Title: Changing of the Guard
Fandom: Star Trek AOS
Summary: For the ISS Enterprise, a prisoner transfer is business as unusual. Having a bond form between the three most dangerous people on the ship is not. What is a starship captain to do?
A/N: Written for Mirror Universe Round of McSpirk Holiday Fest; based on the prompt from starfleetdicks: The ISS Enterprise and VSS Intrepid meet to exchange prisoners except McCoy has to tend to a Terran prisoner and Kirk has taken too much interested in the Vulcan escort.
Compared to all the slick and terrifying Mirror Universe stories out there, this version is the clumsier, slightly dumber cousin. Also, I might have tackled the prompt in an unusual way. I hope that’s okay.
“Captain, sensors indicate the approach of a vessel.”
The man in the captain’s chair waves back the yeoman holding out a data padd and stylus, turning in his chair to address an officer with his face pressed to a science scope. “Identity, Mr. Amand?”
“Of Vulcan make.” Amand clarifies quickly, “It’s the Intrepid, sir.”
“Precisely on time.” The captain orders, “Hail her when in range,” adding lightly as if in afterthought, “and shields up.”
The two helmsmen exchange a glance. One of them confirms, “Shields in place.”
With a slight narrowing of the eyes and faint trace of a smile, the captain settles an elbow on the armrest and props his chin up with his thumb and index finger. Waiting.
Seconds stretch on like hours until the communications officer chimes, “Hailing frequencies open.”
All attention focuses on the man at the center of the bridge. He begins without preamble, “This is Captain Christopher Pike of the ISS Enterprise. We have been appointed by Terran High Command to engage with you in the transfer of a prisoner to the Vega penal colony.” When the main viewscreen remains dark, Pike reiterates, “Enterprise to Intrepid, acknowledge.” Finally, with less patience, “Commodore Stone!”
The viewscreen wavers, forming an image of a smaller, more intricately designed starship bridge. The Vulcan standing at its center has an impassive expression to match his name.
“Captain Pike,” Stone returns the greeting, lifting his hand in the traditional Vulcan ta’al. “We meet again.”
Pike dips his head. “Well-met indeed, Commodore. And how do you fare this evening?”
“‘Evening’ is an irrelevant term in space, but your meaning is understood. I am in optimal health.” Stone’s posture shifts slightly sideways. “The same cannot be said of the human in my brig.”
Courtesy of his formidable self-control, Pike’s reaction remains limited to a pulse in his jaw. “Unless I receive a dead body, I believe I can manage to explain away your prisoner’s… ill… health. After all, Commodore, avoiding undue tension between our superiors is a top priority for both of us.”
Stone stares at him silently, no doubt assessing whether or not to acknowledge the truth of that statement or to risk the fallout of continuing to bait another empire’s commander. After a moment, he seems to have made his decision. “It is well-known that Christopher Pike’s skill in the diplomatic arts is unparalleled,” the Vulcan states with the faintest trace of disdain. “Therefore I am certain you will be successful in the endeavor.”
“How about a little gratitude?” mutters a scowling, sandy-haired ensign at Navigation.
“Helmsman,” Pike says in warning, flicking his gaze from the mouthy subordinate back to the viewer. “Stone, unfortunately, I have no more time to make small talk with you. Let us commence with the transfer.”
Stone folds his hands behind his back. “The Enterprise must first lower her shields.”
Pike’s thin-lipped smile is ambiguous. “I hope the precaution hasn’t insulted you.”
“To take precautions is logical.”
Satisfied, Pike orders, “Drop shields.”
The Vulcan turns partly away, then, saying something in his native tongue to a nearby crewman. When he faces Pike again, he confirms, “We are transmitting the coordinates to you now. I recommend adjusting your transporter to receive two life-forms.”
“Two?” Pike says sharply, sitting forward. “Commodore, I don’t recommend attempting any games. My orders do not include a second prisoner.”
“An escort,” Stone interjects in an unwavering tone. “Since his trial on Vulcan, the prisoner has attempted escape multiple times and requires constant supervision. Consider my crewman as an added benefit, Captain—and a gift of respect between commanding officers.”
Pike sits back again. “Very well, send the guard along—just know that once he boards this ship, we will not dispatch him back to you without exercising our right of interrogation.”
“Interrogation is allowable under the terms of the Terran-Vulcan Alliance.”
Stone’s easy reply increases the tension on the bridge. Why would the Vulcans be eager to offer one of their comrades to the Terran Empire?
The Commodore continues on, “Sharing discourse with you has been educational, Captain Pike. I would look favorably upon another opportunity to engage in ‘small talk’.”
“Likewise. Enterprise out.” Pike closes the open channel from his chair. Once the main viewscreen resumes its projection of the stars, he heads for the upper deck, veering off toward the turbolift while saying, “Mr. Sanson, relay the prisoner’s coordinates to Transporter I.”
“Already done, sir.”
Pike invites his security chief to precede him into the lift. “And contact Sickbay,” he orders. “Tell my new chief medical officer that his first and only chance to prove his worth to the Empire has arrived. Mr. Amand, you have the conn.”
Amand steps down from the Science station to stand beside the captain’s chair, watching as the lift door closes on the captain.
“Captain,” cautions Giotto, the security chief, “if the Vulcan attacks, I will have to shoot through you to stop him. Please, move aside.”
The Vulcan in question does not seem inclined to move, nor does Pike. In fact, the captain notes sourly, though the escort’s expression could rival Stone’s for most unreadable, the Vulcan is uncharacteristically talkative. He had introduced himself immediately upon Pike’s arrival as “I am S’chn T’gai Spock, formerly a lieutenant-commander in Particle Physics aboard the starship Intrepid.”
The introduction should have fallen on deaf ears, except that the last part catches Pike’s attention. “Locate McCoy,” he demands of the tech manning the transporter console. Facing the Vulcan, he wants to know, “Formerly? Why? Have you defected?”
Spock raises both eyebrows, appearing oblivious to one of Giotto’s men removing the small phaser rifle attached to his uniform’s belt. “Defecting is not my intention. I was relieved of my rank prior to becoming an escort for this prisoner.”
“Why would a science officer be demoted to guard duty?”
“I cannot answer that question, Captain.”
“Sir, Dr. McCoy is—” interrupts the tech.
“Here!” finishes the dark-haired man striding in from the corridor. He pulls up short when Pike’s stare finds him. “Damn and blast—I mean, my apologies, Captain. I was delayed by—”
Pike cuts McCoy off with “Explain later.” He points to the prisoner. “This man needs your attention.”
The doctor comes forward at a more cautious pace, his attention captured by the Vulcan blinking placidly between two security officers rather than his new patient. “Why isn’t that Vulcan in bands? Isn’t he dangerous?”
Spock says, “I have been relieved of my weapon.”
“I’ve heard stories,” insists the doctor. “Vulcans only have to lay a hand upon a man in order to do him irreparable harm.”
Spock’s tone cools suddenly. “An unlikely case in this situation. As you can see, I am quite heavily guarded—more so than the prisoner the Enterprise has retrieved.”
Pike lays a hand on the agonizer clipped to his uniform. “Enough, both of you. McCoy, the Vulcan isn’t the one to concern yourself with. Tend your patient. That’s an order.”
Though newly christened in the CMO role and younger by several decades than his predecessor, McCoy doesn’t act the fool. The man shakes a tricorder out of the medkit slung across his shoulder and goes down on one knee beside the unconscious man. After studying his instrument briefly, McCoy looks around to the tech. “Call to Sickbay for a gurney.” He transfers a bland gaze to Pike, and has a tone to match it. “I can heal this man, Captain, but the course of treatment will be more effective if his records are on hand. Who is he?”
Pike presses his mouth flat. “His name is Kirk. James Kirk.”
McCoy’s eyebrows draw together. “Kirk? Haven’t I heard that name before?”
“I should hope so,” Pike replies in a clipped tone. “Mr. Kirk is First Officer of the Enterprise—and your superior.”
McCoy stiffens before realizing no other crewman has reacted with surprise to this news. He asks slowly, “Then why is he like this?”
“That information is above your clearance.” Moving off the pad as two of McCoy’s staff, guiding a hover-gurney between them, enter the room, Pike orders Giotto, “Have the Vulcan confined to the brig. No one is to physically come in contact with him. Understood?”
Giotto’s “Yes, sir” is all Pike needs to hear. He pauses long enough to watch McCoy and his helpers manhandle Kirk onto the gurney before preceding the group from the room. Locating a wall comm in the corridor, Pike contacts the bridge. “Prepare a subspace transmission to High Command. Tell them Officer Kirk has returned to the Enterprise.”
Releasing the comm button, Pike leans against the wall, deep in thought.
Once the transmission is received, there will be some councilmen who will not sleep easy. Sending Kirk on a special assignment to Vulcan had been a foolish venture on their part. What Pike wants, he always gets; it was futile to try and stop the inevitable. Betraying the Empire’s agents to the Vulcan Guard had also been the useless tactic of someone believing himself wise, resulting in every spy but Kirk being executed.
Pike pushes away from the wall as a group of officers round the bend of the corridor.
What matters is that Kirk is back where he belongs.
And Pike’s plan is once again on course.
Not surprising to Pike, there are no profiles of any Vulcans named Spock in the public data. And given the experience of his two decades in Imperial service, he knows his security clearance as a captain will not gain him anything useful. Starfleet Command is too selective in the knowledge they share, even among high-ranking officers.
“Computer,” he prompts, “connect to Starfleet Archives, access point zeta-nine-nine.”
“Connection ready,” the ship’s computer says. “Provide identification and authorization code.”
“Admiral Alexander Marcus.” He supplies the authorization code as well.
“Authorization accepted. Welcome, Admiral Marcus.”
Pike smirks. Marcus, brilliant as a tactician but ever an idiot for not changing his password.
He retrieves the DNA upload from Security’s processing of their newest addition to the brig and inputs the information into the computer. “Identify based on gene sequence, species Vulcan.”
“Working. One match found. Species Vulcan.” The computer reads off what has to be Spock’s full name.
“Display profile,” Pike orders. A moment later, he’s leaning towards his screen in disbelief. “Son of Sarek?” he reads aloud.
No, it couldn’t be.
But after pulling up the image for Spock’s father, Pike’s suspicion is confirmed. Stone has handed over Ambassador Sarek’s youngest son. The Vulcan, Sarek, infamous in both empires for daring to take a human wife, is practically untouchable to Terran High Command and Vulcan’s High Council.
The woman, it seems, bore Sarek a half-human child. That child is Spock, grown, cast off by his own species, and now residing in the Enterprise‘s brig.
Christopher leans back in his chair, unsettled and for once uncertain of his next move.
There is someone aboard who may have answers.
Pike changes into a clean uniform and heads for Sickbay.
Nurse Chapel, running a medical scanner over a pale, sweating man in the main ward, straightens up when she notices him. “Hello, Captain Pike. Shall I fetch Dr. McCoy?”
“In a minute. Take me to Mr. Kirk.”
Chapel sets off at a brisk pace across the ward. The patient she leaves behind groans and curls in on himself. None of the other staff glance his way.
But Pike does.
“Poisoned by his own stupidity,” the woman remarks, responding to the direction of the captain’s attention.
“How so, Nurse?”
“He stole another man’s lover.” Her mouth curves slowly into a satisfied smile. “Would you like to know who poisoned him?”
Not particularly, but Christopher knows his role to play in this kind of conversation. “Who would that be?”
“The lover.” She winks at Pike and turns a corner. “Here you are, sir.”
Pike clears his throat. “Thank you, Christine.”
“My pleasure.” The nurse walks out of the small room.
Pike stands in the entrance, taking in the monitors and equipment, Kirk’s bandaged arm and sleeping face.
McCoy appears at his side with a nurse-in-training behind him. He motions to Kirk. “The kid’s been fairly responsive to treatment.”
The attendant asks McCoy, “Shall I wake him up, sir?”
“Yes,” Pike says at the same time McCoy replies, “Let him rest.”
Pike crosses his arms over his chest and stares at McCoy.
The doctor purses his mouth and relents. “Proceed, Nurse.”
Kirk responds slowly to the repeated attempts to rouse him to consciousness.
“James,” Pike calls. At the lack of movement, he raises his voice. “James, open your eyes.”
“Jim,” murmurs the man on the bed. Then, lifting one eyelid to reveal a bright-blue iris, “Captain Pike?”
The knotted muscles of Pike’s shoulders ease somewhat. Christopher turns to McCoy. “Diagnosis?”
“Fractured ribs. Burns on his left arm, likely from a plasma rifle. We can regenerate the skin, though it’s up to the patient if he wants to keep the scars. Other than that, a mild concussion and some bruising. Dehydration.”
Christopher is more relieved than he anticipated. “He’s had worse.”
“I know,” McCoy drawls. “It’s my first time seeing medical history that reads like a primer on warfare.”
Pike smiles slightly. “Kirk is one of Starfleet’s most promising officers.” Drawing in a breath, he tells McCoy in a firmer tone, “Which is why it’s imperative to restore him to full health. Understood?”
McCoy quips dryly, “I’m not inclined to jeopardize the life of someone with the authority to take away mine.”
“Then Dr. Boyce must have educated you well before his passing.”
McCoy adopts a nonplussed attitude that could be labeled insubordination, crossing his arms over his chest in a mirror image of Pike. “Not all doctors are killers, Captain.”
“We’re all murderers at heart,” counters Pike, curious at how much McCoy will push back. “At least some of us are civilized murderers.”
“That so?” McCoy says sarcastically. “Then who are the uncivilized ones?”
“The Klingons,” chimes in the patient among the group. Both of his eyes are now wide open, taking in Pike and McCoy’s exchange.
Were Christopher younger and less hardened, he would have rolled his eyes. As it is, he narrows them in dismay. “James…”
Jim doesn’t disappoint. Shifting forward to sit up, thereby causing the attendant to pin him down by the shoulders, Kirk eagerly explains his opinion:
“I learned recently that Vulcans live by a tenet called IDIC—infinite diversity, infinite combinations or something to that effect. Helps them accept all the weirdness they encounter in the galaxy. Based on that premise, the Vulcans have extrapolated that the diversity within a singular universe—like ours—is equivalent to the diversity among universes. Think about it. Different versions of us—” Kirk stabs a thumb at his own chest. “—who at this very moment exist in separate timelines. Better versions of us, potentially. But you know, when I really thought about it, I realized that theory must be bullshit. Why? Because of them. The Klingons.” The man waves his bandaged arm in the air, emphasizing with vigor, “Do you think an alternate reality could exist where Klingons believe in peace? Celebrate unity? Hahaha, IMPOSSIBLE!”
An amused-looking McCoy uncrosses his arms.
“James,” Pike says again.
Kirk ignores the captain, his laughter jarring the attendant cursing to herself while trying to strap down his injured arm. “I’d sooner come to accept peace and goodwill myself. Klingons. Will. Never. Change.” He chortles the words “Death and honor!” and lets out a roar that is supposed to mimic the Klingon battle cry but actually makes a human sound deranged.
Pike turns to McCoy. “What pain medication is he on?”
“Glory for the Klingon Empire!” shouts Kirk.
McCoy raises an eyebrow. “You did say to provide the best care.”
“I need my officer functional, not hysterical.”
McCoy’s eyes glint with humor. “I don’t see the difference… sir.”
Kirk alternates between groaning and wheezing after each laugh. “Klingons are w-warriors. They may be uncivilized b-but at least t-they f-fight until you k-kill them.”
“What’s his problem with Klingons?” McCoy asks curiously.
“That he respects them.” Pike sighs, having seen and heard enough. “Comm me once Mr. Kirk wakes up from the sedation.”
The doctor takes the hint. “Nurse, hand over the hypo on that tray. Captain’s got a point. Our patient needs a nice long nap.”
“I will never surrender!” roars Kirk as the medical staff advances on him.
Pike suppresses a grin and walks out of the bay with an improved mood.
Settling on the bed’s edge, Pike inspects the bandage around Kirk’s arm that he had only looked at from a distance the day before.
“You should have seen the other guy,” Kirk says.
“I’ll take your word for it,” replies Pike. Then he pins Kirk with a stern gaze. “If you have time to flirt with the staff and message me six times before breakfast, then I think you have time to do some actual work.”
Jim grins at him. “Not according to my doctor. I need to heal.”
“I could countermand Dr. McCoy’s orders,” threatens Pike.
“Go ahead,” Jim says, still grinning.
Christopher sighs through his nose. Only Kirk calls him on his bluffs. It’s rather annoying. Finally recalling why he stopped by to see the officer, Pike lets the silence stretch between them long enough for Kirk to lose his grin.
Prepared for anything from wheedling to a fight, he says, “Your recommendation—why should I accept it?”
“You don’t like it?” The question is somber.
How could Pike possibly feel comfortable about the idea? “You want me to accept a Vulcan into the crew of the Imperial flagship. That’s a dangerous request, James, not to mention a reckless one.”
“I know,” Jim replies.
“Spock is from the House of Surak. The son of Ambassador Sarek. At best, he’s a spy.”
“I know,” Jim says again.
Pike adds bite to his voice. “Then explain.”
“I can make him loyal.”
For a moment, Pike is almost too stunned to reply. He had taught Kirk better than this—hadn’t he?
Kirk raises his uninjured hand to stall a reply. “Hear me out. Giving Spock a rank and position on the Enterprise can only benefit you, sir. Until now, no Vulcan has been willing to enter Starfleet service. They may train with us at the Academy because of our standing alliance, but their distrust is too ingrained from the wars of the past to consider the value we can offer simply by being different.”
“I know all of this. What’s your point?”
“You could be the first captain in history to command a ship with a non-human crewman aboard. We call that progress. Command might promote you if you can integrate a Vulcan successfully into Starfleet.”
“Or they could execute me if, later on, the Vulcan betrays us.”
Jim’s mouth quirks at one end. “‘You cannot swim for new horizons until you have courage to lose sight of the shore.'”
Christopher resists the urge to clout the man upside his head. “Don’t quote Faulkner to me.”
“Besides,” Kirk goes on to add blithely, ignoring the complaint, “Spock told me that he has learned all he can from a scientific vessel like the Intrepid. Now he wants to learn from a warship.”
“Which the Vulcans have,” Christopher points out. “Their armada is as efficient as ours at eliminating an enemy.”
“They don’t approach killing the way we do,” Jim says matter-of-factly. “Spock is prepared to apply to our council to stay in the Terran Empire if he has to. If you don’t take him, another captain will—along with the credit.”
“If I do this,” Pike warns Kirk, “the responsibility for him will be yours. Are you willing to take on a new horizon, even if it means you could drown halfway there?”
“Yes, sir, I am.”
That answer is enough to satisfy Pike, but he doesn’t let on. It might not be possible to push for such an unprecedented change. And unlike his foolhardy subordinate, Christopher knows the vote on Spock’s instatement—no matter which council or command unit does the voting—will never be unanimous. There are some old dogs who try to undermine the Terran-Vulcan Alliance when every opportunity arises, and those would rather return to the war-front with the Vulcans on the opposite side. This request could cause enough clamor to divide the empire from the lowest gully officer up to the Emperor himself.
…As if Pike gives a damn.
He is far more interested in finding out why Kirk wants Spock on the crew. If it is merely personal infatuation, Spock wouldn’t need a military rank. Yet what bemuses Pike more so is having the same enthusiasm come from the Vulcan. Spock has already made his interest in their militia known by asking to review the literature available on entry into Starfleet, which is more than a simple request to pass the time in his cell. The sheer audacity of it sets Pike on his ear, along with every other officer and inmate on Spock’s cell block.
The captain rises to his feet, deciding he doesn’t need to have every question answered today. Kirk is a recovering patient.
Jim stops him from deactivating the privacy screen by inquiring too innocently, “Which department would Spock be assigned to?”
Christopher raises an eyebrow, but willingly enough indulges the man in his hypothetical scenario. “Science. Isn’t that the forte of a Vulcan?”
The pleasure in Kirk’s gaze is apparent. “Head of Science.”
“Who’s the captain here?” Pike demands, well-aware that his tone is anything but chastising.
Kirk simply offers him a sloppy salute and sinks into his pillow with the look of a contented man.
Another battle lost, thinks Pike. He shakes his head, more at himself than anyone else, and retreats in order to preserve the illusion of dignity.
In the end, Kirk is correct in his assessment of Command’s ambitions. The desire to have a Vulcan in Starfleet outweighs the general attitude towards their sometimes-enemy-sometimes-ally. Spock is required to swear his loyalty to the Terran Emperor over a ship-wide broadcast that spreads across the empire within hours. By the end of the solar day, the Vulcan High Council counters with a response.
To maintain the treaty of the Alliance, Spock, son of Sarek, House of Surak, is exempted from execution for his treason. However, he is formally exiled from the homeworld of the Vulcan Empire and prohibited from contacting his family except under certain authorized circumstances (of which the Council is extremely elusive at describing).
In the aftermath, Pike walks his ship, listening to the arguments among his crew.
We finally took one of them! some of the men and women cheer.
A Vulcan on the ship is nothing but trouble, conclude others. This could be our downfall.
Curiously, no one asks Pike for his opinion—which is just as well. Christopher honestly could not say what outcome he believes will result from his involvement in the matter. Has he truly helped change the course of their history?
Or ended it?
They can only wait and see.
“Dr. McCoy,” Pike berates the man, “how did you get in here?”
“Medical override.” McCoy comes close enough to shake a finger at Pike that Christopher can see in detail the ridge along the whitened scar running across the back of the man’s hand. “What the hell am I supposed to do with a Vulcan?”
“You’ll have to be clearer in your grievance, Doctor,” Pike chides, keeping his voice level and cold.
“A Vulcan!” shouts McCoy. “We don’t treat Vulcans! We use the agonizer on them then shoot them back into space!”
For a second, amusement overrides temper. “Actually, we don’t do that anymore.”
McCoy’s finger stills, and the man stares.
“The treaty, remember?” Pike prompts.
McCoy draws back, at the same time puffing up. “That damned Alliance. Not that I ever thought there was a point to using a weapon on a race that can’t feel, but at least the line was clear in our relationship. Enemy against enemy. Now we’re under contract to play nice with the pointy-eared devils.”
Pike crosses his arms over his chest. “What are you getting at, McCoy?”
McCoy’s mouth forms a thin line. “I can’t treat a Vulcan.”
“Can’t,” Pike challenges, “or won’t?”
“As in cannot, sir,” the doctor clarifies with clear agitation. “Nobody in the ‘Fleet can. That’s what I’m trying to tell you. There are no classes on Vulcan anatomy, no textbooks on their weird physiology, hell, not even a case study of a corpse. Up ’til you decided you wanted a Vulcan to join this madhouse, no human doctor has had to concern himself with keeping one of those green-blooded bastards alive.”
Pike has the childish urge to point out that McCoy does know about a Vulcan’s green blood. Instead, he says, “Why do you assume I want you administering health care to the new recruit?”
McCoy’s brows come down. “What is this, the dark ages? Spock’ll be part of the crew. Even recruits who are too dim-witted to do more than sweep the floors are allowed into Medical if they need a doctor.”
Pike raises an eyebrow. “Spock?”
For once, Pike is interested to see, McCoy appears caught off-guard. It takes the doctor a second to continue. “Mister Spock,” McCoys amends. “I… visited him in the brig.”
“Oh?” Pike questions mildly. “I don’t recall giving you leave to engage with a prisoner.”
“I was curious and—” McCoy takes a deep breath. “—Jim requested it.”
Of course. Kirk. Doesn’t every trouble on this ship somehow circle back to James?
Pike considers how to reply. “I understand your concern, Dr. McCoy, but I cannot help you.” He overrides the start of another argument by emphasizing, “If you truly desire to act as Mr. Spock’s physician while he serves aboard the Enterprise, talk to the First Officer.”
McCoy’s mouth snaps shut.
“Responsibility for our newest member is his.”
After a minute, McCoy sputters, “That bastard.”
Pike claps a hand to the doctor’s shoulder and steers McCoy toward the cabin door. “Exactly. You’ll be the first doctor in Starfleet to degrade yourself by looking after a Vulcan. Although you might consider your circumstances another way: you could also be the first doctor to expand frontier medicine to one of the most secretive species in the galaxy.”
“I thought about that,” mutters McCoy as he goes. “But that hobgoblin doesn’t want me to touch him.”
“So find a way to convince him,” advises Pike, effectively ending the conversation by pushing McCoy into the corridor and locking the cabin door behind him.
He waits a moment but the door remains closed. No more medical overrides. At last, he thinks, McCoy has gone off to plague someone else.
There’s a new problem to consider. Kirk has already introduced McCoy to Spock. Why? And for which man’s sake… McCoy’s? Spock’s? Or his own?
Stay out of it, he cautions himself. Kirk makes his own choices.
If one of his choices leads to a mistake, Kirk will have to own that too.
Part of the reason for that trouble enters the room.
Pike glances in his guest’s direction. “You look ready to fall over. Take a seat,” he orders. Then, “How does it feel to be back?”
“The welcome could have been warmer.”
“Most of the crew assumed you would never return.”
Kirk nods, looking around the room critically. “Not much has changed.”
Pike doubts the man is referring to the decor. “Something on your mind, James?”
Kirk meets his gaze, then. “What happened to Boyce?”
Pike doesn’t believe in sugarcoating the truth. “Dead,” he says. The shadow of grief in his First’s eyes would be a weakness to exploit to another man. Pike works hard to ignore it. He continues flatly, as though discussing a matter of small concern, “It could be that Phillip’s newest staff doctor wanted a promotion. The Enterprise was heading into a firefight over the Kalar Territory when the death occurred. McCoy was the only one qualified to take over on such short notice.”
“Nah,” decides Kirk with same nonchalance. “Bones said Phil went into cardiac arrest. Sometimes the end happens that way—with no warning.”
Since Pike had had an independent autopsy performed on Boyce’s corpse, he is inclined to believe McCoy’s explanation as the truth. That, and the hour he kept the doctor in the agonizer booth to make certain of no foul play. Had any trace of doubt of McCoy’s involvement persisted, Christopher would have never allowed the man to remain his CMO.
The Surgeon General still has heartburn over that decision. No doubt the old fool had wanted to plant one of his sycophants on Pike’s flagship to support his personal agenda. But Christopher has friends in places not many are smart enough, savvy enough, or imaginative enough to discern.
“How does Dr. McCoy feel about his new nickname?” he asks as he lifts his glass to his mouth.
Kirk reaches over and deftly takes the drink from him, swallowing a mouthful of the brandy first before returning it. The act both irritates and comforts Pike with its familiarity.
“He hates it, of course.” Jim smirks. “Said I had no right to undermine his authority in front of his subordinates and kicked me out of Sickbay a day early.”
Pike hides his smile behind his tumbler. “Mission accomplished, then.”
Kirk shrugs, his smirk softening.
“Test him properly before you befriend him,” Pike advises.
Kirk rejoins, “Won’t you do that for me?”
Yes, he will, but Kirk doesn’t need the confirmation. “Anything else?” Christopher asks, preferring to have any other unresolved business between them on the table before tackling a subject neither of them will appreciate.
Jim taps a finger against his chair’s arm for a minute, cultivating the pretense he is seriously considering the question. But Pike is already certain that Kirk came to him with an agenda.
“Grant McCoy access to the Bridge,” Kirk says after a while.
“Who’s asking: you or McCoy?”
Pike has an easy answer for that. “No.”
Jim sits forward, demanding, “Why not?”
Christopher reminds him, “If you don’t want to follow the rules, wait until you own the captain’s chair before you break them.”
Kirk’s gaze lingers on his. “Fair enough.”
Pike places his drink aside. “Tell me about Vulcan.”
Almost instantly, Kirk’s expression shutters. His response is a carefully formal “I’m not certain you have the clearance to debrief me on that mission, Captain.”
Pike informs him softly, “No one else is going to.”
Kirk’s unreadable look eases away, revealing an underlying strain that was not present before he was removed from the Enterprise. “We were betrayed?”
Christopher can only nod. He doesn’t think he can keep from voicing his opinion on the matter if he speaks aloud.
Kirk looks away, saying nothing. Pike lets the silence settle in, rising from his desk to retrieve a second glass from the built-in bar. He fills it from the brandy decanter, handing it to Kirk.
After drinking until its content are gone, Jim places the tumbler in front of him but keeps both hands around it. He asks, “If Command wanted me out of the way, why risk bringing me back here?”
“The Farragut was scheduled to rendezvous with the Intrepid.“
“What happened to them?”
I did. He shrugs. “Ran into trouble on the way, I heard. So you ended up with us instead.”
Jim asks more softly, “Why?”
Pike comprehends what Jim is asking. He offers a partial truth. “You’re my protégé. I made the call not to leave you behind.”
Kirk’s head dips forward slightly. When it comes up again, he says with a hint of irony, “I understand.”
Pike has to wonder if he truly does. He sets that thought aside. “As a welcome back present, I championed your request. Mr. Spock is now a lieutenant-commander in our ‘Fleet—and Science Officer of the Enterprise.”
Jim’s eyes light up with pleasure, followed by mischief. “If Spock is Science Officer, what did you do with Amand?”
“Amand has been reassigned.”
Looking more like the man Pike remembers, Kirk cackles. “Losing both titles, Science Officer and Acting First Officer, at the same time? Oh, he must be pissed!”
“When isn’t someone pissed off on this ship?” Christopher replies dryly, then sobers. “James, watch your back.”
“No problem,” says Kirk immediately, waving off his captain’s concern. “You know I can handle anyone on this ship.”
Pike makes a noncommittal noise and repeats his earlier request. “Then tell me how you handled the Vulcan operation.”
This time, Jim complies.
Now it’s a different world. Though most of his crew still profess to be honored to serve with him, they look at Pike with speculation and doubt; often, disdain. They see a man past his prime. A great man who has become weak.
Pike is a rational man. He agrees with the general consensus, although sometimes he wishes he could travel back in time and change that one event which tied him to this fate. Other times, he believes he is no different than most men. After all, did he not have a father, his father have a father, and his father’s father before him? How could it be weak to accept what is natural? Humans are not meant to live forever. They grow old, leaving their legacy behind in their offspring.
He comes to accept that he must have been born with his weakness; he carried it without awareness of its existence like the host of an invisible parasite. When conditions became ripe, the insidious thing, his disease, took over.
He can look in the mirror at times and not recognize himself. Can see that other face in his reflection, with its same expressions and other uncanny similarities.
And he accepts it. Every day, Christopher accepts it.
Let the Empire ostracize him. Penalize him. Shame him. Punish.
In the end, he makes the same choice over and over again. It may not be a wise choice, but it’s an honorable one in its own twisted way.
Pike is pulled back to the bridge by the only voice that can reach past his inner turmoil. He glances aside to the man leaning against the railing of the bridge’s upper deck.
“What is it, Kirk?”
Jim’s look is patient, relaxed even. “The alien ship is escaping. Do you want to return fire?”
“Let them go,” Pike decides, heedless of the stir his words cause among the other officers. “There will be another time and place for victory.”
Kirk nods once, orders Weapons to stand down, and cancels the Red Alert.
Pike feels old by thinking there has been enough bloodshed for the day. But all he can focus on is a strange thought: the aliens they had been battling must have fathers, or are fathers themselves. Like him.
He stands up, motioning to his empty chair with “Mr. Kirk, you have the conn.”
Kirk, his legacy, his true heir, takes the seat with the grace and dignity of a natural leader.
Someday, if Pike’s plans come to fruition, Kirk will have his chair permanently.
Standing in the CMO’s office, Pike has a moment to feel at a loss. “What do you mean, Doctor?”
“The rumors about Vulcans?” McCoy says, moving from a chair to sit on the edge of his desk, facing Pike. “Turns out some of them are true. Vulcans are touch-telepaths.”
“What does that have to do with my first officer?”
McCoy’s look is shrewd. “I never met Kirk before his stint on Vulcan, so I can’t attest to his behavior today. But you know him better than anyone on this ship, Captain. You can tell me if he’s different after being among the Vulcans.”
“No man goes through what Kirk has and comes out the same,” Pike argues. “Are you suggesting he needs counseling?” Wouldn’t he have noticed symptoms of PTSD?
“No,” McCoy says tightly, “I’m suggesting the Vulcans could have tainted him.”
Pike has McCoy’s tunic in both fists in an instant. Seeing fear flash through his CMO’s eyes, he forces himself to relax his grip. “Taint?” he questions, voice roughened by the effort required to restrain his temper. “How?”
“I wish I knew more regarding the specifics. Spock—Mister Spock—says it’s unusual for the mind of a non-Vulcan to withstand their method of interrogation.” Again, a hint of fear flashes through McCoy’s eyes. “A Vulcan can enter the mind of another being and essentially take what information he needs. It’s against the law for them to do that to each other, but the rest of the galaxy appears to be fair game.” The doctor wets his bottom lip. “I was told that execution of the victim generally follows in short order, granted out of mercy… if you understand my meaning.”
Pike feels strangely cold. “You think they did this to my—to Kirk?”
“I think,” McCoy says with surprising gentleness, “even if the procedure was carefully performed, some residual effects are likely. Jim may not be aware of them, and I have no scientific way of examining him for damage. My recommendation is to monitor him for the time being.”
Pike needs a moment to separate his personal feelings from his duty as an Imperial officer. The act isn’t as easy as it used to be. Eventually he offers agreement. “Kirk will be closely surveilled. Thank you,” Pike adds reluctantly, “for telling me.”
McCoy says nothing for a moment, then, meeting Pike’s eyes squarely, “I know he’s your son.”
Pike’s coldness returns for a vastly different reason. “Have you told anyone?” he asks too softly.
McCoy considers him. “Am I required to?”
“You won’t,” is all Pike says.
The doctor nods once, sharply. Then, “Does Jim know?”
“I couldn’t answer that,” Christopher admits neutrally. “James keeps his own counsel.”
McCoy’s consideration becomes thoughtful. “Well, that might explain why he hasn’t tried to kill you and take over the Enterprise.”
Pike almost chuckles. “I doubt a little thing like patricide would prevent my First from taking what he wants. Perhaps he simply isn’t as interested in my position as you think.”
“Oh, Jim’s interested all right,” mutters the doctor, “but it’s obvious to any idiot with two eyes and a brain that he’s holding himself back.”
Pike has never indulged that speculation from others and doesn’t intend to do so now. He picks up a stylus from McCoy’s desk for a cursory inspection. “James knows I commend self-restraint. Let it go.”
Though the man doesn’t look convinced, he wisely heeds the warning beneath the words. McCoy accompanies Pike to the door of his office, where Pike hands back the stylus.
“Now you know something special, shall we say, about me, Doctor. Should I concern myself with your intentions?”
McCoy replies, “I don’t have any at the moment, Captain—but you’ll be the first to know if that changes.”
Christopher expects nothing less. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Outside the CMO’s office, he gives the wall an un-satisfying thunk with the side of his fist.
McCoy knows… as Boyce did.
Somehow, the CMO of Christopher’s ship remains poised to be his best ally or his worst enemy. Which, he wonders, will it come down to?
There is definitely McSpirk on the way. I sweeear!!!