Gamma shift is his favorite.
With most of the crew in
their quarters he can roam his ship at will, pace the observation deck with little fear of
disturbance. And the subdued lighting allows the stars to shine.
With most of the crew in their quarters he can roam his ship at will, pace the observation deck with little fear of disturbance. And the subdued lighting allows the stars to shine.
But tonight the restlessness is worse than usual. So is the headache. Thoughts jostling each other aside before completion. No pattern, no clarity. Someone's emptied his mental filing cabinet and scattered papers like a thief in the night.
Kirk leans his forehead against the port. His eyes stare back -- a stranger's eyes in the blackness of space.
"I've seen a part of myself no man should ever see."
He'd heard once you don't see your true image in a reflection. The person in the mirror is not the person others see -- you're reversed. It didn't worry him at the time. It wasn't as if he spent much time looking in the mirror. But recent events have made him... re-evaluate.
He closes his eyes, turns away. No, this isn't working. The observation deck isn't offering the usual solace. He heads down the corridor towards the turbo lift -- not sure where he's going.
He hasn't told anyone. About the two sets of memories. He's already revealed too much to his crew. And now everyone aboard knows their commanding officer is "less than perfect", to quote his first officer. Something of an understatement given what happened with his doppelgänger on the bridge.
Afterwards he'd detected sympathy in their eyes -- the last thing a captain wants to see. It will take a while to restore their faith, to replace sympathy with respect. He's going to have to go cold on them for a while -- prove himself again.
He resists the temptation to slam his hand on the turbo lift door. Damn. Just when he'd started to relax into command.
It's not over. Despite his glib declaration on the bridge, "The imposter's back where he belongs. Let's forget him."
He'd believed it when he said it. Believed the reunion meant he could bury the beast back down in his subconscious by sheer force of will. Out of sight, out of mind. But out of mind is the problem. Because now he has his duplicate's memories burned into his synapses.
He's surprised Bones didn't warn him this might happen. But then there's no precedent; no case studies in the medical textbooks. That's another reason to keep the after-effects to himself. Starfleet Medical is going to have a field day with McCoy's logs as it is.
The lights of the turbo lift flash past. He remembers standing here on the way to the transporter, holding -- hugging -- his shuddering alter ego.
And he remembers being held. The blind, fainting terror. "I want to live!" Out of control, a rope cut, flailing in the dark.
Extreme fear without a safety net is unfamiliar. And yet something...resonated. A dream? No, a nightmare.
Kodos. Tarsus IV. He's been afraid before. McCoy was wrong. Intelligence doesn't provide ready-made courage. It doesn't protect you from fear. It just offers a way out.
He's on autopilot. But when the doors open he knows where he is. The lower decks. Engineering. Where the imposter came to hide. And where he's always gone when he needs to ground himself. The hum is loudest here, almost a throb. Here, at the very heart of his starship, he can surround himself with unthinking power.
There is joy in power.
He'd called it something else before -- words that have followed him since his first days at the Academy -- command instinct, leadership skills, natural authority.
But it's about power really; no point in denying it now. The memory is too fresh.
"I'm Captain Kirk!" He can still feel the rush, the fierce joy of the moment he strode onto the bridge of his starship and told Farrell to leave orbit. His crew must obey his orders, even that order.
No, wait. That wasn't him.
There's a cough behind him.
"Good evening, Captain."
The young ensign is clutching his padd with self-conscious fingers. It's not often you bump into your commanding office in the middle of the night. Kirk has milliseconds to search his internal database. Fortunately the filing cabinet labelled 'crew' seems unrifled.
"Myers... Good evening. How's your first month in engineering panning out?"
He can see the surprise, then the pleasure, in the younger man's eyes. Never hurts to be on top of transfers and training.
"Oh, fine, sir. Been a bit quiet, so I'm working on those new efficiency algorithms you suggested."
"Ah, well, I'm afraid Mister Scott's got a habit of allocating gamma shift to his new arrivals. But this is the best time to really get to know your way around. Here let me take a look at that."
As they talk through the figures -- analysing, extrapolating -- he's warmed by the glow of the young man's enthusiasm. He envies him, just starting out on his dream career. No responsibilities, only a mind sponge-thirsty for knowledge and a universe to soak up.
He sometimes feels he missed out on that, the sheer joy of learning for its own sake. Being fast tracked for command made him the youngest captain in Starfleet's history, but he feels old before his time. They're only months into their five year mission and already he's accumulated enough memories for a lifetime.
"Well done, Ensign. Copy me in on your final report to Mr Scott, won't you?"
"Of course, sir. Thank you, sir." Respect, pride, inspiration -- it's written in his face as clearly as the notes on his padd. Myers won't forget tonight.
One down, 429 to go. Well, 427. He thinks his reputation is safe with Spock and McCoy.
Perhaps that's where he should go next. Spock will still be up. He rarely sleeps more than a few hours a night, often doesn't sleep at all. He heads back towards the turbo lift.
He's not sure he'd have got through this without his first officer. Losing his dark side had felt like an amputation. And, given the choice between losing an arm and his ability to command, he'd opt for the prosthesis every time.
Without the beast he'd lost more than his edge, he'd lost all definition. Choices jumbling and merging in a fog of indecision.
But Spock had been there; quiet support, razor sharp analysis, at his elbow for every decision. And, most important of all, he'd never shown even a hint of sympathy. If he'd spotted pity in those calm brown eyes he thinks his control would have crumbled for good.
The crew corridor is empty, lit only by floor strips and the glow above the door plaques.
It had been bright when he roamed the ship, the brandy harsh on his lips, warm in his throat. Lust -- fierce, relentless, implacable -- leading him to one door.
He's there now. Not Spock's quarters. 3c 46. He stares unblinking at the numbers, at the name. Unbidden, his feet have led him to her cabin.
Her shifts tally with his. So she's inside. Asleep probably. He wonders what she does with her hair when she's asleep.
He watches her -- through the grill. Watches her adjusting that ridiculous hairstyle in the mirror. The excitement of what he is about to do freezing him to the spot. He can hear her breathing.
Why hasn't he done this before? He doesn't analyze. This Kirk lives by his instincts. She wants him. He wants her. The equation is that simple. And it's been so long -- too long.
As he moves round the corner there's a moment, after the first shock, when he's sure he detects welcome.
"Can I help you, Captain?"
"Jim, will do here, Janice."
God, he wants her. He can smell her perfume. The desire is a physical thing, pushing him forward, gaze locked with hers.
"You're too beautiful to ignore. Too much woman." He puts down the brandy.
He'll need both hands for what he has in mind. She's
puzzled but she doesn't retreat. She trusts him. He's her captain.
"You're too beautiful to ignore. Too much woman." He puts down the brandy. He'll need both hands for what he has in mind. She's puzzled but she doesn't retreat. She trusts him. He's her captain.
"We've both been pretending too long."
For just a split second then, he sees a spark -- is it hope? -- in her eyes. And it's enough. Enough for him to move, to grab, to feel her warmth through the thin fabric under his fingers.
He knows at once. He's gone too far, moved too fast. The spark blinks out. She's repelled. And he's suddenly furious.
"Stop pretending! Don't fight me, Janice."
Lust makes him clumsy, but he's strong -- stronger than her -- and as he lunges forward he sees the fear. But he doesn't stop.
He doesn't stop. Kirk draws a long, shuddering breath. Eyes closed, head bowed, fists pressed to the wall. He's hot, his stomach churning with an emotion he doesn't recognise. It's shame. He's ashamed.
McCoy would tell him it wasn't really him. Jim Kirk is a decent man, decent to the core. It was the beast, an animal -- unfettered, distinct, alien. But he knows better. He remembers. That animal is part of him. And now he doesn't know who he is.
What is he doing here? Outside his yeoman's door. Begging forgiveness? She's told him she understands. There's nothing to forgive.
But he'll keep his distance -- even more than before. That spark, a mischievousness they'd both enjoyed, will be a thing of tension now.
The voice is soft. Familiar. Gently enquiring.
"Mister Spock. I was just..." He stops, unsure what to say.
"...on your way to see me it appears."
Okay, so they're going to ignore where he's actually standing. He's grateful.
"Yes, but Spock, it's late."
"It is indeed late. And yet you appear to be experiencing some difficulty sleeping. May I suggest a game of chess, Captain?"
Chess. Spock's answer to every emotional crisis. Logic as panacea.
He moves away from the wall, from that door. "Okay. Why not? Although I'm not sure I'll make much of an opponent tonight." He looks his friend full in the face. "Been a long day."
Spock nods without comment. They walk in companionable silence round to the officers' quarters. It's one of the many things he values in his first officer. They'd discovered early on in their partnership they can share a space without filling it with small talk.
And, unusually, it's Spock who speaks first. He's thoughtful as he sets up the board, precise movements, centring every piece on its square.
"Dr McCoy came to see me this evening. He is concerned." He looks up, eyebrow raised.
It's not a question. He knows Bones too well. Bones knows him too well. He sighs. It's going to take a lot of work to keep the good doctor's questions at bay. Spock sets the final pawn in place.
"I, too, am concerned. Although possibly not for the same reasons."
"I appreciate your concern, Spock. But I'm okay." There's a tightness in his chest, in his voice. "I won't pretend the last 48 hours have been fun. But I'll get through it."
Spock moves his queen from her level to the next, starting the game.
"Yes, Jim. I believe you will." There's calm certainty in the statement. The tightness eases somewhat. Kirk leans forward over the board, frowning over Spock's first move. It's not a typical opening gambit.
Spock only calls him Jim when they're alone, when they're not talking about work. But they rarely talk like this. Emotion is difficult subject for the man opposite him. He has a tendency to treat it as an opportunity for laboratory style analysis.
Kirk moves his queen too -- to attack. He's feeling reckless. Cant imagine why.
Spock gives that imperceptible twitch at the corner of his mouth that he's learned to recognise as a smile. Protects his queen with his bishop -- a neutralising move that effectively ties up one corner of board.
Suddenly Kirk realises he doesn't mind sharing his current vulnerability with the man opposite. He doesn't fear judgment. And on this issue the Vulcan has a unique insight. What was it he had told McCoy?
"Being split in two halves is no theory with me, Doctor. I have a Human half, you see, as well as an alien half, submerged, constantly at war with each other."
He looks at the Vulcan, impassive on the other side of the table. He doesn't look like a mobile battlefield.
He moves his knight, impatient to open another field of play. Spock frowns. It's not the most logical move.
"Spock, can I ask you something? And promise me you'll give me a straight answer."
"You may ask, Jim. Whether my answer will conform to your definition of 'straight' is a subjective judgment, however."
Kirk can't help a small smile. He should know better than to expect a simple assent.
"Okay. Here goes. You told us that you use your intelligence to persuade your Human and Vulcan halves to live together. But where's the real Spock in all this? With two voices in your head how can you know... how can you possibly know... who's in charge? Who you really are?"
He can hear how crazy he sounds; runs his hands through his hair in frustration.
"Hell, sorry, Spock. I'm not explaining this very clearly..."
"You explain yourself perfectly, Captain. It is a logical question. Although not one many Humans would have cause to ask."
Spock's eyes are thoughtful across the chess board. He pushes his knight out into play, challenging head to head.
"You have been granted a great gift, Jim."
He snorts in surprise. "A gift! Sure doesn't feel like a gift from where I'm sitting."
"I will attempt to explain my statement. As I believe I have indicated on several occasions, you are, Captain, an exceptional leader. But, up until this point, you have never had cause to ask yourself why, to analyze those skills. You have been, if you will forgive me, in danger of taking your natural command ability for granted." He looks up from the table, a glint of humour in his eyes. "I think it is fair to say that danger is past."
Kirk smiles ruefully at the chess pieces, decides attack is the best form of defence and swipes a vulnerable pawn. "Oh, I think that's more than a fair assumption."
"While I appreciate this has been a... difficult experience, you have been given an insight into the elements required for command. You should not fear that knowledge. Rather I would suggest you embrace it. Use it."
A difficult experience? Kirk's heard enough. He slams the pawn on the table with more force than he'd intended.
"Is that what you do? Embrace your inner Human? Because it doesn't always look that way from where I'm standing."
The statement comes out harsher than he'd intended. There's no antipathy in Spock's gaze but he thinks he detects just a hint of reproach.
"Sorry, Spock. I didn't mean..."
"I have taken no offence, Captain."
They've never talked about the effects of the Psi 2000 virus a few weeks ago, and they're not about to start now. The subject is off limits by mutual, unspoken, agreement. But Kirk suspects neither of them will forget what happened behind the closed doors of briefing room 2. Seeing his first officer in such an emotional state isn't an experience he wishes to repeat in a hurry.
Kirk realises he's rubbing his chin at the memory and that, across the table, Spock is doing the same. He grins and gets an answering lift of the eyebrow.
Spock leans back in his chair.
"You are correct, Jim. I am frequently aware of the tension between the competing elements of my physiology. But I learned long ago to control those tensions; that I benefit from both my Human and my Vulcan heritage. They are part of who I am. On a good day they complement each other. I have been informed they make me a more effective Starfleet officer."
He looks across at his Captain and his friend, and Kirk swears he can see a twinkle in those brown eyes. "Of course, they are not all good days."
"No. They're not." Good days seem few and far between recently.
Suddenly he's restless. He stands and heads over to the viewing port. The stranger's eyes are back, reflected in transparent aluminium. The tightness across his chest, in his throat, is almost painful. He swallows hard. He needs to share this.
"I've been kidding myself, Spock. I thought I knew why I made Captain. I thought it had something to do with intelligence, empathy, training and sheer hard work. Turns out none of those things is worth a hill of beans. Turns out I've a power-crazed psychopath inside me who'll stop at nothing to get his hands on a starship, unless you count a swift detour to rape his yeoman."
There he's said it. The reflection stares back bleakly. He turns back to the table, chess game forgotten.
"One day you're a hero -- a starship captain with a bright future and a galaxy to explore. The next, you're half expecting everyone on board to stage a quick mutiny and throw you in the brig. And you know what? I wouldn't blame them. Knowing what I know, I'm tempted to lock myself up right now."
His laugh is bitter. "Hell, once Starfleet read McCoy's report, I wouldn't be surprised if I'm relieved of command as soon as the paper pushers back at HQ figure out how to spell schizophrenia."
This time there is no hint of a smile.
"Jim. Your premise is illogical. Starfleet needs you in command. Now more than ever."
Spock stops. Considers. "If I may offer... a perspective. Your situation is unique. However, as you say, I do have some small idea of what it is like to search for an identity; to be confronted by what appear to be conflicting forces."
He gestures to the seat opposite. This is obviously going to take some time. Kirk sits.
"When I was a child on Vulcan it was not... easy to have a Human mother. Vulcan children, before they are fully trained in the guiding principles of logic over emotion, can be unthinking, perhaps cruel."
His tone is neutral, voice mild. Yet Kirk has a sudden vision of a young Spock in pain, taunted over his heritage, the victim of cross species bullying.
"I found myself searching through the philosophies of many cultures, many planets in an attempt to find a structure, a logic that applied to my position. I found the most pertinent set of ideas in the texts of ancient China. Jim, are you aware of the concept of Yin and Yang?"
"Yes, of course. That symbol. Black and white curled round each other. Good and evil." He looks down at the game of chess between them. "Opposing forces."
Spock raises a finger.
"No, Jim. You are mistaken. But it is a common misconception. The true concept of yin-yang has been lost in translation. In Chinese philosophy yin and yang are not opposing but complementary forces -- dualities which come together to become part of a greater dynamic whole. They are dependent upon each other."
"What are you saying, Spock? That I am dependent on my dark side? I think we know that already."
"No. I am offering an alternative point of view. The simple beauty of the yin-yang philosophy is that neither yin nor yang can exist without the other. There is no moral judgment applied to either. Shadow cannot exist without light, as light cannot be understood without shadow. And the whole is greater than the sum of its parts."
Spock leans forward. This is as close to passion as Kirk as ever seen from his first officer.
"Jim, I am saying your monster does not exist. He should never have existed as a thing apart."
There is silence. Kirk considers. Finds to his surprise the tightness in his chest has eased. This is helping.
"But you're a scientist, Spock, not a philosopher. I can see how this... Chinese theory... helped you as a child. But it's not a scientific explanation for what happened to me. How do you know my evil twin isn't just hiding, ready to show himself at any moment. Where's your proof?"
Spock steeples his fingers. Now he is the one frowning.
"As a Vulcan I am both scientist and philosopher -- the two are not mutually incompatible."
He pauses, thinking. His fingers hover over the chess board. If he plays his bishop in a flanking move Kirk foresees check in three moves. But there's an easy escape.
"This is a previously unknown phenomenon, and one which is unlikely to recur. It does not, therefore, lend itself to disciplined scientific enquiry. However, I would propose that in science, too, there is precedent. Two distinct elements merging to produce a unique whole."
Spock makes a decision. Retreats with his knight; offers his queen as bait.
"Take two atoms of the explosive gas hydrogen and combine them with an atom of oxygen and you produce water, without which we know carbon based life cannot exist. Yes, under the right conditions, it is possible to separate water into its constituent parts. But the liquid, the molecule, has its own properties -- it is neither explosive nor gaseous."
For a moment Kirk thinks Spock is about to touch him, to offer comfort. But that would be unprecedented. Instead he lays his hand on the table, alongside the board, fingers outstretched.
"The monster you fear does not lurk inside you, Jim. Neither are you in danger of losing your ability to command. James Kirk has returned. He is not divided, he is not damaged. He is unique, and Starfleet needs him. His ship needs him." I need him. He leaves the last thought unsaid. But Kirk hears it as clearly as if Spock had shouted in his ear.
He needs to tell him the truth. Spock deserves the truth.
"But Spock, I have...he's..." His voice cracks, but he has to say this out loud. "The imposter, he's inside my head. I have his memories."
He closes his eyes. It's almost a whisper. "I have his memories, Spock."
The silence seems to extend beyond the cabin. There is only the hum of warp drive, a pause lasting a dozen heartbeats, and then the sound of a Vulcan taking a deep breath. When Spock speaks his voice is gentle.
"No, Jim. What you have is a mental record; a personal log of an event now finished." He leans forward. "It is finished, Jim. He is gone, gone for good."
And the simple truth of it hits. He believes him.
He's suddenly aware this is a defining moment. Relief is too small a word for the release of tension. Friendship is too simple a word for what links them across the table.
Instinct versus logic. Intuition versus analysis. Iowa farm boy and Vulcan hybrid. They are so different. Yet they have a bond. He doesn't question it, can't define it, knows it will last. And if he says any of that he'll deeply embarrass them both.
He leans back, allows the familiar grin to take its rightful place.
"Spock, I think you've made a mistake."
"Really, Captain. That is most unlikely... I ask you to consider the facts... "
"The facts speak for themselves, Mister Spock. You should never have left your queen exposed. Checkmate in four moves."
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