, but spoke. They wouldn't leave him alone until it was done anyway.

I was caught. The pain was too much, and I knew if I tried to escape I'd end up dying of blood loss. The guard pinned me to the wall as Kodos arrived.

"James, what is going on here?"

"Everyone thinks I'm dead! They held a funeral for me!" My vision was flashing from the combination of blood loss and anger, but I didn't care. "You lied. I hate you!"

Kodos's face hardened. "Is that truly how you feel James? You hate me? You do not know the meaning of hatred. I think that is where I will begin your lessons. I will show you what hatred really is." He glanced at the guard. "Take care of his shoulder and place him in the basement, in the cell I had created."

Jim's voice cracked as he mentioned the cell. The pain associated with the little room was immeasurable. "I will not share the rest of this with a group of unvetted cadets. If you want to hear more, they must leave."

The admirals dismissed the cadets immediately, and as soon as they had filed out Jim lashed out verbally. "What the hell is wrong with you? None of the survivors were ever treated like this. Trust me. I've heard their testimonies. Sam, after all, had access to the file, and I was just as entitled to it as any of the others. You all claim that you had conclusive evidence that Kodos was dead, but it's a lie, and you know it! The reports prove it, and yet you put my life in danger in order to satisfy your damn curiosity."

Pike, who had remained despite not being an admiral spoke up. "I do not think that is the intent of this, Cadet. It is important, especially since you spent so much time with Kodos."

Jim took a deep breath. "You have no idea what you are asking for. I can't give you what you want. I will tell you about the first time he tortured me, and about when I discovered Kodos's plan, and then Tom has said he could handle the story from there." He didn't give them time to respond.

They healed the surface of my shoulder to keep me from bleeding out before throwing me into a room that was more like a vault than a cell. There was no light in the cell, but with the door open, light filtered in enough to reveal a pair of shackles hanging form the wall. The guard had to lift me slightly for my wrists to reach, because I was so small and they were designed so that adults would only be able to touch their toes to the ground.

It was an hour later, when my arms had begun to ache relentlessly, that he came in with a wire, about a centimeter thick. It wasn't stiff, but pliable, and before I had time to understand what he was going to do, he swung it at me, striking across my stomach. Oddly, my first response wasn't of pain, but an analysis of the flaws in the wire. It wasn't well fused, with little bits of metal. The second hit brought home what was happening as the wire sliced through my skin. I screamed as it fell again and again, until he suddenly put it down.

"Now, James, how did that make you feel?" he whispered in my ear.

I tried to kick him. I wanted to make him hurt at least a fraction of how I hurt. "I hate you," I gasped out. My throat was too raw for anything more.

"I'm not convinced that you do, James. I am not convinced." He removed my shirt and took a knife out of a sheath on his belt. He began tracing patterns on my arms, acting as though he were creating art instead of cutting me open. I struggled against the chains, but every movement hurt. Every time I struggled, it pulled on the lashes on my stomach and chest.

He did one last thing that night before he went to sleep: He rubbed salt into each weeping wound, and left me to scream and writhe while he slept remorselessly. I was still awake the next morning because of the pain when he came to ask me again. I couldn't answer. He left me alone the rest of the day.

It took me a full year and six escape attempts to convince him I hated him, and it only took three words. "I will kill you." He just told me I passed and locked me in a sealed lab with several guards posted on the door and a list of projects that I was to complete. If I didn't get a certain amount done, I didn't get food and water, and I was tortured. Two years after that, the number of guards Kodos had posted on me decreased from six to two. I had significant experience fighting by then, as it was yet another way to earn food, so I knocked them both out. I hacked into the computer system quickly and easily and accessed Kodos's own files, where I found the kill orders.

Sam, Aunt Lisa, and Uncle Gremer were all on the list. I hacked the door to get it to open, grabbed the two guns that the guards carried with them, and ran for town. For the first time, there were no guards to get in my way. I found out why when I got to the square. The soldiers had already begun firing, and all the exits were blocked. I shot down two of the guards that were blocking the alley I was in. I saw two kids, one older than me, and one younger than me. I grabbed their hands during a brief point of time when we were shielded from most of the guards, and we ran.

Jim stopped. That was as much as he would share right now. His head was spinning, and he was close to a panic attack as he heard the sounds of the rifles in his mind. He saw his aunt fall to one of the gunmen just before he had grabbed the two children. He hadn't been able to find Sam or Uncle Gremer in the crowd. He had gotten through what he needed to, but now his memories were taking over him, and darkness began to engulf his sight. He surrendered to the blackness, welcoming the escape from his memory.

Tom caught him as he collapsed, his eyes boring holes in the admirals' heads.

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