Fear, Love and Science
Michelle Perry

Montgomery Scott, or "Scotty", as he preferred to be called, was in heaven. He'd managed to hand out several cards at the Technology and Trade conference, and he'd struck up a decent conversation with a well-dressed engineering enthusiast who seemed to know almost as much about alternative energy breakthroughs as Scotty. Scotty wasn't one to overestimate his own expertise, but that was damned impressive. Later that evening, when he'd finished his part of closing down the shared booth, Scotty was again approached by the tall, dark-haired man he'd spoken to earlier. This time, a petite, slender, dark-skinned, beautiful young woman was standing beside him. They both smiled, and Scotty nodded. "Hi there," he greeted them. "Mr... Grayson, right?"

"Correct, Mr. Scott," the man said, his deep voice full of warmth. "Here you are, my dear, this is the gentleman I told you about."

The young woman's smile seemed to grow brighter, and she extended her hand. "Pleased to meet you, Mr. Scott," she said.

"Please, just call me Scotty," he said.

Her smile deepened even more. "This is my wife, Nyota," Mr. Grayson said.

"My pleasure," Scotty said. "May I say, Mr. Grayson, you are an extraordinarily lucky man."

"Luck was not involved in my selection process," Grayson said. Nyota laughed, and Scotty felt it safe to give a little chuckle himself. He'd noticed that Grayson tended to take things literally, and apparently that trait amused his wife.

"We'd like to invite you to dinner," Nyota said. "Alex tells me you have a real gift, and we'd love to talk more about it."

"Oh, I don't know about that," Scotty said, beaming all the while. "But I'm always up for some technology talk. If you're as interested in the ins and outs of theoretical design as your husband, we should have a grand time."

"I'm sure we will," she said. "I'm fascinated by theoretical design."

Scotty grabbed his jacket and walked with the couple out of the building and to their car. He'd taken the trains up to the convention center, so he rode in the back of their car to a nearby restaurant.

When Scotty saw where they were headed, he became mildly uncomfortable. It was quite a fancy restaurant, and even though he was dressed well enough not to feel self conscious, he certainly couldn't afford the kind of meals they served here. "Quite a place," he commented when he stepped out of the car, and Alex gave his keys to the valet.

"We like it," Nyota said. "It's one of our favorite places to go when we're in town."

"As you are our guest, we would like to... treat you," Alex said, using the phrase as if it were foreign to him.

Scotty smiled, hoping he didn't look too obviously relieved. "Thank you very much," he said.

The trio were seated swiftly, and Scotty was invited to order whatever he wanted. "We know we've sort of moved in on whatever plans you may have had," Nyota said. "But we like to splurge, especially when good conversation is involved."

Scotty appreciated the generosity, but he still looked for something modest. Nyota teased him about it, and ordered something involving lobster for herself. Alex ordered some kind of elaborate salad, and Scotty was convinced to change his order to a steak and lobster combo.

The meal was absolutely delicious, but it was the conversation that stimulated Scotty the most. Both of the Graysons were brilliant - they knew all about the latest trends in engineering, design and energy sourcing, and they laughed at all his engineer jokes without being prompted. Well, Nyota laughed. Alex smiled.

After dinner and dessert, the couple invited a satiated and happy Mr. Scott back to their hotel for drinks and to see some of the projects they were working on. Scotty was thrilled with the idea. He wasn't tired at all, and he'd never met such good company.

The Graysons had a luxurious hotel suite with all the amenities a person could want; a stunning view of the city, full bar, separate bedroom, living room and what seemed to be a full kitchen as well. Nyota showed Scotty to a plush chair by the window, and Alexander asked what kind of drink he'd like. "Scotch if you have it. Neat," he added.

"Certainly." Alexander came back with Scotty's drink, but no other glasses.

"Aren't you..."

"Oh, we don't drink alcohol," Nyota said with a bright smile. "But don't be shy, it doesn't bother us, either."

Scotty smiled and took a sip, while Alex went and got a black case from the closet. "These are a few of the projects Nyota and I have been working on." Scotty leaned forward eagerly as Alex opened the case and pulled out a draft pad. He opened to a page full of notes and equations that would have seemed like gibberish to the average person. To Scotty, it was a treasure trove. He pored over the pages, nodding as the couple explained how they'd come to their conclusions, and exclaiming over the many applications they could use the ideas to create.

After hours of conversation, and about four more tumblers of scotch, the young designer began to get drowsy. The couple didn't seem to notice, but when Scotty felt himself nod off for a second, he sat up straighter and shook his head. "I'm so sorry," he said. "Can hardly keep my eyes open, it must be near morning. I'm sure I've overstayed my welcome."

"Not at all, my friend, not at all," Nyota said.

Alexander stood up and placed a hand on his shoulder. "Indeed not, Mr. Scott. In fact, you are quite welcome to stay longer."

Scotty looked up, wanting to thank the man. He started, shocked by what seemed to be an unnatural gleam in Alexander's eyes, and a nearly predatory smile on his lips. Scotty blinked, sure the alcohol must be messing with his head, but before he could look again, he felt an intense pressure on his shoulder, followed by darkness.

Scotty awoke slowly, with no recollection of where he was, or how he might have gotten there. His head hurt, and his mouth was dry - definitely a hangover. He sighed, annoyed with himself. He'd promised himself he would never drink so much that he blanked out, but apparently that's exactly what he'd done last night.

Scotty opened his eyes slowly. Well. At least he'd ended up inside, instead of on a street corner somewhere. Now what the hell had he been doing last night?

He pondered the question, and suddenly remembered that he'd had dinner with guests from the conference. Could he still be in their hotel room? He was disgusted with himself - what an impression to make, passing out drunk in the rooms of two of the most intelligent, interesting people he'd ever met.

Judging by the light in the room, it seemed to be mid to late afternoon. How long had he been out? He tried to sit up, prepared to find the couple and apologize, and was shocked to realize he couldn't. His arms were stuck. He looked over, and saw that his wrist was tied to the headboard with what appeared to be heavy-duty nylon rope. He tugged, and his arm barely registered the motion. His right arm was also bound tightly on the other side.

Scotty's first instinct was to panic, but he took a deep breath and held it for a second. I could NOT have agreed to this, could I? he thought. Maybe it was just a prank. He honestly couldn't remember what had happened at the end of the night, maybe they'd played a trick on him. Of course, the Graysons didn't seem like the type to pull drunk pranks on their new friends.

Scotty shuddered. He felt something odd beneath him, and he peeked down at himself. The panic spiked again. His clothes had been removed - all but the boxers - and his ankles were tied to the foot of the bed, one to each corner. But it wasn't his bound state, or even, really, the fact that his clothes were gone that sent chills through him, and made his stomach clench with fear. It was the fact that, instead of lying on sheets or blankets, he was lying on large, heavy-duty black trash bags. His heart pounded as his mind helpfully provided dozens of scenarios for why someone would want to tie a man down on top of plastic bags. Not a single one of those scenarios had a happy ending.

Scotty struggled again to get his arms out of the ropes, pulling hard against them in first one direction, and then another. Finally, he collapsed against the bed, sweating despite the climate controlled air, frustrated, and more frightened than ever. What the fuck was about to happen? Where were they, even?

He wondered about that for several minutes - if they were out getting their murder weapons together, or scoping out places where they could dump his body. He tried to tell himself he was being ridiculous. Maybe it was just a misunderstanding. He was hard pressed to come up with a miscommunication that could result in him, barely dressed, trussed up tightly, and conveniently placed on top of the perfect material for protecting hotel bedclothes from blood and other bodily fluids.

The door opened suddenly, and Scotty jumped and turned his head to the right. The Graysons were in the doorway. Scotty half expected them to show up with knives or chainsaws, but they were empty-handed. Still, that wasn't much of a relief. They were no longer wearing the fine dress and suit that they'd been in before. Each one had on dark jeans and a black t-shirt, and Nyota's hair had been tied back in a severe bun.

"You were right, my dear," Nyota said. "He's already lucid."

Alexander nodded. "Indeed. I could feel his fear even in my slumber."

Scotty swallowed. "W-what... what are you going to do?"

Nyota closed and locked the door, while her husband walked slowly and gracefully toward the bed. "A man of average intelligence would already have guessed our intentions," Alexander said. "But you are of significantly higher mental capacity than most. Though you may not yet know how, you already know what we intend to do."

Scotty shuddered, and struggled fiercely to free his arms. Again, the ropes held without even loosening a fraction of an inch. Meanwhile, Nyota had come back to rejoin her husband. They looked down at him impassively, and Scotty's arms went slack as he realized the futility of struggling.

Alexander's eyes widened slightly, and a single eyebrow rose. "Less than ten seconds," he remarked.

Scotty gritted his teeth, frowning and wondering if Alex was judging him for giving up so soon. But Nyota smiled and nodded happily. "You were right, Spock, he's extremely intelligent." Scotty's frown deepened. Spock? What kind of name was that? "Genius, I would say," Nyota continued. "Maybe-"

"We shouldn't be premature," Alex... Spock said. "However, the risk would be minimized if you would consent to enthralling-"

"You know how I feel about that," she snapped, glaring suddenly.

"Of course I do, but-"

"Sweetheart." She smiled, the fury gone as quickly as it had come. She reached up and kissed him. "Let's not argue in front of our guest."

He gave her a small smile, wrapped his arms around her and kissed her deeply. Meanwhile, Scotty could feel his limbs beginning to shake, and his breath quickening. Watching the loving scene, like some kind of psychotic-yet-genteel version of Bonnie and Clyde, while tied, immobile, to a bed waiting for... God knew what to be done to him was a level of horrific he had never before imagined.

"Shall we begin, my dear?" Spock asked. Nyota nodded, and Scotty held his breath.

Spock moved to the other side of the bed, and even though neither of them had any weapons, Scotty could feel his dread steadily increasing. There was something almost inhuman about the way Spock moved - gliding across the floor as if his feet weren't really touching the ground. He couldn't be sure if it was just his own fear making the situation seem surreal, but it terrified him all the same. "Please," he said, looking from one to the other of them. "Please, wh-whatever you're going to do to me, please don't."

Spock's face remained stoic, but Nyota smiled beatifically at him. She reached down, and gently stroked his head. "I'm sorry, Scotty," she said softly. "I really am, you're a sweet man. But there's nothing you can do."

Scotty blinked, confused and frightened by her gentleness, while she declared that his situation was hopeless. "I... don't understand," he pleaded. "What did... did I do something wrong? Last night, I... I got drunk, did I say something wrong?"

"Your fate was sealed long before you came to our room, Mr. Scott," Spock said.

Nyota nodded. "Now, try to relax. It will be easier if you don't fight."

Scotty felt tears springing to his eyes. "What are you going to do?" he asked. "Please, I-"

"Shhhh." She stroked his head again. "We fed you last night," Nyota said. "Now it's time for you to feed us."

He'd barely registered his own confusion at her statement when Nyota's face changed. The look in her eyes seemed to intensify somehow, and she bared her teeth. Her canine teeth extended, and seemed almost to sharpen before his eyes. Scotty screamed and reared back as far as he could with his hands tied. The impossibility of what he was seeing made it all the more horrifying. "No. N-no," he whimpered. "N-no, it's not h-happening, it's-"

Her hand gripped his head, all gentleness gone, and she pulled down, forcing his chin up and to one side. A second later, she clamped down on his neck, her teeth piercing his skin. He screamed again, from a combination of the sharp, intense pain, and the even more intense fear. He felt a dizzying, terrifying sensation, not just as if he were bleeding, but as if his blood were changing its course and moving toward his attacker. Seconds later, he felt the ropes loosened from his left hand, followed by another sharp bite. He glanced over to see Spock latched onto his wrist.

Scotty squeezed his eyes shut, sickened by the sight, and by the knowledge that he was definitely going to die. He'd been in a car accident once - he'd thought he was going to die. But that was different from knowing. Knowing, and knowing HOW - eaten... devoured by creatures that weren't supposed to exist. It wasn't even night time!

The feeling of nausea increased, and Scotty felt his mind beginning to fog. That scared him more than anything. His senses seemed to shrink down, and he was aware of only a few sensations. He didn't seem able to see anymore - were his eyes closed? He couldn't tell. He could feel the excruciating pain in his neck and wrist, and he could hear the sucking sounds that made him cringe right down to his very core. And he could hear the sound of sobbing - someone was crying. It took a moment for him to realize that it was him - crying for the things that he would miss. Life. All of it. His sisters and brothers. His little nephew, barely taking his first steps. He would never see his nephew grow up. He'd never get to perfect any of his ideas. Especially his jewel. Time, if he just had more time. He wasn't finished! He could have done it in five, maybe six more years, he could have finished the design, figured it out. But now it would never happen. And why? WHY? For talking to strangers? For sharing his passion? God, why couldn't he take last night back, please, please.

He wasn't sure how much time passed, but eventually, he became aware that the sucking sounds had stopped, and his body was shaking, hard. Harder than it should be. Was someone speaking to him? With a supreme effort, Scotty forced his heavy lids to open. The woman was staring at him, blood - his blood - trailing down one side of her mouth. "Come on, that's right. Come on back, Scotty. Do you hear me?" He blinked slowly, and tried to nod. She smiled, so he assumed he was successful. "That's right," she said again. "Tell me what you meant."

Scotty frowned, feeling fresh tears welling up in his eyes. He wanted to answer her, but he had no idea what she was talking about. Meant about what? "I... d-don't..."

"Time, you said you needed more time, what did you mean?"

He'd said something aloud? "My n-nephew?"

"Don't be ridiculous," Spock snapped. Scotty cringed, edging away from the angry, piercing eyes of his other attacker. "Human life is transient and impermanent. Your nephew will die, as will you and all your kind. We are interested in the design, the 'jewel' you spoke of. What is it that would take you five more years to finish?"

Scotty turned his face away from Spock, feeling weak and sick, and nauseated by the casual talk of his nephew dying one day. He felt his eyes drifting closed, but he was jolted awake again. "Scotty!" Nyota hissed. "Open your eyes. Do you want to live? Tell us what you meant!"

Scotty forced his eyes open again, motivated by the thought that he might be allowed to live. "It's not finished," he said, hearing the slur in his voice. He tried to conceptualize it and work it into a verbal explanation, but in his current hazy state, it was impossible. "P-paper. I n-need..."

Spock left the room, and returned barely three seconds later with the draft pad, and a pencil. Nyota untied the ropes around his right hand and helped him to sit up. Even though she moved slowly, Scotty's head swam with the change in position. His stomach lurched, and he was barely aware of what was happening when Spock shoved the pencil into his right hand and put the pad in front of him, already opened to a blank page. Scotty set the tip of the pencil to the page, then looked up, wincing at the searing pain in his neck. "How do I..." He could feel a chill running down his spine at the thought of what he was about to ask, but he made himself form the words. "If I... t-tell you, you could... what will keep you from k-killing me and using the idea yourself?"

He expected fury, but they seemed to take the question in stride. Nyota shook her head, and Spock answered him calmly. "Our own sense of ethics, Mr. Scott. We may kill to live, but we are not thieves. Your idea is your own. But I know this is something that you did not share with us last night. Share it now, and if we believe it has merit we will let you live, with certain conditions."

Scotty let out a hysterical laugh, though he didn't find the situation funny at all. "No pressure," he whispered. He stared down at the pad, his body trembling, stomach churning. He could feel his own blood trailing down his chest. He closed his eyes. If ever there was a time to prove your worth, Montgomery Scott, this is it.

Scotty let his hand move across the page, letting his own instincts take over. He'd written and re-written these equations thousands of times over the years, perfecting them - or trying to. His hand moved almost of its own volition, and soon, the pain and fear were momentarily forgotten. He opened his eyes again, and poured out the theorems and diagrams that had kept him awake at night more than once. The sense of urgency was different now - it was more than passion for discovery that drove him now. It was the chance to escape this place, this awful moment in time - a chance to survive.

Sweat beaded his brow, and dripped onto the pad, mingled with blood from his wrist and chest. He kept it away from the work, and pressed on. Finally, when everything he had ever created in connection with his masterpiece was on the pad, he slowly set the pencil down. He stared at it, wondering if this most deadly of juries would find it worthy. Hands shaking, and frightened tears in his eyes, Scotty picked up the pad and handed it to them.

Spock took it from him, treating it almost with reverence. The couple stood a few feet from the bed, poring over Scotty's pride and joy. He was surprised that they didn't seem to care that he was untied, but honestly, escape wasn't an option. Just the thought of moving made him nauseous, and he had no doubt that he would be easily subdued if he tried to get away.

He watched their faces carefully as they read - his emotions changing with their facial expressions. When they seemed to smile, he felt hopeful, and his gut clenched with fear at every slight frown. At one point, they looked at each other, spoke in a language he didn't recognize, and Spock shook his head. He came toward the bed, and Scotty jerked back, his arm rising slightly as if to ward the man off. Spock was not concerned with Scotty's panic. He showed Scotty the draft pad and pointed. "Is this an 'x' or a 'y'?" he asked.

Scotty swallowed dryly and looked at the page. "It's an 'r'," he answered.

"Ahhhhhh," they said in unison, returning to his manuscript with renewed excitement. Finally, they looked up, and Scotty could see that they were amazed. He was flattered by their genuine appreciation, but was it enough to save him? What if they'd been lying when they said they wouldn't steal his idea and kill him? What if they'd just told him that to trick him into sharing it with them?

"This is brilliant," Nyota said.

"Truly, Mr. Scott, I am astounded. My wife is correct, this is ingenious. With further refinement, and the appropriate crystalline formation, this could revolutionize... everything." Scotty nodded his thanks, too exhausted to speak.

"Shall I?" Nyota asked.

Spock nodded. "I believe he would be more comfortable with you."

Spock sat in one of the chairs in a corner of the room, looking over the draft pad again, while Nyota came back to the bed. She placed a hand on Scotty's chest and gently pushed him back. "W-what's... happening?" he asked, hearing the thick sound of tears in his voice. "What..."

"Shhhh, don't worry," she said, lowering her face to his neck. He tensed, expecting her to bite him again, but instead she gently kissed his wound. She began slowly licking his neck, while gently stroking his chest, and murmuring for him to relax. It would have been titillating if the situation had not been so bizarre - with her husband sitting a few feet away, completely unconcerned. That, and (of course) the fact that they had been ready to murder him only a few minutes ago.

After a while, she stopped licking his neck, and pulled Scotty's injured wrist to her mouth. She kissed and licked that as well, swallowing the blood as she did so. Scotty was stunned to see that, eventually, the wound closed, and the only thing that remained were two red marks, like small bruises. He reached clumsily for his neck with his free hand and found that there was no open wound there, either. His immense relief at being spared was almost overshadowed by his shock at how he'd been healed. The events of the afternoon, combined with the shock and the loss of blood, finally took over and he lost consciousness.

"Drink." Scotty struggled to open his eyes, but they were sticky and dry, and he only partially succeeded. "Come on, sit up Scotty."

That voice. He tried to push himself away from her, on instinct more than intellect. Dangerous. The tiny, beautiful lady with the long dark hair was deadly, and he had to get away. But she was too strong, or he was too weak. She held him in place and forced a cup to his lips. "If you want to survive, drink," she said sternly. "It has proteins and electrolytes and you need it, now open your mouth."

He did as he was told. He did want to live, and he knew he was sick. If she wanted to kill him, he would already be dead. The liquid tasted good - like a chocolate shake, slightly thick and sweet, and he gulped it down. The lady laughed and pulled it back. "Not so fast, you'll make yourself sick," she said, her tone sweet and gentle this time. He tried to keep calm, letting her parcel it out this time. He was disappointed when it was gone, but a moment later, a warm, wet cloth was placed over his eyes. It felt amazingly good, and he allowed himself to relax.

"There," she said, wiping gently at his eyes. When she took it away, he was able to open his eyes. She sat beside him on the bed, smiling down at him, but despite her beauty, all he could remember was fear and he recoiled from her. "Relax, Scotty," she said softly. "I'm not going to hurt you. You need rest, so try to sleep, okay?"

He nodded, but he had no intention of going to sleep. Might as well sleep in a room full of vipers. She lowered him back down from his half-upright position. The moment his head touched the pillow - when had they given him a pillow? - he was asleep.

Scotty wasn't sure how much time he spent half-dazed, and periodically awakened by Nyota to drink what he eventually learned was Ensure. At some point, he felt a bit stronger and Nyota brought him regular (but bland) food. One afternoon, Spock came to him instead of Nyota. He had Scotty's clothes draped over one arm. Scotty sat up slowly, feeling nervous around the man, even though it seemed like they really did intend to let him go.

"Mr. Scott," Spock said. "You are now out of danger, and well enough to get home and complete your body's healing on your own. It is time to discuss our conditions."

"C-conditions, sir?" he asked softly.

"Yes, you will recall that I said you would be released with certain conditions if we found your idea promising enough." Scotty nodded, feeling his nervousness increase just a bit. "Those conditions are as follows. You will not report what has happened to you here. You will not tell anyone our true nature. If you discuss the fact that we are vampires, or dangerous in any way, we will find you and kill you. Is that understood?"

"Yes," he said with a shudder.

"Good. Get dressed, and meet us in the living room."

Spock placed the clothes on the bed and left him alone. Scotty sat up slowly, still very weak despite the fact that he was no longer on death's door. He put his clothes on, seriously considering trying to get out of the hotel through the window. He was pretty sure this wasn't the kind of place that would have a fire escape leading down from one of its best rooms. Besides, for all he knew, they could climb down the wall like lizards or something and get him anyway.

He stood up, still moving slowly, trying to avoid any nausea or dizziness. His legs felt shaky - he hadn't been on his feet since... well, since after dinner when he'd first walked into the hotel. With slow, deliberate steps, he left the bedroom, shuddering slightly when he opened the door and stepped out.

They were waiting for him in the living room, seated at the low coffee table near the center of the room. The curtains were drawn tight, but Scotty could tell that it was still light outside. Spock gestured to the chair across from them, and Scotty approached slowly and took a seat. "How..." He stopped himself. He was afraid of them, plain and simple, and he wasn't sure how to behave.

"What is it?" Nyota asked. "Go ahead."

Scotty swallowed. "How can you be awake right now?" he asked. "It's... the sun's still out, and I thought..."

"There are a lot of myths associated with us," Nyota replied. "We're sensitive to light, but it's not impossible for us to be out while the sun is still out. My husband and I are early risers. We often go out in the early evening. When the sun is high, it's most dangerous for us and exposed skin will burn. But by late afternoon, when the sun has gone down behind most of the buildings, it isn't dangerous."

Scotty nodded. "I see. I... suppose there's a lot of misconceptions about..." He stopped again, fidgeting slightly.

"Mr. Scott," Spock said. "I am sure that you are eager to return to your life. You have been our guest for four days." Scotty's eyes widened.

Nyota reached beside the couch and produced the draft pad. She pulled out the notes Scotty had written, and set them on the table. "We've made no copies of these," she assured him.

"Okay," he said, folding the papers together and tucking them into his jacket. He began to stand, and Spock raised a hand.

"Wait." He sat down again. Spock reached into his pocket and produced a small piece of paper. He set it on the table.

Scotty stared at it, almost afraid to touch it. It looked suspiciously like a check. He looked down at it and gasped audibly. "Twenty thousand dollars? Wha..." He looked questioningly at them.

"Consider it an incentive," Spock said. "My wife and I are not only interested in discourse with promising individuals. We are patrons of the sciences. Your idea is ingenious, and it has absolutely incredible potential." Spock stood up, picked up the check and extended it to Scotty. "Finish it, Mr. Scott."

"And..." He hesitated. "If I... are there conditions on accepting this?"

Spock nodded. "Naturally, but I assume they would be agreeable to you. We ask only that you use the funds for your research and development, and that you inform us if you need further assistance. If you would like intellectual input, I would be willing to provide that as well, though I understand if you would prefer to complete the project yourself."

"This is your new lease on life, Mr. Scott," Nyota said. "You've had a traumatic experience, and you've come very close to losing your life. Let us help you make something good come of this."

Scotty stared at the check. God, what he could do with that kind of money. He glanced at Nyota, then stood up slowly and looked back at Spock. He took the check with a nod. "Thank you, sir," he said.

"You are welcome," Spock replied. He handed Scotty a business card, and Scotty tucked both the card and the check deep into an inner pocket. "After the five years you requested have passed, contact me. I would be interested to see the development of the project."

Scotty nodded nervously. Something about the wording made it seem like he were being given five years to work, and then... He shut down that train of thought. They certainly seemed sincere, and it wasn't as if they'd lied to him so far (for what it was worth). But even if they meant to kill him after five years, there was nothing to force him to really come back to them.

He cleared his throat. "May I... am I free to go?"

Spock nodded again, and extended his hand. "I believe the appropriate phrase is, 'good luck'," he said.

Scotty shook his hand, though he desperately wanted to run away. Spock stepped back, and Nyota approached him. She reached up for him, and he flinched. "It's okay," she said softly, continuing to reach for him. She stroked his hair, and gave him a quick peck on the cheek. "It was a pleasure meeting you, Scotty," she said. She smiled warmly. "I won't hold it against you if you can't say the same." Scotty let out a nervous chuckle, moving a slightly trembling hand to his throat. "We'll see you soon."

Scotty nodded and backed away from them, almost afraid to turn his back. He was forced to turn eventually, since he had no idea of the layout of the hotel room, but he was on edge the entire time. Even after he'd left the room and closed the door behind him, he still feared that at any moment, the door would open and they would declare they had changed their minds. He wished he could run away, but he was still too weak. He made his way down the hall and to the elevator. By the time he reached the lobby, he was fairly exhausted, but he refused to stop. He walked slowly through the lobby toward the exit, determined to get the hell away from here as quickly as possible.

"Mr. Scott?" Scotty jumped at the sound of his own name. He turned sharply, and saw a middle-aged man coming toward him from one of the small seating areas in the lobby. Scotty edged away from the stranger, who smiled at him. "Mr. Scott, right?" he asked. "I'm with Yellow Cab. We got a call from your friend, Miss Grayson, to pick you up in the lobby."

Scotty swallowed and looked back toward the elevator. These people were some kind of insane. Nearly killing him one minute, then giving him thousands of dollars and having the forethought to call a cab for him the next? It was unnerving. Scotty was tempted to leave and find his own transportation, but if this man were a danger, he could easily overpower Scotty in his weakened state, so running wouldn't help. "I... yeah, ok," he said nervously.

The man smiled and led the way out of the hotel, walking slowly to allow for Scotty's weakened state. Scotty was relieved when he was taken to a plain yellow cab, and not some dark van bent on whisking him away to some new horrors. He made it home without incident, and when he offered to pay, the cabby waived his hand. "It's already covered, your friend took care of it," he said.

"Oh, er... thanks." He left the driver with a nod, and made his way at last into the house. He shut and locked the door behind him, pulling on the chain, which he almost never did. They could probably break down any door, chain or no, but it made him feel safer all the same. The physical exertion it had taken just to get to the cab, sit through the drive and get out again, was already weighing on him, and the emotional toll was even greater. The sight of the inside of his own house - a place he truly thought he'd never see again - brought tears to his eyes. He looked around the room, lightly touching his lamp, the chair, the couch.

Slowly, he sank down onto the couch, laid back, pulled one of the cushions to his chest and held it tight, shuddering, and trying to hold his composure as best he could. He wasn't a deeply religious man, but he'd gone up the Kirk on Christmas and Easter like most good Scottish boys did. His love of science hadn't completely erased his belief in the unseen - in fact, many advanced scientific concepts were such that the current technology couldn't actually, empirically prove them anyway, so he wasn't a stout believer in the reality of ONLY the things he could see with his own eyes. Lying in his own living room, clutching the pillow hard to him, struggling not to burst into tears, Scotty squeezed his eyes shut and fervently thanked whatever god or benevolent energy source or sources or anything and everything that might have had a hand in getting him out of that place alive.

Three months passed before Scotty had the courage to cash the check. During those three months, he looked at it often. He thought about all the things he could do with twenty-thousand dollars. Pay rent for several months. Utilities for a few years, probably. Beef up his nephew's college fund. But he lived in fear of the Graysons, and he knew that he could never use the money for anything except his project. His Jewel.

His fear of the Graysons was what also kept him from cashing the check. Regardless of their claim to be "patrons of the sciences", he was afraid to be indebted to them for anything. He was afraid if he cashed the check, they would own him - be able to ask for favors he didn't want to give, or... something. There was a sense of dread of ever seeing them again, and if he took their money, wouldn't he be obligated to at least show them proof that he hadn't squandered it?

But over time, the pull of his scientific curiosity began to win out over his fear. There was so much he could do with that money to develop his ideas. Research into crystalline structures, trips to gather said crystals, equipment to cut the crystals, lab space to run energy amplification tests and other experiments - the possibilities were nearly endless! He couldn't let the opportunity pass him by. Nyota was right - something good should come of what he went through, and Scotty wasn't going to let fear stand in his way. If the couple had any integrity, and he thought that they did, they wouldn't hold their gift over his head.

Scotty opened a dedicated account with his own funds, then deposited the check. At first, he was afraid that the check would be bogus, or maybe that three months was too long, and the funds wouldn't be available. But after the mandatory bank hold, the check deposited to his account, and he was suddenly richer than he had ever been. Having access to twenty thousand dollars was dizzying, but Scotty was careful all the same. He treated the funds as exactly what they were - a grant from private investors. He kept meticulous records, making sure to spend wisely (equipment that was good enough to serve his purpose well, but not extravagant - trips that were absolutely necessary only). He kept an account of each and every penny spent, and he kept every single receipt.

After three long years of searching and refining, testing and re-testing, Scotty found what he was looking for - a crystal that could be cut to his specifications, and was strong enough to withstand his rigorous testing. And most of all - it would work. His dream of almost ten years was closer to fruition than ever.

Scotty tried to tell his family, but they couldn't understand the implications. He had a few scientist friends, but they were ambitious, cutthroat and jealous, and he dared not share any of his discoveries with them. The thought occurred to him that Spock and Nyota would understand, and they wouldn't steal from him. But the thought of calling one of them was almost ludicrously terrifying.

Scotty bought a bottle of wine (with his own money) and celebrated alone.

In the end, it took only an additional three months (a total of three years and seven months from the day he left the Grayson's hotel room) for him to complete a working model of his pride and joy. He'd used all of Spock's money, plus a hefty chunk of his own savings in order to complete it, but he could not have been more pleased with the results.

It worked. It WORKED. And Spock was right, this would revolutionize EVERYTHING - one day, anyway. Once he'd discovered how to harness this level of power, it made other theories he'd had turn from fantastical dreams to highly probable, workable applications. Applications that were probably multiple decades away, but applications all the same.

But it had taken years, and thousands upon thousands of dollars to get this far. Of course, making a working model was one of the hardest parts, but selling the idea and getting more backers for a project of this magnitude was difficult even when people could see the immediate benefit of such a thing. With the world focused on oil and electricity as the best means of harnessing energy, and with the knowledge that Scotty's invention would take many, many years to truly be integrated into every-day living, it would take a truly far-sighted individual to invest in this dream.

The thought of finding someone like that who also had the means to help him was disheartening, but there was a part of him that felt it wasn't exactly right for him to try, anyway. Spock and Nyota were the ones who'd given him the money to get this far. Despite the fact that the thought of seeing them again filled him with terror (he still occasionally woke up screaming and sweaty, from nightmares of being tied down and drained completely of blood until he was a shriveled, unrecognizable husk of a human being), he also felt that they had the right to see the payoff from their investment. He also knew that, of all the people he'd ever met, they would understand what the prototype meant. If they could see the potential of his invention from the notes he'd struggled to put down in a half-dazed, terrified stupor, then they would be floored by what he had come up with over the past three and a half well-funded and well-focused years.

Scotty's sense of ethics would not allow him to try to market his invention to potential investors without the blessing of his original backers. His sense of self preservation would not allow him to simply walk up to the address on Spock's card. Not without some serious pep-talking, anyway. He did his best to convince himself that they wouldn't kill him. They could easily have completed this research themselves and killed him three years ago, but they didn't. Why would they do it now?

Naturally, his mind answered - because they're bloody vampires! But in the end, ethics, and a deep desire to share what he'd created with someone who would understand, and actually care about the discoveries, won out. Scotty went to his files and pulled out the card, carefully preserved in a zip-loc bag. He stared at it, feeling the nervousness return suddenly. He'd shoved it in his pocket over three years ago, and when he'd stuck it in the files, he'd been traumatized still, and the sight of it had disturbed him, so he shoved it into a bag without really looking at it. Now that he intended to use it, he was upset to realize that there was no telephone number. Just an address.

Scotty sat down heavily on his couch. The thought of just waltzing up to the door of two people... two vampires who'd almost killed him before, unannounced, and asking to be let in made him sick to his stomach. But he didn't have any other choice.

Maybe he should send a post card. The thought was so ludicrous he actually laughed. Besides the fact that it would take days to confirm, and he'd still have to go to their house in the end, he couldn't wait that long. He wanted... no, he needed to share this now.

He considered leaving a note for his family - telling his sisters where he was. But the thought of them investigating the house if something went wrong made him shudder. No. No, that might work in the movies, but these were not "criminals". They were monsters that weren't even supposed to exist. He could never allow his sisters to come in contact with these people.

Scotty organized his project notes and materials, and put them together in a hefty, black metal briefcase. He slipped the business card into his pocket, wishing that he had better protection than a tiny slip of card stock. He started toward the door, then thought better of it. He poured himself a full tumbler of scotch and swallowed it down. Suitably relaxed (for the moment), he called a cab and headed for the address.

Less than an hour later, Scotty was let out of the car in front of a large, two-story, craftsman-style house, painted cream with a warm brown trim. There were small, colorful flowers along the broad, stone-lined path up to the door, and well-kept rose bushes lined up along the front of the house. In fact, it was one of the most welcoming, least sinister looking houses Scotty had ever seen. But Scotty was no less nervous than he'd been before. In fact, the drink he'd taken to calm his nerves had lost its effect during the drive, and if anything, his anxiety was increased by the normality of the house. After all, Nyota and Spock had seemed pleasant, kind and non-threatening, too.

Scotty slowly made his way up the walk, up the few shallow steps, and stood in front of the door. He tried to listen for any sounds, but couldn't hear anything. It wasn't even nine yet, but the streets were deserted and dark, except for the few street lights (on the other side of the street, no less). He took a deep breath and rang the bell.

After a few moments, the door opened suddenly, even though Scotty had heard no footsteps approaching the door. A young boy, who looked to be about sixteen, with curly chestnut hair, large blue eyes, and a cherubic (but slender) face looked up at him. He looked at Scotty from head to toe, gaze rolling slowly over Scotty's body. He smiled and licked his lips. It would have seemed sexual, except that Scotty knew he was coming to a vampire's house. As it was, Scotty swallowed hard at the hungry gleam in the boy's eyes.

"Good evening," the boy said, speaking with a heavy Russian accent. "May I help you, sir?"

"I... I'm looking for Mr. Grayson," he said, pulling out the business card.

The boy's face fell at the sight of the card, and he sighed. "Oh. Come in, then," he said, stepping aside. Scotty stepped nervously inside the door, and the boy closed and locked it behind him. "Follow me."

The boy led him through a long hallway, into a large, well-furnished sitting room. A young Asian man came into the same room from the other side, and smiled at the two of them. "Hey, Pavel, who's your-"

"Don't get excited," Pavel said shortly. "He belongs to Mr. Spock."

"Oh." The other man looked mildly disgusted, and Scotty found himself growing more nervous thanks to the kid's choice of words.

"Wait here," Pavel said to Scotty. "Mr. Spock's away from the house, we'll have to call him." He looked Scotty up and down once more. "Keep the card in your hand, don't put it back in your pocket, ya? And don't leave this room. Safer, okay? Wouldn't want someone to make a bad mistake."

"R-right," Scotty said with a nod. "Thank you."

"C'mon, Hikaru," Pavel said to the other man. "Let's get out of here." With a glance at Scotty that made the inventor extremely uncomfortable, he said, "I'm getting hungry."

Scotty edged away involuntarily, and the kid smiled. "C'mon," Hikaru said, guiding the younger man toward the door. The two men left the room, and Scotty was left alone. He sat down on the edge of the couch, and set the case down beside him. He glanced around the room, noting that the furniture was comfortable, but obviously well-made – end tables and chairs that looked like they were made of heavy duty oak. The furnishings didn't look like something out of the 18th century, which he'd half expected. The room was nicely furnished, with items that obviously cost a great deal of money, but it wasn't extravagant or tacky.

There was a large fireplace in the room that had caught Scotty’s eye when he first entered. Above it, there was a picture that looked like it had been taken in one of those novelty places, with the slightly faded background, and the people in it dressed as if they were from the turn of the century. He looked at it from afar for a while, but when twenty minutes passed and no one appeared, he grew bored and decided to take a closer look, and stretch his legs at the same time.

He walked over to the picture, glancing back a little bit nervously at his briefcase still sitting by the couch. There were four people in the picture, two of whom he recognized, now that he was closer. Nyota sat in a plush, authentic-looking chair, wearing a high-collared gown, with an elaborate feathered hat. Spock stood behind her, with a hand on her shoulder, in what looked like a very well-made replica of a rich man's suit from the early 1900's. He looked authentic as well, except for the haircut. His hair looked exactly as it had the last time Scotty saw him - a completely round cut, falling just over the tips of his ears. That wouldn't be in style for decades yet.

In a chair on Nyota's left was a fair-haired man, about twenty-five or so, with light eyes, full lips, and a strong, square jaw above a sharply pointed chin. He was similarly dressed in a fine suit from the period. Standing behind the blue (or green) eyed man was an older gentleman. His hand was on the young man's shoulder, like a mirror image of Spock and Nyota. The older man looked to be about fifty, dark haired with flecks of gray here and there. He looked similar to the others in dress, but he seemed different. His face was not as angular as the other two men, and his lips were considerably thinner. It seemed like a family picture, but if the men were supposed to be related to one another, he doubted it was by blood. But it wasn't just the physical differences that struck Scotty. There was something more about the older man - something he couldn't define.

Something else struck him as odd about the picture. None of them were smiling. He'd seen plenty of "aged" family photos designed to look like they were taken in the early 1900's, but he’d never seen pictures where anyone attempted to match the tendency of people from that time period to sit with stony expressions during photographs. Early cameras took such a long time to get a shot then that hardly anyone could be bothered to hold a smile for that long, but... who on earth would go through such lengths for authenticity in a kitsch photo?

"Do you find it fascinating?"

"CHRIST!" Scotty jumped and sprang away from the voice that had suddenly spoken right next to him. His hand flew to his chest, his heart pounding, and he stared at the man with wide eyes. It was the older man from the picture, looking exactly the same, but now wearing a modern, three-piece navy blue suit instead of the old style attire. "H-how d-did..." Scotty was breathless, barely able to ask the question. He glanced at the door, and it was still closed. He'd never heard it open or close, never heard footsteps - never even felt the air rustle.

The man laughed, a rich, hearty sound. "I think you know the answer to that," he said. Scotty blinked once, and when he opened his eyes, the other man was standing directly in front of him. Scotty felt a whimper escape, and his body began shaking uncontrollably. Now, he could tell what was different about this man. His eyes, were... indescribable. They were gray in color, but there was something so... ancient about them. He had no idea how, or why he knew it, but Scotty knew from looking into his eyes, that this man had lived for hundreds of years. The man’s age was almost as frightening as the fact that he seemed able to defy physics.

"You seem surprised," the man said. "I assume, since you're in this room, that you know what we are."

"I... n-never... they never... m-moved like..."

The man smiled again, and his fang-like teeth showed clearly. Scotty hadn't realized that the others retracted theirs during regular conversation, until he saw how plainly visible they were with this man. "I see," the man said. "Well, not to worry. If the person who invited you here is still in favor, you're in no danger. What's your name?"

"S-scotty. I mean... th-that's my... it's Montgomery Scott."

The man chuckled softly. "A Scot named Scott, that's not bad." Scotty tried to smile, but it felt more like a nervous facial twitch to him. "Who invited you here, Scotty?"

Scotty gritted his teeth, and contemplated running. Obviously, that was ridiculous, since the man could move faster than any human, but he was terrified to answer. If the person was in favor, there was no danger? What if Spock was out of favor? The younger two had left him alone, but this man was different, what if ...


Scotty jumped slightly, and held up the business card with a shaking hand. "The Graysons," he answered. "Spock and Nyota?"

The man glanced at the card, and his features seemed to lose a fraction of their intensity. He nodded. "Lucky you." Scotty swallowed, but didn't answer. "I'm Christopher Pike. I'm the head of this House."

"Pleasure, s-sir," Scotty whispered.

Christopher laughed. "I'm not sure about that." He turned away, walking back toward the fireplace. "Come on over, you want to know about this picture?" Scotty immediately stepped toward the fireplace, even though he was scared to death of Pike and had absolutely no desire to get anywhere near him. He paused, frowning slightly. Pike turned to him again, and smiled. "Come over here."

Scotty moved toward the man again, this time vividly aware that he was not doing it of his own volition - not entirely. He had no wish to get closer to Pike, but at the same time, he had a nearly overpowering desire to do exactly what Pike wanted, whatever that might be. It frightened him, and he felt himself trembling again, but he moved to stand next to the fireplace all the same. He made an effort to appear casual, resting his arm on the mantle and glancing at the portrait. "S-so... you wanted to tell me something, sir? Was this really taken..."

"Back in 1902," he answered. "You know these two," he said, waving at Spock and Nyota. "And that's Jim. I turned him over two hundred years ago. He's out of favor right now."

"I pity him," Scotty whispered.

"He made his choice!" Christopher snapped, glaring fiercely.

Scotty edged back, raising his arms slightly. Christopher hadn't made a physical move toward Scotty, but the look on the vampire's face was frightening enough to make him want to run. "I'm s-sorry, I... d-didn't mean-"

"It's fine," he said, suddenly looking back at the picture again. "It's just fresh, that's all. He's only been away for a few decades." Scotty frowned, but before he could say anything else, the other man asked, "What's your talent, Scotty?"

"Engineering," he replied, glad the topic had been changed. "I work in theoretical design and alternative energy sources."

"Mmm. I don't think they've had an engineer before," Christopher said. "Not here. They must have been very impressed by you." He looked at Scotty again, a slight smile on his face. "I wonder what you taste like."

Scotty froze, feeling a chill run through him. His mouth went dry, and he glanced toward the door. "I... I think I'd b-better go," he whispered.

"I'd like you to stay," Christopher said softly.

Instead of walking to the door, as Scotty intended, he remained completely still beside the fireplace. He felt a strong desire to stay like Christopher wanted him to, but at the same time, he was terrified. It was happening again. The urge to stay couldn't be right, but he couldn't seem to make himself move, either. His legs felt weak, and he struggled to keep tears from his eyes. "Please," he whispered nervously. "I... I'd l-like to go, sir. Please."

"Okay, no problem, Scotty," he said, his voice kind. "But before you go, would you mind letting me see your wrist for a moment?"

Scotty shook his head, his initial reaction one of total cooperation. But when he saw his own hand slowly moving toward the vampire, wrist up, he began to panic. He'd been trembling slightly already, but he began to shake violently, and he could feel his eyes stinging with tears. The memory of Spock and Uhura's attack came fresh to his mind - his pain, his fear - but the sense of terror was much worse now. Then, he'd been tied down and couldn't get away. Now, he was standing here completely free, yet bound by some force he couldn't even begin to struggle against. Something that could defeat his own will - his ability to control his own body.

Christopher took Scotty's shaking hand, cupping the back of his hand with utmost gentleness. He lowered his head slightly and took a deep breath, smiling appreciatively. "Please. Please, I-."

"It's okay," Christopher said soothingly. He lowered his face, and Scotty squeezed his eyes shut when he felt the man's lips touch his skin. He felt what might have been a slight pinch, but he wasn't sure. He gripped the mantle with his free hand, partly for support, and partly because he was readying himself to make a supreme effort to pull away.

"Excuse me." Scotty jumped at the sudden intrusion. He opened his eyes and looked toward the voice. It was Spock, and he had a slight frown on his face. Nyota was beside him, frowning deeply. Scotty couldn't fathom why, but the sight of the familiar faces was a relief - even though both of them were clearly angry and the sight should have scared him. Maybe it was because Scotty knew that the couple had a reason to keep him alive. He didn't know Christopher at all - would he even care what Spock and Nyota wanted?

Christopher raised his head and looked toward the door, without releasing Scotty's hand. Scotty was alarmed to see that a tiny sliver of blood was running down his wrist, though he didn’t feel as if he’d been cut. "Good evening, Spock," Christopher said, licking his lips. "Ny."

"Good evening, Christopher," Spock said. Nyota continued to scowl. "May I ask what you are doing with our guest?"

Christopher smiled broadly. "Just having a little taste, Spock, it's harmless."

Spock frowned again and glanced at Scotty. The engineer brushed at his frightened tears with his free hand, but couldn't bring himself to take his other hand away from Pike, even though the vampire wasn't actually holding him. "That may be, but he is obviously in distress."

"Oh, you know how Humans are," he said smoothly. "Lose control for a few seconds and they get all worked up. But I've been very kind to him." He looked back at Scotty, and the younger man couldn't help but cringe. "Tell them the truth, Mr. Scott. Have I hurt you? Are you in pain?"

"N-no, s-sir," Scotty stammered nervously.

"Chris," Nyota hissed. "He's our guest."

Chris frowned slightly, and the sight made Scotty whimper, even though Chris wasn't frowning at him. He longed to pull away, but he couldn't move. "I think you're making a big deal out of nothing," he said darkly.

"Sir," Spock said, taking a slow step into the room. "This gentleman is our guest, and you are causing him deep discomfort. It is not hospitable. I ask you to release him, please."

Christopher sighed and pursed his lips. "Very well, Spock. You're absolutely right." He licked his own thumb, and ran it across the small cut on Scotty's wrist. The cut disappeared completely, and there wasn't even the redness, or the small bruises that he'd still had after Nyota healed him before. His amazement was replaced by revulsion when Christopher licked the remaining blood from his thumb, and swallowed it. He smiled. "I apologize for making you uncomfortable, Mr. Scott."

Christopher let go of Scotty's hand and turned away. Scotty clutched his hand to his chest, but he didn't dare move another inch. The older vampire strolled casually toward the door. He lowered his head as he neared Nyota, and she (almost grudgingly) lifted her head to accept a kiss on the cheek. "Good evening, my dear. Have a good night, Spock."

Spock nodded curtly. "And you, sir."

When the door closed on the other man, Scotty shuddered violently. He felt his knees buckle and he began to collapse. Faster than humanly possible, Spock was beside him, supporting him. He kept Scotty from falling, and helped him over to the couch. Scotty stared at his own hands, shaking and breathing too fast, and knowing that he should try to stop the panic, but completely unable to do so. Soon, a large tumbler of golden liquid was placed in his hand. It would have splashed, but Nyota kept her hand on Scotty's - steadying him, but allowing him the dignity of holding the glass himself.

Scotty brought the drink to his lips and downed the alcohol in one long drought. He was too upset to even tell what it was, only that it was of very good quality - it warmed him, without a harsh burn. Scotty shut his eyes and focused on the heat, following it down his esophagus and into his belly, forcing himself not to think about anything else. Slowly, he could feel his nerves calming - his body stopped shaking so much, and his breathing regulated.

When he felt he could open his eyes again, he glanced at Spock and Nyota, who were seated next to him on the couch. "Thank you."

Spock nodded, taking the glass from him. "Will you need another?" he asked.

"No, no sir, I'll be alright now." He glanced toward the door. "Will... will he come back?"

"Unknown," Spock replied.

Scotty cringed, but Nyota patted his arm. "It's okay, Scotty. He won't hurt you."

"He is the Head of this House," Spock said. "He may come and go as he pleases. It is doubtful that he will interrupt our meeting, but even if he does, you are our guest. He is bound by honor not to kill you without our permission."

Scotty gasped. "Without-"

"Don't worry, Scotty," Nyota said with a smile. "We're not going to give it to him. You are safe here tonight, I promise."

"Okay," he said, still feeling nervous. "Th-thank you. How did... If you can control people like that, why didn't you do that to me before? I mean... not that I'm complaining... I'd much rather..." He paused and shook his head. Was he about to say he'd rather be tied down? He'd rather not be fed on at all!

"Christopher was born in twelve hundred forty-one, and was turned at an old age for the time. He was powerful from the beginning, and he has had over seven hundred years to develop his skills and gain new ones. Nyota and I are much younger, relatively speaking. We have several strengths that humans do not possess, but we will not reach Christopher's level for many years. What you experienced tonight, while no doubt shocking and unsettling to you, was only a fraction of what Christopher is capable of."

Scotty could feel the tremors starting again. It was frightening enough to realize that vampires existed in the first place - to think that there were those who could do what Christopher had done, and so much more was mind-boggling. "I... I think I may need that drink, after all."

"Certainly. And after that, we should talk."

When Scotty finished the second glass of Spock's fine scotch, he began to truly feel better. Christopher didn't return, and Nyota and Spock had defended him, rather than immediately latching on and killing Scotty themselves, as the engineer had half-feared might happen. He picked up his metal briefcase, feeling the twinge of excitement at the prospect of sharing his new discovery. "Should we talk here?" he asked.

"This room is frequently used," Spock answered with a shake of his head. "Come with me."

They led him out of the room, and up to the second floor. There was another small hallway, and doors that might have led to the upstairs bedrooms. Spock gestured for him to enter one of the rooms, and Scotty did so. The room was a private library with most of the walls lined with book selves. There were several places to sit in the room - plush armchairs, a few low tables, and even a small study table with wooden chairs around it.

"Anywhere you like," Nyota said.

Scotty chose one of two plush seats that were situated on one side of a coffee table. Nyota and Spock sat across from him, as they had in their hotel room over three years before. "I assume you have made some progress on your design," Spock said. "Do you require more funds to complete a model?"

Scotty frowned slightly, lifting the metal case and setting it between them on the table. "Well, I suppose I'll need funds to go any further," he said. "But the design is finished."

Both Spock and Nyota looked stunned. "Finished!" Nyota breathed. "Wh- already?"

"Only three years, seven months and thirteen days have passed since our last meeting," Spock said, managing to sound incredulous despite his unusually accurate record keeping.

Scotty shrugged. "I was... motivated, I suppose," he replied. He opened the case, and pulled out the financial records first. "I wanted you to have these," he said. "So you'd know the money wasn't wasted." Spock took the papers, nodding, but set them aside without more than a cursory glance. He was obviously more interested in the other contents of the case. That pleased the inventor. True, Scotty had taken pains to be sure that he kept meticulous records, but he didn't feel the time had been wasted. Spock would look it over eventually, no doubt, but it was nice to be trusted.

Scotty pulled out each piece of his invention, and began assembling it. He had a PlexiGlas cylinder, about fifty centimeters tall (just over eighteen inches), and about six inches in diameter. The cylinder was sealed at the top, but open at the bottom so that it could be fitted over the working part of the invention. The second-most important part of the invention was the base - a simple black platform with a groove specifically measured to fit his cylinder, and hole in the center where the coil would be attached.

The coil was something Scotty was particularly proud of - two metal rods, twisted and molded into something that looked much like a double-spiral, and came together at the base into one thick piece. However, the shaping had microscopic "imperfections" that were the key to conducting the energy from the base to the crystal, and it was this last piece that had taken the longest to create once the crystal was completed. The coil joined itself again at the top, where the two topmost pieces ended in a pincer that was designed to hold the crystal in place.

After attaching the coil to the base, Scotty pulled out a small box, slightly larger than a ring-box. He took out a pair of cotton gloves and slipped them on before opening the box. He looked down at his prized possession - his jewel, both literally and figuratively. He smiled.

The crystal would hardly have been impressive to the layman. It was small - hardly a single millimeter - and certainly wouldn't have made the centerpiece of any ring. It was a golden-brownish color that might have been pleasant if the awkward cut of the crystal hadn't ruined it. There were more facets on some surfaces than others, and Scotty could attest to the fact that the cuts had not been made in the interest of aesthetics. But, despite the fact that it was certainly not the type of gem that anyone would expect to see in a piece of jewelry, Scotty glowed as if he had just revealed the most priceless of all stones. In fact, it might very well have been.

Scotty pulled it out with his gloved hand. Spock and Nyota leaned forward, eyes gleaming. "You made it, " Nyota said breathlessly. Scotty nodded.

"You managed to get the proper refractory combination in only three years?" Spock asked incredulously.

"Yes, sir, I did," Scotty said, smiling at him.


Scotty raised an eyebrow at the word choice. "I'd call it miraculous," Nyota said. "Why the glove?" she asked. "Is it toxic?"

"Oh, no ma'am, not at all," he said. "But it works best without any residue on the surface. I'm hoping to make a workable model that isn't at all affected by oils from the skin, but so far I haven't been able to replicate the same level of energy efficiency without the extra protection." The two of them nodded, and Scotty fitted the stone into the pincers of his special conductor.

Scotty fitted the cylinder over the invention and latched it into place. Next, he pulled out three pairs of heavy-duty, extremely dark sunglasses, with side panels to completely protect the eyes. "Please put these on. And... well... I'm not sure about..." He shrugged, uncomfortable with discussing their nature as vampires. "If you feel any discomfort, please tell me," he said. "It's not intentional, I swear."

"Of course," Nyota said, her tone reassuring.

"Okay." He put the shades on and showed them the ignition switch. "This is a simple, low energy starter. Creates a spark and a low vibration that lasts three tenths of a second. What you'll see is the crystal and the coil in action." The pair nodded, and with a brief moment of nervousness (what if it suddenly didn't work despite the hundreds of tests?) he threw the switch.

The ignition process was so subtle that the naked eye could not detect it (at least, not a human's eye). Less than a second after he threw the switch, the coil turned a pale, luminescent blue, and the crystal began to glow. As before, the light changed from golden to white very quickly, and the soon, was bright enough that it outshone the coil, and made the reading lamps in the room seem like pale shadows.

Scotty pulled out the shade he'd created for the project (a fully opaque, triple-lined cloth), but neither Nyota nor Spock seemed to be bothered by the light. It must be sunlight in particular, then, that harmed them, Scotty thought. They stared at the invention in amazement, and Scotty grinned proudly. "What do you think?" he whispered.

The couple stared at him, looking completely stunned. After a second, Nyota grinned, then started to laugh. "It's brilliant!" she cried.

"Indeed, this is truly fantastic, Mr. Scott. You have exceeded my expectations by far."

"Thank you," Scotty said, beaming. He knew it was quite a high compliment, coming from the typically stoic man. "Thank you so much, sir, I... well, it's nice that you both appreciate it."

"It's absolutely amazing," Nyota said. "Do you mind if we look at your notes?"

"Not at all," he replied, pulling out his stack of notes and figures. "They're not... I haven't re-done them yet for presentations' sake, but..."

"Don't worry, Mr. Scott, we understand."

He nodded and handed them over. He turned off the "lamp" and the down-cycle began - the crystal actually took approximately six minutes to "power down". "There's... something more," he said, after they'd looked over the first set of notes.

"Really?" they said in unison.

Scotty nodded, rubbing the back of his neck awkwardly. "This... I've no idea how long it would take to realize something like this, but... well... to be honest, that's why I wanted to tell this part of it to the two of you."

"Well, what is it?" Nyota asked eagerly.

"It's something I discovered while I was working with the coil. With this kind of power, you could conceivably... just... if..." He shook his head. "Here, let me show you." Scotty pulled out a sheet of paper and a pen. "You're familiar with the concept of space-time, yes?" They nodded and Ny glanced at Spock. "Of course you are," Scotty said quickly. "So... here's a chunk of the space-time continuum," he said, setting the sheet of paper down. "Obviously not accurate since it's only three dimensions, and there's... well, you get the idea, it's for arguments' sake." They nodded again, still calm, where others might have begun showing signs of impatience already. Scotty made a large dot at a random spot near one edge of the paper. "Now, here's Earth, or... no, let's say this is the Solar system. And this," he said, making another dot on the other side of the page. "Let's say this is..." He paused briefly, trying to pick a reasonably close star system.

"Epsilon Eridani," Nyota provided.

Spock looked sharply at her, though Scotty had no idea why. "Sure, thanks," he said. "Okay, that's Eridani. It's about ten and a half light years away, and to get there would take..." He shook his head. "Generations. But with this crystal in enough quantity, and of a large enough size, and with a larger version of the coil I've created, I could - theoretically, anyway - build an engine that could actually bend space-time. Instead of traveling from here to here like this-" He drew a line with is finger from the Sol dot to the Eridani dot. "We could do this." Scotty kept a finger on each spot, then pushed them together, forcing the paper to curve upwards as he did so, until his fingers were touching. "A trip to Eridani could potentially take... minutes instead of lifetimes."

Scotty looked up at them and was surprised to see both Graysons staring at him, open-mouthed and completely stunned. Nyota slowly raised her hands to her lips, and Scotty thought he could see tears beginning to form. "Spock, that means-"

"I know, ashayam," he said, his voice cracking slightly. He stood up suddenly and turned away, stepping a few feet away from the table. Scotty watched him warily, unnerved by the usually stoic man's apparent agitation. Spock's hand seemed to be trembling slightly, and he clenched his fist tightly on one of the other chairs, causing the heavy wood to creak and nearly break.

"Is... is everything alright?" Scotty asked softly.


Before Nyota could finish, Spock turned back to them, and looked at Scotty with that unnatural intensity that was almost palpable. "May I see your research regarding this discovery?" The words seemed like any other polite request, but the passion in his eyes and the intensity of his mannerisms seemed to declare that there would be no denying this request. Without speaking, Scotty pulled out the few pages of theory he'd compiled on the space-time warping engines and handed them to the vampire.

Spock read through them with Nyota looking over his shoulder. It reminded him of when he'd waited, sick and terrified, while the couple read over his work before. He wasn't sick now, nor was he particularly terrified, but there was a strong sense of nervous anticipation as he waited to find out what they thought.

Finally, Spock looked up, his features openly amazed. "This is astonishing," he said. He glanced at his wife, but she was completely speechless. "Portions of this design could not possibly be realized yet," Spock said. "Perhaps... perhaps not for decades, considering the current technological growth of most of the planet. What will you do with the research?"

"Well..." Scotty rubbed his neck nervously. "That's part of why I wanted to share this idea with you."

"What do you mean?" Nyota asked.

"Well, if... if it's true that you live forever, it means that you may still be alive when technology catches up to my ideas. I thought... if-" He paused, feeling self-conscious and somewhat reluctant to bring up the topic of someone else completing his work without him. But if any of his peers could understand what he'd done, they would be bound by the same restrictions Scotty faced - time. The inevitable end of life that came whether a scientist (or writer, or artist) was finished with his masterpiece or not. He sighed. "I thought I could... you know, keep working on it, perfecting the ideas, and... well, later, after..."

"You thought you could leave your invention to us to complete?" Nyota finished for him. He nodded, and she smiled and sat down beside him, putting a hand on his shoulder. "Scotty, that is so touching. It really is, I'm honored that you'd trust us with something like that."

He gave her a wan smile, even though she still made him a little nervous, sitting so close. "The two of you are brilliant," he said. "There's no one I trust more with something like this."

"That is very flattering, Mr. Scott." Spock reached for Nyota. "Let us discuss this privately, my dear."

The couple left Scotty alone for a few minutes, but they didn't leave the room. They stood off to one side of the room and spoke quietly to one another, using the strange language he'd heard them use once before. Now that his mind was clear, he knew for certain that it was nothing he’d ever heard before. Possibly some obscure dialect of an Eastern European language, but even then it sounded very strange to his ears. After a few minutes, the couple seemed to come to some kind of agreement, and they returned to him.

"Alright, Scotty," Nyota said. "We've decided to offer you a choice. The first is to accept your request. We will take over the research for you once you have done all you can, and we will continue what you've done after your death. Or..." She glanced at Spock.

"We are prepared to give you the chance to live long enough to see your ideas become reality," he said.

Scotty sucked in a sharp breath, and sat back in his chair, not sure whether to be terrified or flattered. His first instinct was to bolt from the room, but the sight of his crystal and his coil steadied him. "Are... are you talking about... turning me into..."

"That's right," Nyota said. "But it's entirely up to you."

"W-what would that mean for me? Will I really live forever?"

"Most likely," Nyota answered, and Scotty frowned. "There are dangers of course, just like any human might face dangers that could keep them from living out their full lifespan. But you will never age, and you can't contract diseases in the traditional sense. If you drink diseased blood, you may get sick, but it's rarely fatal."

"And sunlight kills?"

"Potentially," Spock replied. "As we did, you will learn your own tolerance level, and you will exist within those boundaries. The taking of blood may seem distasteful to you, but you will learn to accept this aspect of your existence as well, assuming you decide to be changed."

"Right," he said softly, forcefully shoving aside the thought of actually taking lives. Maybe he could live off of animals like some vampires did in books. Or... he frowned and struggled not to think about that part of it. He hadn't made up his mind yet, anyway, so no need to worry just yet. Right? "Well... what about..." He cleared his throat, feeling embarrassed again. "What about garlic, and crosses and stakes through the heart and all?"

"Superstition," Nyota said. "Well... a stake through the heart could cause serious damage, assuming someone had the strength to do it, but your speed and strength would be such that it would be almost impossible for anyone to get that close to you with the intent to kill."

"How about in my... when I was asleep?" he asked, not ready to talk about coffins just yet.

Spock sighed and Nyota smiled, then giggled a little. "It's not the Dark Ages, Scotty," she said. “Nobody believes in vampires anyway, so it's not as if we'd have the villagers pounding at the door. And we have the same kind of protection that anyone would have. We have locked doors and security systems, just like anyone else."

"But if you were asleep-"

"If you were asleep, and someone attacked you, wouldn't you wake up?" Spock asked.

Scotty blinked. "But... I thought it was like... you couldn't wake up. Or something. Not until night."

"That's more superstition," Nyota explained. "Something to make the kids feel safer in the old days, and make the dark seem scarier. We can wake up during the day, it's just dangerous to be out in the bright sun - but if something threatened our lives, we would wake up and deal with it. You stand as much of a chance of being stabbed through the heart right now, as you would if you were one of us. Well. Except you could kill a human attacker easily with your bare hands if you were turned."

Scotty nodded, feeling himself relax just a little. He hadn't realized how much the common superstitions about vampires had worried him. "I... I still..." He couldn't quite phrase what he wanted to say, but he was still concerned about some things. "Would I still be free to live where I want, and... I mean... are there rules or something? If you change me, am I... would I be... indebted to you?"

"Sort of," Nyota said. "But you wouldn't be our slave, if that's what you're concerned about. You wouldn't be forced to obey us - it would just be wise to take our advice. If we change you, it's our responsibility to train you, and teach you how to survive. Once you are able to live on your own, you can live wherever you want, and do what you want to a certain extent, just like in human society."

"There are social norms to which you would do best to conform," Spock replied. "For example, we are members of a Household - a small group of vampires that are pledged to support and protect one another. Christopher is the Head of this Household, and if we change you, you will automatically be 'born' into this house. That means you will be expected to respect and obey the leader of the house, or risk being declared 'out of favor'."

Scotty shuddered. "Can't exactly see anyone disobeying him," he said softly. "W-what happens if you're out of favor?"

"Either banishment or death depending on the rules of the house," Spock replied calmly


"Don't worry," Nyota said. "That depends on the nature of the offense, and the Head of the House. You'd have to do something pretty outrageous to warrant death in our House. Attack one of the other family members and try to kill them, for example."

Scotty nodded. "I see. I..." He looked away from them, and looked down at his invention. Unless there was some miraculous breakthrough of massive proportions, the potential of his work wouldn't be fully realized for decades. Probably over a hundred years, if he was honest with himself. But... turning into them? It was like making a deal with the devil, wasn't it? What if they were lying to him about how hard it was to get killed in this house? From the second he saw Christopher, he had the feeling that the older man could have killed him as easily as Scotty might kill an ant, and with as much forethought.

But then, they hadn't lied to him before. All this time, they'd been perfectly honest - even back when they had him tied to a bed, ready to drain him. In spite of his fear of them, and of coming to this house, he felt that they were two people he could actually trust. And they had defended him when Christopher had control of him.

In the end, though, it wasn't the fact that he felt he could trust them that was his deciding factor. It was the science. The thought of being able to finish his invention himself pulled him like a Siren, and although he was still afraid of the unknown, he couldn't make himself resist. Before he could think of any other ways to talk himself out of it, he turned back to the couple. "Alright," he said. "I want it. What do I have to do?"

Spock looked vaguely pleased, and Nyota smiled warmly. She approached him slowly, her eyes gleaming with that same, unnatural intensity that he'd seen once before. "Come to our room," she said. "We'll want some privacy."

Scotty glanced at his "lantern", and Spock said, "Put it away, and bring it with you, Mr. Scott."

"Okay." He disassembled the invention, feeling their eyes on him as he moved - his hands shaking slightly. When everything was back in the case, and it was latched and locked, he turned back to the couple. Nyota extended her hand to him, and he moved toward her. She slipped her arm into his, and the couple guided him out of the room.

They took him to a large bedroom, again well furnished but uncluttered. Once inside, Spock closed the door, and Nyota took the case away from him and set it against one wall. The two came back, and Spock pulled off his own jacket and began taking his shirt off. Scotty followed suit, pulling off his jacket, and nervously working at the buttons on his shirt. Nyota slipped off her outer shirt to reveal a dark, low-cut tank top. Scotty lowered his eyes, his hands shaking harder. The situation was so surreal - he felt almost as if he were preparing for a menage a trois - or his own funeral, he couldn't be sure.

Scotty fumbled with the buttons for a few seconds, before Nyota came toward him. She gently moved his hands out of the way and undid the last few buttons herself. She slid the shirt off his shoulders and led him to the bed. "You don't have to be afraid," she whispered, gesturing for him to sit. She stroked his hair, and Scotty glanced nervously toward Spock. He was busy hanging Scotty's shirt up next to his own on one of the chairs in the room, apparently unconcerned with his wife's activities.

Nyota placed a cool hand on his cheek and forced his gaze back to her. "Don't worry. It won't hurt." She smiled, and Scotty found himself slowly beginning to relax. Nyota lowered her head and kissed his neck gently. Scotty shuddered and closed his eyes, reasoning that if Spock didn't like what she was doing, she wouldn't be doing it in front of him. Nyota continued to kiss him, lowering him slowly to the bed, and Scotty felt himself growing more and more comfortable with each passing second. He felt her begin to nibble him, almost playfully. There was a slightly sharper pinch, but instead of shocking him, the sensation seemed to push him deeper into the soothing "zone" he was in.

Scotty felt like he was floating. He found himself smiling, and he couldn't even bring himself to be concerned when Spock laid down on his other side. There was another pinch on his neck, and Scotty closed his eyes again and allowed himself to float. Too soon, though, he began to feel cold. He shivered, and folded his arms to his chest, but the chill only got worse, until he was shaking uncontrollably. He opened his eyes, alarmed. Nyota was there, smiling down at him. "Don't be afraid," she whispered. She brought her wrist to her lips, and tore a deep gash in her skin. Blood welled up, and she held her wrist to Scotty's mouth.

He thought he would balk, but the moment the blood touched his tongue, he was consumed by an overwhelming desire to have more. He latched onto her wrist, and sucked the liquid down, not caring what it tasted like - only that it helped quell the awful chill, and it felt like heaven itself spreading through his body. She pulled her wrist away long before Scotty was ready to let go. He reached for her, almost pleading, but she didn't come back. Instead, Spock extended his wrist to Scotty.

The young engineer gasped. The liquid welling from Spock's veins was not red. It was a deep, rich green. He looked nervously at Spock. "Wh-what are... wh-where are you from?"

"I am from Seattle, Washington," Spock replied, eliciting a sharp, near-hysterical giggle from Scotty. "But my species resides primarily on Epsilon Eridani Forty, or Vulcan, as we prefer to call it."

"My god," Scotty whispered. "How-"

"Drink," Spock said, lowering his wrist. "The change is not complete. I will tell you more when you have recovered."


"Our blood is compatible, Mr. Scott," he said. "I can be nourished by Human blood, and you can be nourished by that of a Vulcan. Drink."

Scotty tentatively began to take some of Spock's blood. It tasted different, but the feeling was the same - a heady rush of heat throughout his body, that finally put an end to the nagging chill. When Spock finally pulled away, Scotty lay back on the bed, panting softly, and waiting for... something to happen. Nyota slowly stroked his hair, while Spock healed his own wrist.

Suddenly, Scotty felt his body growing stiff. He looked sharply at Nyota, frightened when he tried to raise his arm, and it wouldn't move. "I..." The effort he felt he would need to form a sentence was so great that he couldn't continue, but his panic levels skyrocketed.

"It's alright," Nyota said soothingly. "The change is happening. It will be uncomfortable but it won't last long."

Scotty tried to relax, but it was difficult with every part of his body seeming to freeze. At some point, he stopped breathing, and it was the most shocking, terrifying thing of all. What if he was really dying? His chest just stopped, and though he could see Nyota stroking his head, and her lips moving in what he thought must be encouraging words, he couldn't feel or hear her. All he could hear was the sound of his own heart pounding, and what sounded like rushing water, which he could only assume was his blood.

Eventually, even that stopped, and though he struggled not to do close his eyes, his vision went dark. There was an absolutely terrifying moment that seemed to last forever, where there was nothing at all. No sound, no light, no physical sensation at all - nothing. Only his own panicked thoughts.

After what felt like an eternity, Scotty felt his chest heave with a rasping breath. He opened his eyes, taking deep, shuddering breaths, looking around wildly. The room seemed extremely bright, and it was difficult to focus. Warm hands touched his face, and he forced himself to focus on the smiling, benevolent face of Nyota.

"It's all right," she said, sounding almost loud, even though he could tell she was whispering. "Everything is all right."

Scotty kept his eyes on her face, as he slowly began to regain mobility in his limbs. He wiggled fingers and toes, moved his arms and legs, and finally, tried to sit up. Nyota helped him into a sitting position, forcing him to move slowly. "Is... is it done?" he asked, almost surprised by how normal his voice sounded. He'd half expected to sound like a stranger - his body felt so different.

"Yes, it's done. You're changed. How do you feel?"

"I..." He paused to evaluate his body. Yes, he definitely felt different, but the differences were difficult to describe. He felt... lighter. Stronger, though how he could evaluate that without testing his strength, he wasn't sure. The twinge in his back from sleeping sitting up in his work chair last night was gone, as was the tenderness in his leg where he'd walked into his coffee table last week was also gone. He still felt that the room was quite bright, though all the lamps had been turned off. There were odd sounds that seemed to be coming from everywhere at once. He could hear the hum of traffic, though they were on a quiet street, and he heard sounds of night insects, like crickets and other such creatures.

"I... I feel fine. Good," he amended. "Very good, actually."

She smiled. "You're probably hearing and seeing a lot more than you're used to." He nodded. "It may seem overwhelming at first, but you'll soon get used to it."

He smiled, flexing his arms. He felt energized - felt the urge to run, or jump, or punch a wall just to see if it would break. "Am I stronger now?" he asked. "I feel stronger, but-"

"You already have increased strength, yes," Spock replied. "Since you have shared my blood, your strength may be greater than an average vampire of your age. You may also find it easier to sense the emotions of others, although that is not guaranteed.

Scotty smiled. "Wow. Thank you, sir." He looked at Nyota. "Thank you so much. I... I've never felt like this before. I... I feel invincible! I don't know how to repay you."

Nyota laughed and hugged him, kissing his cheek. "This is our gift to you!"

"We consider it a fit reward for the work you have done, and the work you will do," Spock said.

Scotty nodded again. "I'll do my best not to disappoint you."

"I know you will," Spock replied. "Though I find it highly unlikely that you will disappoint us, if you continue as you have begun."

Scotty smiled, and Nyota tugged his arm gently. "Come, let's go out," she said, still smiling. "You'll be okay without feeding tonight, but we should take you around so you can learn your strength and your capabilities."

"Sounds good to me."

They got up, and Scotty looked for his shirt and jacket. He touched a hand to his neck before putting his white shirt on, but there was no blood, nor even the faint hint of a cut from where they'd bitten him. They dressed quickly, though Scotty barely managed to do so without ripping his shirt. His strength had definitely increased and he forced himself to slow down and be gentle with the cloth, lest he end up with nothing to wear.

Scotty squinted when he stepped into the hall - a hall that had seemed almost too dim to him before. The few lamps that lit the hall were almost too bright to look at, and he found himself shading his eyes. "That will get better, too, after a while," Nyota assured him.

They headed downstairs, but when they neared the door, Christopher came out of the sitting room. Scotty froze, feeling almost guilty - like a kid who'd been caught elbow-deep in the cookie jar. He edged slightly closer to Nyota, not trusting Christopher's warm smile.

"Well, look who's joined the House," Christopher said. Scotty kept silent, glancing nervously at the man's face before lowering his gaze.

"He's a genius," Nyota said with authority. Scotty blushed - or thought he did. He wasn't sure how it worked now that he was changed. "Wait until you see what he's done so far."

"If he's impressed the two of you enough to turn him, then I'm sure it's amazing," Christopher said. "We'll talk about it later, right Scotty?"

"S-sure, yes, sir," Scotty said quietly.

Christopher smiled. "Good thing I got that little taste when I did," he said softly. Scotty shuddered, but Christopher didn't seem to notice (or maybe he just didn't care). "You're in good hands," he said, patting Scotty on the arm. "These two will teach you all you need to know."

Scotty nodded, huddling still closer to Nyota. She stroked Scotty's other arm and smiled at Chris. "Have a nice night, Chris. Are you going out?"

"Not tonight," Chris replied. "Going to catch up on some reading." He nodded at Spock. "Good evening, Ny. Spock."

"Good evening, Christopher," Spock replied.

They parted ways, and Scotty fought the urge to glance back at the older man. "God, he scares me," Scotty whispered as they left the house.

"You don't have to fear him," Nyota said. Scotty was unconvinced. "Respect him, yes, but as long as you don't break the House rules, you have nothing to fear from him. He's the Head of our House, which means he's pledged to protect us. He's your ally now."

"Right," Scotty replied. "Well I'd hate to think what it would be like to have him for an enemy."

"Indeed," Spock said. "But do not concern yourself unnecessarily, Mr. Scott. We will guide you, and if you follow our instructions, you will avoid the actions that could lead to losing Christopher's favor, or offending any other Household leaders."

Scotty nodded, and Nyota smiled. "Alright, enough of that worried look." She tapped him playfully on the arm and winked. "You're it. Catch me if you can!" A second later, she was gone.

Scotty gasped, not only from shock at her incredible speed, but from the fact that he could now see her moving through the streets, rather than feeling as if she had literally disappeared. He tore his eyes away long enough to glance at Spock. The other man seemed both exasperated and ever so slightly amused. "Go ahead, Mr. Scott," he said. "You are... 'it', not I."

Scotty felt a broad grin spread across his face. He looked back, focusing on Nyota, who was now so far away she seemed like a pinpoint in the distance. She stopped, her tiny figure seeming almost microscopic, since he knew he shouldn't be able to see the amount of details that he did when she was so far away. She turned and stuck her tongue out at him, then was off again. Scotty laughed, then crouched ever so slightly, and sprang after her.

"Are you ready for this?"

Scotty smiled, but he was nervous as he could be. "Ready as I'll ever be, I suppose."

Chris smiled, and nodded slightly. "Good enough. Jim, Spock, are we set?"


"Yes, sir."

"I have the channel open to the ground tower," Nyota said. "We're good."

"And Pavel, Hikaru, you've got our coordinates loaded properly."

"Aye, aye, Captain!" Pavel said, saluting Chris with a chuckle.

"Watch it, you little runt," Chris snapped, but there was a playful gleam in his eyes.

"Hey," Hikaru said indignantly.

"You'll never convince me he's over eighteen."

"I'm over two hundred!"

"Still a baby," Chris said dismissively. "You'd just better be ready to control this boat when we get moving, you and Hikaru both."

"Is anybody gonna ask me if I'm ready?" Scotty grinned at Jim's companion, sitting ramrod straight in his chair, checking and re-checking his restraints. "Because I'm NOT."

"Aw, c'mon, Bones, you'll be fine," Jim said. "And I don't know why you're strapped in. I told you, that's what the inertial dampener is for."

The doctor glared at his bright-eyed, chipper lover. "I'm just an old country doctor, and I don't know a damn thing about an inertial whoosy-whatsit. I'm using the seatbelt."

"I assure you, Doctor," Spock said. "If the inertial dampener fails, a 'seatbelt' will not be of assistance considering the speeds we will be traveling."

"What is that pointy-eared calculator talking about?" Leonard snapped. "I-"

"Has no one explained the details of-"

"Hell no," Jim cried. "He never would have come if-"

"Wait, what are you-"

"All right!" Chris snapped. Silence fell immediately, and Scotty found himself cringing slightly even though he no longer truly feared Christopher - not most of the time, anyway. "This is an auspicious moment," he said. "We've all worked very hard to get here, and no one more than Scotty himself." There were nods and murmurs of approval. Jim clapped Scotty on the back. "Now, the Space Exploration Council is counting on us to make an impression with this thing, and I hope we can give them their money's worth." Christopher turned to look at Scotty, and gave him a small smile. Then he turned back to the forward monitor, through which the multitude of stars could be seen - so close, and so real out here. "Final systems check," Chris said.

"Systems are operating at full efficiency," Spock announced after a moment.

Chris nodded. "Mr. Scott?"

"Aye, sir?"

"Punch it."


Book 1: Enthralled
Book 3: Return to the Fold
Book 4: Young One
Book 5: The Hand of Providence

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