Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, Uhura, various
Word Count: about 4000 each chapter
Rating: T for movie-level language and violence
Warnings/Spoilers: Spoilers for all AOS movies and various TOS episodes, any specifics notated in each section. This section, no real spoilers but a few footnotes.
Summary: Five times Jim Kirk epically failed to keep a secret from his command crew, and one time his command crew kept it for him
A/N: This really wasn't intended to be primarily revolving around Kirk and Spock, but these early chapters just seem to be lending themselves to that. The next is very much McCoy-centric, though, so my fellow Triumvirate fans can rest easy in that knowledge.
Chapter One | Chapter Two |
In retrospect, it shouldn't have surprised him as much as it did.
Their first six months in space have been a blast, there is really no other word for it. Trawling along toward the furthest reaches of charted territory, they've learned about each other and about the universe in equal measure, until after that half-year he really can't imagine his life any other way. This has to be what the old Ambassador was talking about, this feeling of euphoric rightness in the world, like Destiny has finally gotten her act together and everything has settled back into orbit, calm and secure.
Six months out from Terra, they dock briefly at Starbase Fourteen for supplies and minor repairs, and rotate out a few personnel who have family in Mid-Space or who for one reason or another have chosen to not keep going into Deep Space.
Personally, Jim is sorry to see Carol Marcus stay behind, because they both thought back on Earth they might've gotten a good thing going, given the chance. But once he'd made it clear that as Captain he was never going to engage in a sexual or romantic relationship with anyone on his crew, she'd not taken it well, and finally decided to take a starbase posting instead. True, there are no clear regulations forbidding fraternization between the ranks provided there's clear documentation from both sides and witnessed by Medical that there is no coercion going on. But he just can't afford to screw this up, and nothing is more important to him now than this ship – nothing.
It's time for him to be a starship captain, and a captain he will be.
They rotate out twelve crewmen, and receive twelve fresh, new, almost overly eager faces, thrilled about being selected for the deep space mission and having no idea what they are walking into. Twenty-four hours later, refueled and supplied and not coming back for a very long time, they leave Starbase Fourteen, and enter the void beyond.
Despite being an exploratory ship, they are occasionally pulled off their charted course for the odd diplomatic mission or an occasional show of force, given that the 'Fleet still is recovering, even a few years later, from such a devastating obliteration as the Battle of Vulcan had been. There are still a scant few starships of their size in the galaxy, and as such the Enterprise is thrown into more conflicts than Jim would like, given that their mission is supposed to be one of peace.
But he learns diplomacy, and he learns when the best diplomacy is a loaded phaser bank, and together they all learn just how very insignificant they are in a universe full of non-human species. (1)
He's aware that he is a little…unorthodox, is the kind word he thinks he heard Admiral Barnett use before they set out; and that's a good thing, because it keeps his crew guessing. A crew on their toes is an overly alert crew, and an overly alert crew stays alive. Given what they could be sailing into at any given moment, he wants every one of them alive and staying that way, for as long as possible.
So, unorthodox it is.
His first night aboard, he appropriates the shipwide comm, much to a very scandalized First Officer's dismay, and informs the entire crew in no uncertain terms to for heaven's sake stop the freaking saluting in the corridors because neither he nor any other commanding officer on this ship is a pompous jackass and besides, it interferes with efficiency.
Spock's face when one of his Science lieutenants passes them the next morning in the corridor with a bright smile and a "'Sup, Captain!" is a thing of beauty, but it's worth it. Those walls have to come down, all over the ship, if they are going to come down between them and alien species - and that barrier-breaking has to start with him. (He's always been particularly good at breaking barriers.)
He does roll his eyes when his entrance to the Bridge is announced every. single. time by some eager young ensign at one of the less important stations, but he doesn't want to dampen anyone's spirits so he decides to let that slide for a while. Somehow he misses the increasingly evil looks exchanged between his helmsman and navigator every time he does, but when he comes back from lunch one day and is greeted with an angelically shrill "KEPTIN ON ZEE BRIDGE" he almost jumps back into the turbolift, eyes wide.
To his right, he can hear Uhura snickering, and he sighs, shaking his head.
"You might want to put yourself on shipwide, Mr. Chekov, I'm not sure they heard you in Secondary Engineering," he says dryly, seating himself again.
His navigator grins and this time, he does see the smirk exchanged between the two sitting in front of him.
After that, it's the best part of his morning for a while – he tries to sneak onto the Bridge, nearly impossible because the turbolift doors are still so damn loud – and it's basically a race to see which idiot can yell the fastest to acknowledge his arrival. It in turns puzzles and terrifies new Bridge crewmen on rotation, when they take their stations at 0800 hours only to five minutes later have someone on the alpha shift suddenly screeching Captain on the Bridge (sometimes, not even in Federation Standard – he about choked on his coffee the morning Uhura did it in flawless Klingon) at the top of their lungs the minute he walks in the room.
Half the time he ends up laughing so hard he can't even acknowledge the duty shift change in the ship's log for a few minutes, but it comes to a head one morning when he accidentally oversleeps and is three minutes late stumbling onto the Bridge holding a half drunk coffee – only to have them all (except for Spock, who doesn't even look up from his computer screen) screech at once trying to beat each other to the punch.
He has to leave the Bridge soon after amid a chorus of only half-serious apologies, because said coffee ends up all over his uniform tunic, and it's so not his fault because they scared him half to death. He is worthless before cup number two in the morning, and everyone knows that – it was an unfair fight. Also, this is the fourth tunic he's ruined this week, and Ship's Stores is getting a little annoyed with him even if it's not his fault the stupid things tear so easily. Freaking recycled fabrics.
This little escapade is therefore why he's the only one not on the Bridge when they're attacked ten minutes later by what he learns afterwards are two renegade Klingon Birds of Prey that decloak literally right in front of them, causing the Enterprise to screech to a halt and execute a hasty maneuver out of impulse power which the ship is really not designed for, in order to not collide with one of the smaller vessels.
He has the feeling Sulu deserves a pay raise, based on how much he felt the inertial dampeners flickering there for a moment, as he picks himself up off the floor of his quarters – they shouldn't be doing that unless the ship is maneuvering in a way she was never designed to be. As he pounds the intercom, his heart sinks for a moment when all he gets is suspicious static, indicating internal transmissions are already being jammed.
He's left Spock up there in command, cut off from the rest of the ship, which on a normal day would be manageable; but these are Klingons, have to be Klingons this close to their neutral zone, no one else would be so brazen. And Spock has no practical skills in bluffing or intimidation, the only two effective strategies when dealing with Klingons; and he also hasn't had access to any recent briefings on the condition of the Klingon High Command.
Somehow, by diplomacy or skill or just plain luck, the Federation has thus far avoided outright war with the Klingon Empire – a feat which is nothing less than incredible, given the unrest which Khan's treachery had provoked on both sides. But Jim had at least been successful in convincing the Admiralty – backed, bittersweetly enough, by Pike's former Number One – that their best and only chance had lain in a complete disclosure to the public, and that had probably staved off the inevitable for a little longer. War requires probable cause, and to a Klingon there is no honor in beginning a war over the actions of a traitor who was taken down on a garbage scow by a Vulcan and a human female.
Of course, Jim would have thought there was no honor in ambushing a ship that is peacefully patrolling the Federation side of the Neutral Zone either. That in itself seems to indicate their actions aren't sanctioned officially by their empire, and that may be what saves the Enterprise. The High Command will no doubt disavow any knowledge of their actions should they be defeated; but he's not sure Spock will be willing to pull that particular trigger.
That's his job, anyway.
He tries the intercom one more time as the turbolift starts climbing to the Bridge, straining under what must be an immense power drain of crucial systems – not a good sign, indicating something vital has been hit in Engineering – but again, he only gets interference. The ship jolts around him again with a shrieking of taxed machinery, and he smiles, reminded once more of how she is a living thing he's falling more in love with as the months pass.
Then the floor drops out from under him.
Hazy red light is blinking annoyingly somewhere overhead when his brain comes back online however-long-it-is later, and for a second he just stares at it in befuddled silence.
Then adrenaline kicks in, and he blinks, cold fear and then confusion rushing through him and returning feeling to a body that really could do without feeling right now, given the amount of pain he's in. His head feels like it slammed into something hard enough to dent it (his head, and the thing), which given the condition of the lift is entirely possible, and he aches in enough places that he can't really tell if the sharp stabs across his body are just bruises or if he's actually like, really hurt.
Did he just free-fall down a turbolift shaft?
Given that he's still alive, the security protocols had to have kicked in somewhere before the bottom, forty stories down from the command Bridge, or he'd be in a lot more pieces right now. But he obviously fell far enough to do some damage, because he can see the looming black expanse of the shaft up above him and he doesn't remember the lift not having a roof on it. Somewhere, somehow, in the fall the plastisteel walls shattered and the roof tore away – electrical shorts from the impacts burned out wiring and the couplings fell apart, maybe? Or there was a hull breach as he passed a deck and the resulting vacuum destroyed the bulkhead seals, warping the track the lift runs on. Judging from the fact that his back isn't broken, he's either super lucky or the emergency forcefields at least deployed to slow the free-fall before they too malfunctioned.
Because it's not supposed to be tilted at this angle either.
As he rolls back to a semi-sitting, semi-lying position, the lift shifts dangerously, whining a protest, and he hastily spreads his weight more evenly on hands and knees, shifting jagged pieces of transparisteel all around him. If this thing's balanced in the shaft without the aid of the emergency force fields, he has to get out and fast, before it regains enough verticality to complete the free fall.
Breathing slowly and deeply to control the rising nausea doesn't appear to be an option, given that it feels like something is stabbing deep into his lungs, and given that the walls are in a billion pieces around him it's actually a good possibility that could be literal.
The floor creaks alarmingly under him, and he decides to move anyway; there's no possible way he can wait for Medical, and besides that, the fact that emergency lighting is still on in the shaft means the Bridge is still on Red Alert – the ship is still in danger.
He's barely scrambled up and out, clinging to the side of the shaft like a monkey and then swinging over to the emergency ladder, before there's another pounding shudder of the ship around them. The lift teeters dangerously in the shaft a foot below his toes and then suddenly rocks a few degrees backward – then drops like a rock straight down, finally disappearing beneath his view in the chasm below. Seconds later there's a jarring thud that turns his stomach into a knotted mess.
He looks up, not down, so he doesn't throw up, and tries not to think about what might have happened if he hadn't woken up.
Coughing out a staggering breath, he wipes his face on one sleeve and then turns his head further as the red emergency lights illuminate the number painted on the wall of the shaft.
Well, it could have been worse.
He starts climbing.
The Bridge is in what looks like controlled chaos, hazed with smoke and a chorus of muffled orders that don't even pause when he pounds on the cracked and jammed turbolift doors with the hand not clinging to the ladder with a death-grip.
Uhura's the only one to see him, and one look at her shocked, then determined expression and he ducks below the floor level, face covered in his lower arms against the ladder. Over his head, the weakened door shatters completely under the force of her kick, and a moment later she's hauling him up over the jagged threshold with the help of a white-faced lieutenant from the Engineering station.
"At ease," he says automatically to the poor kid, who has clearly never been on Bridge duty before and looks like he never wants to again, trembling and scared out of his mind. "Lieutenant, what –"
The Bridge rocks again with the force of another hit, and they stagger to keep their balance.
"Return fire, Mr. Sulu!" he can hear Spock's voice coming from the command center, and that's definitely desperation in it, with a hint of helplessness.
"Jim." Uhura says in his ear, over the sounds of a frenzied report from the navigation station, and the fact that he's never heard her use his first name on the Bridge makes him stop for just a second, mystified. "Comms have been jammed but the internal computer sensors haven't been."
Her eyes flicker to the rest of the Bridge crew, who are only just now starting to notice them amid the rest of the chaos, and then back again. "Never mind." She swallows and shakes her head, lips compressed tightly as she turns back to her station.
Yeah, okay, he'll have to figure out that one later. He tugs carefully at his tunic to make sure it's not starting to show blood and then almost stumbles down the steps as the ship lurches again. Spock is bending over the navigation console, looking at something with Chekov, and so Jim is able to nonchalantly grab the command chair-arm for support.
"I do not know sir, if they will not respond to your hails and – and the Keptin is not awailable to negotiate with them, then I do not see an alternative! We have not the power now to warp away, not with the ventilation units malfunctioning as well."
"You'd better destroy them while we still have power to weapons, Commander, because I don't know how much longer I'll have that."
"I cannot condone the wholesale destruction of two ships full of innocent lives, Lieutenant, despite their clear indications of hostility. To do so would be both immoral, and an act of war against the Klingon Empire which could start a chain reaction that we have no hope of averting in Starfleet Command. I cannot make that decision."
"I can." His voice cracks over the Bridge like glass shattering, and it's almost funny how every head jerks up to stare at him.
Clear relief – and is that shock? – shines bright in all three sets of eyes at the front console. Spock clearly eyes him up and down as he carefully moves to stand in front of his chair – if he sits he probably won't get back up – but his First quickly snaps into battle mode, officer first and foremost.
"Sir, we were fired upon without warning when we were vulnerable following the complicated maneuver Lieutenant Sulu was forced to execute in order to avoid a collision with one of the formerly cloaked Birds of Prey. In the last forty-five minutes, we have been engaged in conflict with the two ships. We have succeeded in disabling the weaponry of one but have in the process been severely damaged by the other. Initial damage reports surprisingly low casualties but heavy damage to Engineering, specifically our navigational systems and the central computer core."
Forty-five minutes, that means he spent like twenty or thirty unconscious after that lift dropped. Probably not good.
Also not good, that they lasted that long against a Klingon warship, and that the Bird of Prey was targeting the computer core rather than the weapons systems. That means the Klingons are playing a game, likely that they want the Enterprise herself rather than the glory of simply destroying her.
Over his dead body.
Preferably not literally, but it's the principle of the thing.
"Have they communicated at all?"
"We have made all usual attempts at both initial negotiation and then basic Starfleet-mandated defensive warnings, and they refused to communicate with anyone but yourself, Captain." Spock's brow furrows. "When it was clear that was…impossible, they turned their attentions back toward acts of aggression."
"Fantastic." He sighs, and decides to sit just in case. And yeah, ow, that's something really sharp stuck somewhere sensitive. Arranging himself more carefully in the chair with one arm deceptively across his ribcage, he glances back at Uhura. "Open a channel to that ship, Lieutenant."
She nods and flicks a switch, obviously having anticipated this.
He turns the chair back to the screen and raises his voice. "Bird of Prey, this is Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation starship Enterprise. You have ten seconds to put a face to that ship or I send a photon torpedo into your warp core, Sa'Qej." (2)
Behind him, the ensign at the hydroponics station chokes on something, and Sulu wheels around in his chair, giving him the best WTF expression he's ever seen.
He shrugs. "I'm not in the mood, Mr. Sulu."
Spock's sigh as he passes on the way back to the science station is very telling, but Jim is distracted by the sudden appearance of a Klingon commander on the viewscreen. She appears to be unimpressed by him, which isn't really surprising.
"Finally, you show your face, Kirk!"
"Ironic, given that you're the one who's been firing on my ship without identifying yourself." He waves a bored hand. "Not sanctioned by your High Council, this little adventure of yours, is it?"
The female Klingon bares her teeth at him. "We will return with honor, and your ship as a prize of war!"
"Uh, no." He rolls his eyes, shifts his weight in the chair. He needs to wrap this up, like yesterday. "Try again. This time without the imaginary war, the theoretical approval from your High Council, and the totally unrealistic idea that I'm going to let you so much as sneeze on this ship. And who do I have the honor of addressing, anyway?"
"I am JajtaH, military General and Chief Scientist of the High Command," she declares.
"…Right. And you thought it was smart to take on the Federation's flagship, in Federation territory, by firing on it with no warning after dropping from a cloaked position in territory you are required by Federation and Klingon amnesty agreements to remain at least two hundred parsecs' distance from. I gotta say, I don't think much of your High Command if you're the best they have, Chief Scientist."
"You were trespassing in our territory!"
"I have instrumentational data and official reports that prove otherwise, General."
"Then your instruments are wrong!"
"Oh, come on, JajtaH. My First and Chief Science Officer is a Vulcan. Whose Chief Scientist do you think the Federation Dispute Council is going to believe?"
The female Klingon glances to the side for a moment in what looks like consternation. He closes his eyes, takes a deep breath in very, very slow increments, and opens them again to see her whirl back toward the viewscreen, pounding a fist on the arm of the Klingon command chair.
"Kirk, you lie. Our records and those of your own Starfleet clearly show you have a history of treachery and subterfuge! Do you deny this?"
"Hell, no." A wave of titters sweeps across the Bridge, and he snorts at the look of surprise on his opponent's face. "Not really some huge secret you dug up there, General." He stands, only slightly wobbly, and slowly makes his way down the command dais, back up the front steps, until he's standing in front of the viewscreen, in full view of the Klingon general.
From behind him he hears someone's sharp inhale and a flurry of movement but he ignores it, folding his arms and planting his feet in front of the screen.
"You got me, General. Whatever you dug up on me, it's probably true. But do me a favor, and look up one more thing in your history records, will you?" He gives the Klingon commander a dangerous smile, and sees nervous looks exchanged on the enemy Bridge. "Check what happened to the last three ships that came after the Enterprise in battle. Narada. Fesarius. Vengeance. Those names mean anything to you?" (3)
JajtaH pales slightly.
"You really want to be number four?" He raises an eyebrow. "Whatever you may have read about me is probably true – but know this: I'm giving you one chance to leave my crew and my ship alone, and return to your neutral zone without retaliation from us."
"And if we refuse?"
"Then I am going to blow you out of the stars if you so much as touch your weaponry," he says quietly, deadly. "There will be no more loss of life on my ship today, General. You may decide for yourself, if there will be any aboard yours."
He glances backward, slicing a hand across his throat as he speaks, but Uhura is already on his wavelength and the viewscreen returns to a starry scape with two partially crippled enemy ships hovering nearby.
"Not now, Mr. Sulu," he says absently, worrying at a knuckle as he keeps his eyes on the ships, waiting – for what, he doesn't know.
"But sir –"
"Sir, seriously, you really should –"
"Captain, the Klingon ships appear to be engaging their warp engines," Spock's voice cuts through the noise with the most welcome words in the world, and even before he's finished, the two Birds of Prey have vanished. Only a slight rocking motion as the two warp bubbles form and then collapse leaves any indication they were ever there at all.
Like he said earlier, bluffing is one of the two strategies they understand.
Nobody has to know he wasn't bluffing.
He exhales in a long, shaky breath. "Status report?"
"Damage reports coming in from all over the ship, but minimal casualties. And please, for the love of God sit down before you pass out, Captain." He blinks for a second at Uhura's outstretched hand in confusion, and then realizes that the sensation of warmth leaving him isn't just adrenaline – he's actually bleeding from somewhere, and that's probably why it hurt that much to climb all that way and then sit once he got here.
Given that his shirt seems to be sticking to his back, it's probably functioning as a bandage more than a tunic by now, and that's probably why everyone freaked when he put his back to the Bridge for the first time – he didn't hide it like he thought he did.
Quite logical, really.
Okay, when did he sit down? Lie down? Someone's yelling overhead for an ETA on something and it's making his ears ring.
"Oh…before I forget," he says, tugging on somebody's arm – probably Spock's, nobody else up here who wears blue would be that close to him right now and his head hurts too much to look up and verify the hypothesis. "Y'might wanna tell Scotty there's a smooshed turbolift at the bottom of the starboard Bridge shaft. My bad."
A choked giggle that sounds more like a sob from behind him. "Shut up, Captain. Spock, McCoy said ETA ten minutes, there's only one Jefferies tube route that is big enough for an anti-grav gurney."
"We have got to install secondary systems, seriously. If they can all be knocked off-line like this, it's a serious design problem, Commander. Whoa, easy there, Captain. I don't think you want to try and lie down, sir."
"Chyort, he climbed all the way up the shaft like this?"
He rolls his eyes, squints against the spinning lights. "Was only eight decks, Chekov. I got out before it really crashed."
The hand on his shoulder tightens slightly, and that has to be Spock's because his fingers are always ice cubes. He can't complain, though, since it's basically holding him upright right now. "Eight decks with a head injury and several large pieces of transparisteel embedded in your torso, Captain."
"I've had worse." He frowns, as that doesn't appear to make anyone feel better – if anything, they look more freaked. "Like, literally had waaaay worse, guys. Chill."
Seriously, they all look totally freaked, like he's dying or something. And he should know, because, hello, been there, done that, got the coffee mug. But why d-
Oh. Uhura said the internal computer was working, and protocol dictates locating the captain first in a Red Alert. They'd checked his location – right before the lifts all malfunctioned.
"Um. Sorry?" He winces as his tunic pulls on what has to be a shard of something, and then tries to stand up.
A flurry of arms in varying colors shove him back to his previous position, half-slumped on his side against the command chair.
Chekov's face appears in his vision, eyes huge and hair comically askew, and he stares at the kid in fascination.
"Keptin, you do not get to die on us twice, da? It is not – it is not allowed. We have all agreed on this."
A hand smacks the back of his head. "Shut up, you get no say."
"Ow! Head injury, Lieutenant! Spock, help me out here, buddy."
"Even were I not in agreement with the Lieutenant's sentiments, Captain, I am not so foolish as to side with you over her."
He shakes his head, grinning, as the less experienced members of the Bridge crew go totally bug-eyed at the sight of their stoic First Officer making an honest-to-God joke. "Damn, that's cold, Spock." As the pounding in his head increases, his hand tightens slightly on his First's arm. Sorry for scaring you. Again.
Spock's lips quirk slightly, and he knows the confused thought had to have made its way through the touch somehow, so that's a win at least. The next one comes in the form of a flurry of panicked activity at the Jefferies tube entrance, where a swarm of medical personnel suddenly erupt with way more fanfare than necessary.
He's not the only one that got clocked something good during the battle, but he's by far the only one really bleeding everywhere, so he gets the good drugs and the special treatment and two days of transfusions and then two more of light duty because he has to be a special snowflake with a rare blood type (very, very rare, as in non-existent in anybody currently not cryo-frozen rare).
But a week later, he is ready to swagger back onto his Bridge, good as new, and just a little more humble than before. He isn't going to forget, not for a while, the looks and the stares and the visits and the gifts and everything else he's gotten the last week – all from people who were crewmen during the Vengeance debacle. He scared them all, pretty bad this time, and he honestly can't believe just how much they all care.
It shouldn't surprise him, how much – but it does, and they deserve better. He will give them that, even if it takes all of this mission and the next and the next.
He says as much to Spock the next morning in a rambling monologue, honestly just to keep his mind off the fact that they are riding in a brand-new turbolift and he's really really really really trying to not think about that in particular. Spock nods solemnly (weird), makes some random supportive comment (weirder), and then when they arrive, gestures for him to precede his First out of the lift (way weirder).
Ooookay. He shakes his head and walks onto the Bridge, and then just about pees himself as Spock's booming voice from behind him announces "Captain on the Bridge" in literally the loudest non-shout he's ever heard from a Vulcan.
The two crewmen nearest the lift both jump half out of their chairs, one giving a little meep of terror, and he can hear Uhura's cackling halfway across the Bridge at the comms station. Chekov and Sulu high-five each other and give Spock a thumbs-up, while his First ignores them all and seats himself at the Science station and begins to pull up the day's reports, looking unaccountably smug.
Okay, he is definitely outlawing that.
As soon as he can stop laughing.
(1) Montgomery Scott says at some point in TOS, that the best diplomatic argument he knows of is a fully loaded phaser bank. (meaning I don't own that phrase, lol)
(2) Literally, the Klingon word for jackass, a very mild expletive
(3) Fesarius was the name of the attacking ship in the TOS episode Corbomite Maneuver, which they did not end up destroying but rather defeating by a huge and ridiculous bluff; but I am operating under the assumption that this universe is a little darker, a little unhappier, than the OS universe. My apologies to the single crewmember of the poor TOS Fesaurius.