Rating (both art/fic): PG-13
Genre/Pairing: AOS/Reboot | Comedy/Adventure | Gen, reference to Kirk/Gaila
Word Count: 8,300
Warnings: Some language and sensuality, light discussion of physical and mental influence (aka: the Mind-Whammy).
Fic Summary: Jim Kirk knew he owed Gaila after the Kobayashi Maru, but liberating Orion dancers from a strip club hadn't exactly been what he'd had in mind.
Link to Art: On DeviantArt
Notes: Written for the trekreversebang challenge - where the artists inspire the story. Many thanks to everyone who assured me I could finish, and especially to shetiger for clutching my hand very tightly and to reccea, whose fault everything is, always. The title is from One Night in Bankok because I am a dork.
(Bars are Temples) But the Pearls Ain't Free
No lie. Captaining a starship was pretty damn cool. Jim Kirk had the best crew in the history of Starfleet, the warp drive was the most incredible rush in the history of ever, and the Enterprise, well. The Enterprise hummed around him like his mother singing him to sleep and it was like finally coming home from a place he'd never belonged.
Pike hadn't told him about the paperwork, though. No one had, and that was clearly one of the things they never taught at the Academy because if they had, no one would have bothered to graduate, let alone work their asses off to get a command.
"Bones," he said helplessly. "Bones, it's eating me."
"What is?" McCoy asked from his own side of the lunch table. He was deeply engrossed in his own PADD, a clear sign the paperwork was sucking him under as well.
"The forms," Jim said. "The requests. The requisitions. These things that the yeomen give me that I sign without looking at. Who knows what I've signed off on in the past week?"
Bones just grunted. "Be happy you live in the twenty-third century. Imagine if all this was real paper."
The thought's more than a little alarming and Jim glances around the mess hall for Spock. Surely it's only logical for the First Officer to handle something as potentially dangerous as the paperwork. Unfortunately, in his scan of the room, he locked eyes with a denizen of an entirely different planet and she focused in on him and started cutting through tables and people to get to him.
"Incoming," he murmured urgently, trying to stack his PADD onto his tray, warn Bones, and escape with said tray at the same time. "We have incoming. Evasive maneuvers."
"What?" Bones asked, looking up and blinking, because he was completely useless as a wingman.
Jim sighed. He was caught and there was no escape. "Never mind," he muttered dropping everything in a heap and turning his extremely important and absorbed attention to his PADD. Unfortunately, the screen that was up was an intraship memo from the Chief Medical Officer, warning everyone about STDs on shore leave. Jim had just barely enough time to wonder if Bones had been quietly and methodically ruining his life since they day they met, and then Gaila was on the bench beside him.
"Jim Kirk," she said, her voice curling sensuously around the syllables of his name.
Jim braced himself and looked up at her with his best smile. "Gaila, hi," he said. "They're actually going with the 'captain' title these days, actually. Maybe you missed the memo? There's a hell of a lot of paperwork going around here...."
"We slept together," Gaila said, catching the attention of at least six other people within earshot. "I think I can call you Jim."
Jim cleared his throat because he couldn't really argue with that. His best smile was faltering, failing him just like Bones and his rank. He didn't have much else to lose at this point. "So," he started, "I really meant to find you and apologize for um, well, I guess one could say that I kind of...used...you the day of the Kobayashi Maru test," he started.
"Yes," Gaila said dismissively. "Sharli told me all about that little episode. Really, Jim? I know we all have the same color skin but so do Terrans and yet, somehow I can track you down in a crowded room."
"Um," Jim said eloquently.
"But that's not why I wanted to talk to you," Gaila continued. "I have a favor to ask and I think at this point, you owe me one."
Across the table, Bones coughed and a message box popped up on Jim's PADD screen. He glanced over, hoping against hope that it was Chekov notifying him of a Romulan attack, but it was only Bones, asking, "Is it a sexual favor?" and then, "You did read the memo I circulated on disease transmission, right?" Jim schooled his face into thoughtful attentiveness and gazed earnestly at Gaila.
"What can I do for you?" he asked.
"Listen," she said, with as much gravity as he'd ever seen from her. "Three of my sisters on Orion IV want to do what I did. They want to leave the colonies and come to the Federation to join Starfleet."
"You have three sisters?" Jim asked, knowing - knowing - that was not the point of this conversation and completely unable to help himself anyway.
"At least," Bones said, looking up. "She said three of her sisters. You have more than three sisters?"
"I have a lot of sisters," Gaila said, and then reached over to push Bones' PADD away gently. "One of them would love you. She's well-versed in the healing arts and wants to study to be a doctor."
Bones coughed and flushed and Jim could already see this sliding out of control.
"So where do I come in?" he asked. "Do they need a reference?"
"Actually," Gaila said with hopeful smile. "They need a ride."
"You do know I don't get to take this ship wherever I want," Jim said to Gaila when they were on one side of his office door - he had an office, which he hadn't realized for about five weeks - and Bones was on the other.
"But you can request missions," Gaila reasoned, "and you can detour for supplies or shore leave or, or, repairs! Jim, come on," she pleaded. "These girls want to be free to study, and travel, and join Starfleet! You don't want to be the one to hold them back, do you?"
It was a ridiculous question, because of course Jim didn't. Even if they weren't Gaila's sisters, few Orions ventured into Federation activities and it was widely suspected that the green-skinned women of the Orion worlds were still being held and traded as slave dancers - and who knew what else. "No, of course not," he said. "Just...they can't hop a shuttle? Maybe buy passage on a Federation trade vessel? Are there no legal methods of transit available?"
"Not for them," Gaila said. "They live in a heavily guarded compound and they would be missed if they disappeared for more than an hour or so. And they have very little money. Please, Jim. It's not like Federation vessels stop often on Orion IV." Her eyes welled up and Jim cringed.
"Okay, okay," he said quickly. "Give me some time. Let me see what I can work out. Just...don't cry." For the love of God, he added in his mind, just don't cry. He stood up from his perch on the edge of the desk and Gaila threw her arms around his neck.
"Thank you!" she said. "I knew I could count on you."
"Okay, okay," Jim said, patting her shoulder. "Let's not do any counting yet." He walked her to the office door and let her out, then turned with a sigh to his next guests. "Bones, Spock," he said resignedly. "Come on in."
Bones and Spock trooped in, looking fierce and skeptical, respectively.
"The doctor has briefed me on Lieutenant Gaila's request," Spock said. Orions appeared to come with only one name, which was a little disconcerting when it sounded like Spock was calling her by her first name. "He believes her siblings are being held in violation of the Federation's anti-slavery compacts. Do you hold the same belief?"
Jim shrugged. "She said they lived in a compound, didn't have money, and would be missed if they left. That sounds pretty sketchy to me."
"If you share this belief," Spock said, "the course of action prescribed by regulation is to file a formal statement of complaint with the Bureau of Civil Rights and have an inspection team dispatched to Orion IV."
"Spock, all that bureaucracy is going to take months," Bones protested. "Years if they file sanctions and Orion IV disputes. How are you going to get three young women off that planet in the middle of all that red tape?"
"I do not believe either the Orions or the Federation inspection teams use tape as a manner of detention," Spock said. "Nonetheless, your concern for the good of a few of your friend's relatives appears to take priority over the freedom and well-being of many."
"It's a saying, you green-livered walking calculator," Bones snapped. "An idiom. And I'm not choosing three over thousands. I'm just saying that it may be better to get them out of that situation, and then file the paperwork."
"Okay, okay," Jim said loudly before Spock could rejoin. "Look, it's not logical to file a complaint without some kind of evidence, right?" he said and didn't wait for Spock's answer. "And we don't have any. If we happen to visit Gaila's home planet and she happens to bring some of us to visit her family and they happen to be treated as slaves, then we can go back to the Federation and report what we've seen, right? And then we'll have proof. And witnesses."
Spock opened his mouth and closed it again. Jim wasn't sure if he'd actually defeated him with logic or if Spock had found a logical flaw in Jim's reasoning and just didn't want to be bound by it. Spock was a big softy underneath that prickly - and pointed - exterior and Gaila was Uhura's roommate.
"Both of you get out of here," Jim said. "If I do something that happens not to be prescribed by regulation, it's on me." He glanced up at Bones and Spock, neither of whom seemed inclined to change position. "You're dismissed, gentlemen," he said loudly and they finally turned and left, Spock's lifted eyebrow somehow managing to be the last part of him to leave.
Bones had said it was better to ask forgiveness than permission - maybe not in those words, but the message had certainly gotten across - so Jim followed them onto the bridge and told Sulu to set a course for the Denebian system. He calculated that would take them within sensor and comm range of Orion within two days. From there, well, whatever happened would clearly be the prescribed response to regulations, right?
"Lieutenant Uhura," Jim added as he headed for the turbolift. "Do me and a favor and send a message to Starfleet Command. Let them know we're traveling to the Denebian system to witness the eclipse of the moons of Deneb VI."
Uhura raised her eyebrows and cast him a sidelong glance. The eclipse of the moons of Deneb VI happened once a year and had been faithfully monitored by the Vulcan Science Academy. There was really no need for continued observation - the remnants of the Vulcan race certainly didn't care anymore. But she just said, "Yes, Captain," and began punching buttons.
Jim took the turbolift down to the residential deck and found the stateroom Gaila and Uhura shared. "Lieutenant Gaila?" he said when she answered. "Here's what we're gonna do."
"Captain, receiving transmission from Orion IV," Lieutenant Uhura said, swiveling in her chair.
I love it when a plan comes together, Jim thought, signing off on something without looking at it and handing it back to the blonde yeoman. "Put it on speaker," he said.
...Request...Orion IV...transport from...escape...Kah Banyana...offplanet...held...beg of you...Federation ships within the sound of our voices...
"There's a lot of interference, Captain," Uhura said dutifully. "The transmission is incomplete."
Jim attempted to look thoughtful. "Orion IV is Lieutenant Gaila's home planet, isn't it?" he said to the bridge at large.
"Yes, Captain," Uhura said in a voice like sugared violets. It went well with the delicate swish Jim always imagined when she rolled her eyes at him.
"Excellent," Jim said, clapping his hands against the arms of the command chair and hopping to his feet. "Spock, Chekov, you're with me. Lieutenant, please have Doctor McCoy and Lieutenant Gaila meet us in the transporter room."
"Yes, sir," Uhura said and Jim imagined he could hear the swish. Spock met Jim at the turbolift, having crossed by the comm station to absolutely not brush his fingers across Uhura's arm, and Chekov bounded out of his chair and nearly beat Jim to the door.
Scotty put them down on the outskirts of the city where Uhura had traced the transmission, rocky terrain interrupted by the occasional orange or gold flower pushing through the cracks.
"I should take off my uniform," Gaila said when they were close enough to hear music and the bustle of transport. "An Orion woman in Starfleet uniform is going to cause a lot of trouble. If I can blend in, I'll be able to make contact with my sisters and get them out."
Chekov blinked. "They are your sisters?" he asked.
"Turn around," Jim told him, stopping and hiking his foot up on a small outcropping. He had his back to Gaila and Spock and Bones had done the same. Chekov did, quickly, and flushing.
"Are you guys going to walk backward all the way into the city?" Gaila asked, that same swish of an eyeroll in her voice as clothing rustled behind them. "Because it's not like I'm putting anything else on."
"We're just...being gentlemen," Jim tried, suddenly gripped with a need to see just what it was Gaila was going to walk into the city wearing. She had quite an impressive collection of lingerie if he remembered correctly, and the Orion dancers weren't exactly known for their modesty.
"Lieutenant Gaila is correct," Spock said, executing a crisp about-face beside him. "It is illogical to feign modesty when - " He cleared his throat and turned back around.
"He forgot about the strip-tease factor," Bones stage-whispered and Jim had the feeling he was going to be sending the entire away team, himself included, to sexual harassment training when this was over.
"You can turn around now," Gaila called.
They pivoted like a row of unruly schoolboys and Gaila struck a pose, one hand on her hip and the other in the air. "What do you think?" she demanded.
"It's, uh," Jim tried, his mouth dry. She was wearing a shimmery gold bandeau top, matching bikini bottoms and a sheer gold skirt that was slit up each side. He imagines she had the knee-length panels tucked up under the waistband when she was wearing her uniform skirt, then decides not to imagine that any more this mission.
"It is very very pretty," Chekov says with the kind of sincerity only a seventeen-year-old can muster.
"It is indeed aesthetically pleasing," Spock agrees, though his attention is split by his tricorder. "I suggest we continue our approach to the city. It would be wise to put as much time as possible between our departure and whatever curfew may cause absences to be noticed."
Bones, Jim noticed, wisely kept his opinions to himself.
"All right," he agreed with a nod at Spock. "Let's move out."
Gaila tucked her uniform and boots into a crevice under the outcropping Jim had been bracing his foot on. Bones rustled around in his bag and handed her a flat pair of sandals that seemed to disappear when she slipped them on her feet.
"Don't you want a...cloak or something?" Jim asked as she led them down some main thoroughfares that looked like residential streets.
"Why would I want that?" Gaila asked, her eyes round and curious. "Then people couldn't see me."
Jim blinked. Orion IV was warm, but not as hot as Vulcan, whose citizens went around in turtleneck sweaters, had once been. The desert nights had been cold, Spock assured him, but that didn't explain the ridiculously heavy cloaks they wore all day. "Don't you get cold?" he asked.
Gaila shook her head. "Don't you get hot with all those clothes on?" she replied, turning them down a city street, a minor one, with closed shops and a few sleepy eateries.
"No," Jim said, and it came out a little defensive. He resisted the urge to cross his arms over his chest - it wasn't like anyone was going to steal his uniform shirt away.
Gaila beamed at him and paused at the corner of an alley and a little stone garden. "This is it," she said. "I'll go in this way, you go to the end of the block and turn right, then right again. The place is called Kah Bayana's. You can't miss it."
"Two hours," Jim reminded her, as if she wasn't the one who designed the plan.
"Two hours," she said, slipping into the darkness. He watched her go, the shimmer of her outfit catching the light of the brightly colored lanterns that line the streets.
"Come on," he said to the rest of the away team. "Let's go get Chekov laid."
There were a few things Jim hadn't quite gotten around to explaining to Ensign Chekov when he'd picked him for the away team. A few important things, like that this was a pre-planned extraction mission that wasn't necessarily sanctioned by Starfleet.
Also that he was their way in to Kah Bayana's.
"Excuse what?" Chekov said as they approached the doorway. He gave every appearance of a puppy who wanted to dig in his heels and yank against the leash as they pulled him to the vet.
"Come on, kid," Bones said, slinging an arm around his neck. "We're just a bunch of Starfleet officers on shore leave, looking for a little fun, and to get our little buddy laid."
"Bozhe moi," Chekov muttered, letting Bones drag him along and Jim considered taking pity on him and explaining that it was just a ploy to get them through the door and maybe take some of the attention away from whatever Gaila was doing in the...living quarters.
Jim had a feeling her word for them roughly translated to "harem" but wouldn't mean the same thing at all. He thought maybe, when they got back, he should ask Gaila more about her planet, because he was pretty sure he was walking around blind, here.
The closer they got to the door, the more Chekov dragged his feet. Jim glanced back at Bones, who got he message immediately.
"Buck up, kid," Bones ordered, getting his hand in Chekov's collar and steering him forward. "Anyway, it's a strip club, not a brothel. No exotic space diseases for you tonight."
Jim wasn't sure if the look on Chekov's face was disappointment or relief.
Kah Bayana's took up the whole block and looked like a cross between the Taj Mahal and a futon store. Jim led the way to the door and waved his credit chip over the debiter.
"Shore Leave," he said conversationally to the bouncers. "Kid's never seen a naked girl. Figure the Vulcan needed to cut loose, too."
Spock's eyebrow went up but he managed not to screw up Jim's cover story.
"Two drink minimum," one of the bouncers said, because some things were universal. "No touching the girls." He leered. "Unless they ask."
Jim tried not to look too disgusted as he led his merry band through the front door. After all, that had gone far more smoothly than he'd expected.
Inside, Kah Bayana's was dimly lit by more of the lanterns from the street, and small globes hanging from the ceiling and pulsing with soft light. Larger globes served as spotlights for the dancers on the stage. The stage itself was a half-oval that extended from a back wall and narrowed into a runway that stretched across half the room. Poles studded the runway every eight feet or so and several of them were wrapped with gyrating green bodies. Tables and velvet-appointed booths clustered on the edge of the shadows and against the side walls, respectively, but if you wanted a front-row view, you had to stand.
Jim had always been appreciative of the humanoid form - and actually a few others - and he could think of worse ways to fill two hours.
"Bones," he said, handing over the drink chits that came with the cover charge. "We need to blend in. Can you make the bar run?"
"Sure," Bones said. "You'd better go catch up with your protege, there."
Jim looked around to see Chekov drifting toward the runway, eyes huge and a wistful smile on his face. "C'mon, Spock," he ordered. "Let's get you some insight into human behavior."
"I am sure," Spock said, nonetheless trailing Jim dutifully to the runway, "that I have excellent access to as much human behavior as I wish in order to gain insight."
"'As much as you wish' is not the same as what you need," Jim corrected. "It's not logical to self-select your experiences."
They'd finally caught up to Chekov, who clearly didn't need their help. One Orion dancer was stretched out in front of him, smiling into his lovestruck face, while another knelt next to him, fingering his tousled curls.
Jim gestured to the second girl. "What the hell is that?" he asked rhetorically.
"What did you expect?" Bones said, arriving at Jim's shoulder with drinks. "He's a baby, he's eager, he has all those ridiculous curls - he's you, Jim, when you were young. Do you remember what it was like to be that young? God, that was a long time ago."
"As several members of the crew have led me to understand," Spock answered, "you have never been young, Doctor McCoy."
"Har har," Bones said, narrowing his eyes at Spock. "Here, take your drink." He handed Spock a frothy pink beverage in a tall, narrow glass that -
"Bones, is that a - " Jim didn't even want to say it.
"It is indeed," the doctor confirmed, "a penis glass. Here, I got this one for you. It's called a Red Shirt."
"What's in it?" Jim asked, really just glad he wasn't carrying around a penis glass.
"Hell if I know," Bones answered. "Pass this on to Chekov, if you can drag him away from the stage," he said, passing Jim a second glass.
"White Russian!" Bones said gleefully. "It's mostly ice cream anyway." He took a sip of his own drink, a mint julep that probably wasn't exactly right from the way Bones grimaced.
"You can't drink it anyway," Jim said. "If any of us get drunk, this whole plan goes out the airlock."
"Don't worry," Bones said. "I made sure nothing was too strong. Except yours. I'm not quite sure what's in yours."
"Great," Jim said. "As long as it doesn't kill me."
"I think he's dead, Jim."
"Nah," Jim said, then reconsidered. "Comatose, maybe."
"I believe Ensign Chekov is handling the situation remarkably well," Spock countered.
They had managed to acquire a table at some point and one of the waitresses, who wasn't wearing much more than the strippers, was sitting on Chekov's lap and reciting the entire drink menu from memory.
Jim was starting to get antsy. Gaila hadn't sent the all-clear signal yet and they were running up on the prearranged deadline. He checked his chrono again and sketched his eyes over the artificial dimensions of the room. The compound sprawled the entire block and Gaila said many of the buildings sat atop networks of tunnels and caves that separated into naturally formed rooms. This wasn't a place Jim wanted to get lost.
It didn't help Jim's frame of mind when Gaila strutted through the stage curtains as the next dancer on the runway. He paced as far as he could, shouldering in between other patrons, trying to catch her attention in a room full of guys trying to catch her attention. Finally, he realized lifting his eyebrows and hoping really hard wouldn't work so he folded his arms over his chest and leaned back, the exact opposite of what every single other person was doing.
That caught her eye right away and she circled the pole, shapely calves crossed in front of it as she stretched out on the floor, arms reaching for him. She tilted her head back, her eyes finding his upside down.
"What are you doing out here?" he hissed.
"Looking for you," Gaila whispered back, unwinding her legs from the pole and rolling onto her stomach. "I can't find them, I need more time."
"What do you mean you can't find them?" Jim couldn't help but ask. Gaila's breasts - lovely as they were when she arched her back and touched her toes to the top of her head and wow, she had to be really bendy to that that - were not interesting when his plan was falling apart before his eyes.
"Uh, what is usually means when someone says she can't find someone," Gaila retorted, when she'd managed to roll onto all fours. She tossed her hair back and pushed to just her knees, reaching back and finding the pole, apparently by guess.
Jim shrugged, holding his hands up, because this was her party, and Plan B was totally up to her. But Gaila just shrugged and wrapped herself around the pole and mouthed, "Do something!" and Jim was left with nothing.
Gaila hadn't had holos of the girls so Jim wouldn't know them if he got a lap dance from them. And that was assuming he could even get back to the living quarters. The doors on either side of the stage were guarded by rather large, imposing-looking bouncers. The stage was a long wooden scaffold with gauzy curtains on the edge, covering the distance to the floor. Jim looked at them, followed the stretch of stage back to a trio of archways covered with curtains, where the girls entered. The stage had to extend past them, beyond the walls and the doors that were so well guarded.
Jim edged one foot under the curtains lining the stage and found nothing inhibiting his movement. He was able to slide his foot several paces down until he bumped up against a wooden strut. Well, this wasn't going to go down as a crowning moment of glory in his so far pretty epic captaincy, but Jim Kirk did what he had to do.
Bones was on the other side of the stage, explaining something to Chekov - probably anatomy because Jim knew what he looked like when he was explaining Certain Death By Space Disease - he was well-acquainted with that look - and that wasn't it. Unfortunately, that left him with Spock as a wingman.
"Spock," he whispered, knowing the Vulcan's excellent hearing would pick up his voice. "Cover me."
Spock lifted an eyebrow and Jim knew he had to act before he was barraged with questions. He flipped his communicator off his belt and onto the floor, said, "Oops," for anyone who might be listening, and knelt down to get it. Spock stepped around him, blocking Jim from sight as he lifted the curtain and ducked into the stage scaffolding. The struts and support bars were at logical distances and configurations but it was dark and Jim took a couple of bumps to the head before he was able to anticipate the placement and crawl to the back of the construct.
It seemed just as likely for there to be guards on this side of the stage as the other, so Jim lifted the edge of the curtain carefully and watched bare green ankles and feet flit back and forth in the little rectangle of his sight. No boots, heavy and graceless, though, so he took a chance and edged his way out, down near the corner, away from the door and just away from the bulk of the activity.
It didn't keep him from being noticed, though. He was hoping the gathering faces were curious, not suspicious, and wow, that was a lot of green skin, smooth and curved and stretched around miles of muscle and bone. He couldn't not look, but the firm hand on his elbow was welcome and Gaila's voice in his ear saying, "He's with me," felt like a rescue.
"I'm with her," he said apologetically to his crowd of admirers, and let Gaila drag him off into the shadows.
"We're going to have to do a room by room search," she said. "We'll start on the lowest floor and work our way up. I'll go in, you cover me."
"Yeah, sounds good," he said. It occurred to him, belatedly, that as captain he should probably be giving the orders but Gaila was familiar with the layout and she was the only one who could identify the women they sought, so it seemed stupid to risk that with posturing.
Gaila was swift and efficient and managed to rule out large numbers of rooms at once. She left Jim in something that looked like a cross between a foyer and a large elevator bank, without the elevators, and ducked into a catacomb of rooms, promising to be back quickly.
Jim paced and then he patrolled, and then he explored, checking around the corners of each end of the hallway, trying to form a mental picture of the place in his head and checking his mental architecture against the small clusters of blueprint Gaila had reproduced freehand and handed to each of them before they left.
He was glancing around what he'd deemed Corner #3 for the second time when he realized someone was looking back at him. Two someone's. Two rather burly someones with disrupters in holsters and some sort of patch that identified security officials in nearly every system Jim had visited.
"Hey!" one of the men shouted and Jim started, hand going automatically to his holstered phaser. "You can't be back here!"
"I'm uh, I'm just looking for - " They were approaching fast so Jim stunned them both before their weapons cleared their holsters. "Gaila!" he called, spinning back on his heel and racing down the corridor. They'd be found eventually and when they were, the shit was going to hit the fan. He found her coming out of a room and jammed on the brakes. "Did you find them?" he asked.
"Not yet," she said. "What happened?"
"I stunned a couple of guards," Jim confessed.
"That wasn't in the plan," she hissed.
"No shit," Jim said, leaning cautiously around a corner. "When they find the guards - "
An alarm went up, drowning out his next words and Jim groaned. Gaila grabbed his arm and dragged him down the hall and turned him into another. Somehow she was faster than him in bare feet - or maybe those little sticky sandals; he couldn't tell if she still had them on - than he was in boots, flitting around corners and dipping in and out of colorfully appointed rooms. He followed her as best he could, standing sentry outside each door until she had checked the rooms, keeping his phaser drawn and cupped in the palm of his hand.
For about four minutes he thought they were doing pretty well and then he turned a corner and ran smack into a pair of guards who already had disrupters drawn and looked like they were hunting for blood. Probably Jim's blood.
"Oh, hey, fellas," he said, lifting one empty palm and trying to slide his phaser into his sleeve as he lifted the other, because as soon as they thought he was a threat, he was going to toast.
"He's with me," Gaila said, appearing from nowhere and wrapping a graceful arm around Jim from behind and crossing it over his heart.
"I'm with her," Jim agreed, letting her drag him fluidly right past the guards and down another corridor. She released him and went to check another room and he blinked stupidly.
"Did you just mind-whammy them?" he asked when she came back. "I think I felt it."
"I just made a suggestion," she said making her way to the next room. The lack of levity in her voice probably should have clued him in to shut up about it but the idea was becoming more and more real in his mind and he was just - mind-whammy?
"You can do that?" he asked.
"We all can," Gaila said shortly.
"Did you do it to me?"
"How do I even know?" Jim asked, a grand conspiracy theory sketching itself out in his head. He knew he wasn't such an easy sell! "You mind-whammied me, didn't you? That's how you convinced me to take this crazy mission."
"First," Gaila said, stopping in a doorway and turning her head up to look at him, "the air scrubbers on the Enterprise keeps the pheromones from building up. So you're safe. Second, they're suggestions. Not orders. Third, it's illegal. And unethical. You agreed to do this because you're a good guy and you used me and you wanted to make it up to me." She turned away to open the door to the room and Jim felt like a jerk. "Jim - "
"Stop where you are!"
"He's with me!" Gaila called, turning away from the door she'd been braced in, but her soft gasp startled him.
"Gaila?" One of the - oh, great, four - guys with guns apparently knew Gaila and the universal translator told Jim his next words were "traitorous mattress whore" which couldn't be right, since the concept of whore didn't actually exist in the Orion lexicon. "You dare show your face here again?" he rumbled, and Gaila did seem substantially insulted.
"You know this guy?" Jim asked. The guy kind of looked like Cupcake, to tell the truth.
"Ex-boyfriend," Gaila sighed, rolling her eyes.
Gaila shrugged, eyes wide.
"Can't you, you know?" Jim tried to convey "mind-whammy" in hand gestures.
Gaila just squinted at him and shook her head. "I think we might need a little more than a suggestion," she said, although Jim was feeling extremely suggestible right now.
Jim was contemplating surrender when the guy nearest him went down, then the next, until the whine of phaser fire finally made itself known to him and all four had gone down like dominos.
"Spock," Jim said, seeing his friend in the hall, finally revealed as the last guard hit the ground, "I could kiss you right now."
"It would be illogical," Spock said, "to commit excessive displays of physical affection when safety is far from assured."
"Also Nyota would kick your ass," Gaila put in.
Spock lifted one eyebrow and then inclined his head.
"Good call," Jim said hurriedly. "Gaila, you know what you have to do. Spock, is Bones with you?"
"He is not," Spock said. "But I shall attempt to locate him with the tricorder. Human lifesigns differ significantly from their Orion counterparts."
"Well," Jim said. "Thank god for technology."
They found Bones in a room hung with gauzy pink and violet draperies, sitting cross-legged on a pillow and talking excitedly to a half-dozen rapt dancers about Rigelian fever.
"Bones!" Jim snapped from the doorway. "Time to go!"
Bones glanced up, the biggest smile Jim had ever seen creasing his face, but Bones wasn't stupid - he knew Jim's serious face and he knew that if Jim said it was time to go, it was probably far past time to go and the trick would be staying ahead of the phasers. He scrambled to his feet, getting immediately and unsolicited help from his court and joined Jim and Spock, calling, "I'll comm you about that!" over his shoulder.
"You'll comm them about what?" Jim asked, leaning out of corridor and deciding maybe it wasn't time to go just yet. He ducked back and looked at Bones.
"Jim, these women have developed treatments for STDs we haven't even encountered yet! And they've been treating catalepsy and Mendakan pox with naturopathic remedies. If I just had a few hours to sit down and work with them, we could make curing some of these things a hell of a lot faster and quite a bit less painful, too. And you should see their innovations in protection and birth control!"
Of course Bones would come to a strip club and want to talk about the prevention and treatment of space herpes. Jim rolled his eyes.
"You roll your eyes at me now," Bones warned, "but when you come crying to me with pustules on your - "
"Thank you, Bones!" Jim interrupted. "Follow me."
They met up with Spock mid-hallway and were joined by Gaila seconds later. "Chekov?" Jim asked.
"My readings indicate that he is on this level," Spock reported. "I believe if we follow this corridor, we should turn left at the intersection."
"Less talking, more running," Bones suggested as the sound of heavy footsteps became louder.
They turned left at that intersection, then left into another hallway and right into an alcove. Spock opened the door to reveal Chekov and three Orion women. They appeared to be feeding him cookies and teaching him to dance. Jim just didn't want to know.
"Time to go, kid," Bones announced.
"You can finish the dance lessons later," Jim added, because he couldn't help himself. "This way," he called, leading the way down the way they came.
"I do not believe this is the method of exit most likely to be unguarded," Spock said as he easily caught up to Jim.
Jim already knew this fact and now that his team was back together, there was only one thing left to do.
Orion guards turned the corner, filling the corridors in front of them, disrupters pointed at their heads. And other vital organs, Jim noticed. He skidded to a halt and turned on his heel, but more Orions were piling into the corridor from the other direction, hemming them in. Jim lifted his hands.
"We surrender," he said.
"I believe Admiral Pike ordered a moratorium on intergalactic incidents," Spock warned.
"It was really more of a request," Jim muttered, tripping forward as the Orion guard behind him dug his disruptor more firmly into Jim's shoulder.
"I do not believe that is an accurate interpretation," Spock said.
"Well, try not to tattle about this one, all right?"
"I did not 'tattle' about the last one," Spock said archly. "I merely included all the facts in my report." His silence echoed with an unspoken, Admiral Pike would have found out anyway, when the tiny planet of Ardana delivered its declaration of war on the Federation.
"No talking," the guard behind Jim said, and steered them all into a large room, lush with silk pillows and drapes, and soft light that diffused everything it touched.
"Bring them forward," ordered a voice, a feminine voice so rich and dense, it made Jim ache to hear it. Its owner rose to her feet. Her skin was the shade of damp moss and her hair fell down her back in a dark curtain. She was older than the other Orion women Jim had seen - he could tell in the curve of her hips, the weight of her breasts, the way her face wore its expressions, the timbre of her voice. She was garbed in velvet edged with silk and her body still lithe and firm. Sensuality and grace soaked her to the core and Jim knew without having to look that Bones and Chekov were as entranced as he was. He just hoped the pheromone mind-whammy didn't work on Spock. Someone had to keep their act together. "Who holds command of this party?" she asked.
Jim stepped forward. "That would be me," he said. "James T. Kirk. Captain of the starship Enterprise."
"A starship captain here?" the woman asked, lifting an eyebrow and moving forward so smoothly Jim couldn't say if she took actual steps or just glided from one position to another. "To what do we owe this honor?"
Jim didn't feel particularly honored with a disrupter still jammed between his shoulder blades, but he had to admire her interrogation technique.
"We intercepted what appeared to be a distress call," he said. "There was a lot of interference. We couldn't be sure. But the name of your establishment was mentioned so I had hoped to investigate quietly."
"And what did you find?" the woman asked. She still hadn't given her name.
Jim lifted both hands, palms up. "A well-run establishment, operating within the standards of the Federation," he said. "No one in distress, no treaty violations. My compliments, Ms...?"
"You may call me Vina," the woman said, the name sighing from her lips. Her eyes glanced over the other members of the group. "It is true that our girls sometimes choose other callings," she confessed sweetly, casting her eyes down before lifting her head and pinning a look over Jim's shoulder. "But they are free to do as they like. Isn't that right, Gaila?"
Jim snapped his head around, looking for Gaila. She stood with her hands clasped in front of her, head down, and the apples of her cheeks a darker green than the rest of her face. "Yes, Matriarch," she murmured.
"Pick your head up, child," Vina said. "You have chosen a life that is not one of the harem. You no longer bow to me."
Jim reminded himself that harem was only the universal translator's version of the Orion word and glanced between Gaila and Vina. "So," he asked, unable to help himself. "Are you - is she - ?"
"No," Vina said, apparently sensing his question more aptly than he could express it. "I did not give life to Gaila. But she was one of mine and I trained her until she chose a different destiny for herself." She smiled. "I am glad to see you dressed traditionally," she said to Gaila. "The uniforms," she added, casting judgmental eyes over Jim and the others, "leave something to be desired."
One of the guards approached her and bowed deeply. "Report," she said to him.
"The bedcheck is completed," he said. "Everyone is in their clusters. No one is missing."
"Thank you," Vina said. She looked back at Jim and he concentrated on not offering her the ship. "Are you satisfied, then, Captain, that your mission has been successfully completed?"
"Yeah," Jim said, trying to remember if he needed to worry about something else. "We're done here."
"Very well," she said. "Then you are free to go, with my good favor. The guards will escort you out." The guards in the back opened the door and let Chekov and Bones pass out of Vina's chamber. "Gaila," she added. "I am pleased you look well. I hope you are happy."
"I am, Matriarch," Gaila said, still flushing. "Thank you for your generosity." She ducked out after the others and Spock followed, carefully bridging the distance between Gaila and Jim.
Jim was nearly out the door, the final guard turning behind him when Vina spoke once more. "Captain Kirk," she said, her voice stretching across the room to tickle down his spine.
"Vina?" he asked, stopping and turning halfway around, careful to keep one eye on Spock and the other members of his team, further down the hall.
"Will you indulge me one favor?" she asked.
"If I can," Jim said after a moment.
"If Christopher Pike still lives," she said. "If possible, please convey my greeting and tell him - " She paused. "Tell him I'm still waiting."
"Well," Jim said as they were unceremoniously dumped on the street in front of Kah Bayana's, "that didn't go too badly."
"Compared to what?" Bones asked.
"The summit on Alpha Centuri," Spock suggested. "Tellar III. The incident with the spores."
"Right, never mind." Bones cast over a disgusted glare that Jim wasn't sure was meant for him or for Spock.
"I am very sorry we did not find your sisters," Chekov ventured as they walked out of town. Jim hoped Gaila knew what she was doing because Pavel's crush on her was exceeding enormous and heading toward all-encompassing.
"Oh, don't be too sorry," Gaila said.
Chekov looked confused. "I do not understand," he said. "We failed in our mission. Your sisters are still somewhere in the city, are they not?"
"One does not always see the whole truth," Spock intoned, "until one sees all the pieces."
"What does that mean?" Chekov asked as they drew within sight of the outcropping of rocks where Gaila had hidden her uniform. Three figures sat there, in various positions of repose, and each had a knapsack on her back or on the ground beside her. Chekov's mouth dropped open. "But they did a bedcheck," he said. "I thought - how is this possible?"
The four of them watched Gaila run forward and hug her sisters, and then start pulling on her uniform dress, which seemed unharmed from its visit under the rock. She introduced them all, pulling on her boots as she did.
"Scotty," Jim said into his communicator. "Beam up Lieutenant Gaila and her friends." They went first and then Scotty transported Jim, Spock, Bones, and Chekov, who still looked perplexed, onto the Enterprise. "Now let's retrieve our volunteers," he said.
"Aye, Captain," Scotty agreed, and seconds later, three Enterprise crewmembers materialized on the platform.
"Everything go smoothly?" Jim asked the first woman to step down.
"Like a dream," Yeoman Rand said. "They just opened the door and counted heads." She held up a dark wig. "Fortunately, they never asked to see our faces."
"Good work," Jim said, offering her his best smile. He turned to Chekov. "You see, Ensign," he said, "Lieutenant Gaila brought Yeomen Rand, Crenner, and Y'Taubr into the building when she showed her friends the way out. They stood in for the bedcheck and since they were carrying Federation communicators, it was easy for Scotty to lock on to their radio signal and beam them directly to the Enterprise from their beds. That way the Orions won't miss Gaila's sisters until long after we're gone and we have not caused an intergalactic incident."
Spock cleared his throat.
"We have caused a much smaller intergalactic incident than what we otherwise might have," Jim corrected. Spock really cramped his dramatic style some days.
Bones hustled the girls off to Sick Bay for checkups and Jim dismissed Spock and Chekov with thanks for a job well done.
"Lieutenant Gaila," he said. "Walk with me?"
"Of course, Captain," she said saucily, but she seemed tentative and slightly defiant, as if she expected a reprimand.
He waited until they were out of earshot of anyone else and said, "I'm thinking there's a lot about Orion culture I don't know."
"I'm thinking that's a safe bet," Gaila said neutrally.
"Not actually your sisters, huh?"
"Clan sisters are as close as blood sisters," Gaila said. "Sometimes even closer."
"And no actual underground pockets of slavery, huh?"
"I never said there was underground slave trading," Gaila protested. "You and Doctor McCoy and Commander Spock came up with that one all on your own."
"Fair enough," Jim conceded. "Was there ever really slavery?"
"We haven't called it that since the Anti-Slavery Compact of Anh Mor Ken," Gaila said impatiently. Jim blinked at her and she added, "It's the Orion year it was signed. The Federation wouldn't let us in until we had a signed document, you know."
Jim holds up both hands. "Not complaining," he said quickly. "I was just curious. Vina seemed...pretty in charge there."
Gaila cast him a sideways look. "At one time," she admitted, "it was easier to let people believe things happened a certain way. Except then the Federation came in with its anti-slave laws and its inspectors and civil rights advocates and we had to create a new fiction."
"So what are you now?" Jim asked.
"We unionized," Gaila explained. "Which is even more ridiculous - do you know what a joke those labor negotiations are when the deal room is full of pheromones?"
"So, why is it so hard to leave?" Jim asked. "I mean, if your sisters - clan sisters, whatever - weren't slaves, why couldn't they just, you know, take off?"
Gaila sighed. "Look," she said. "I know you don't understand what it's like, having someone expect you to be something, to be a carbon copy of them, follow in their shoes, which is kind of a stupid saying, by the way, but we all grow up with the expectation of being - " She paused and sighed deeply. "Beautiful, and graceful, and talented in the ways of dance and seduction and domination."
Jim blinked at her, thinking of all the people at the Academy who expected him to be his father, and all the people before the Academy, telling him he'd never amount to anything. He knew which one he preferred but he also knew one which was harder to bear.
"And sometimes," Gaila continued, "you just want to run away from all that pressure and expectation and do something fun, like marry xenolinguistics and computer programming. I mean, how much fun is it to program universal translators?" She beamed expectantly at him and Jim couldn't help but smile back.
"I'm glad I could help," he said sincerely.
Gaila winked at him. "I know you are." She pivoted on her heel and walked away down the hall. Jim watched her go thinking, turn around...turn around.... Gaila turned around and caught him watching, flipped her hair over her shoulder, and turned back, an extra spring in her step.
Jim grinned after her. She looked back, he thought as he turned away.
"Sir? Captain Kirk, sir?"
"Yeah?" Jim said, shaking off the fog. "What's up?"
Yeoman Rand was in front of him, handing him a PADD and stylus. "Sign here, sir."