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A Kinder Mirror

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Spock only has a few seconds after their alternate universe visitors disappear to compose himself for the return of his own Captain Kirk. To Marlena, who is still standing beside him, he says rapidly, “We will discuss this later. I would have you be my ally if you are so willing. What is the invincibility device mentioned by the Alternate Captain Kirk?”

“It’s the Tantalus field, it’s a monitoring device and it can make anyone disappear,” Marlena replies, speaking equally as fast.

“And you are aware of how to use it?” Spock asks. “We may soon have need of it.” She nods, but doesn’t have time to reply or leave the transporter room before the Kirk, Scott, Uhura, and McCoy who belong in this universe reappear.

All four of them check their outfits and give Spock a frantic once-over, and he calmly salutes the Captain.

“All hail the Empire, Mr. Spock,” Kirk says.

“All hail,” Spock responds. At that, the three crew members and the captain relax, realising they’re back in their own universe.

“Thank goodness that’s over,” Mr. Scott comments. “Those people who took us were crazy.”

“You got that right,” Lt. Uhura says, wrapping fingers around the knife in her thigh-high boot just to reassure herself that it’s still there.

“Spock, have whoever was manning the transporter when we returned from Halkan sent to the cage immediately,” Kirk snarls. “I want to watch them suffer.”

“Of course, sir,” Spock says, then pauses, remembering how he’d used the agoniser on the same Mr. Kyle not more than a few hours earlier. It is procedure to use the agoniser, especially in front of the captain. Spock takes no pleasure in it. Alternate Kirk accused the Empire of wasting life. Spock does not wish to throw away the life of Kyle due to an unknown transporter phenomenon over which he had no control, and the whims of Captain Kirk. Therefore, Spock cannot wait hours or days to consider the past or the future, tyranny or freedom. He must decide where he stands and act quickly, though he isn’t yet sure how.

“Captain, can we be dismissed? I need a stiff drink,” Dr. McCoy complains.

“I’m coming with you,” Kirk says grimly.

“Captain, I must inform you of all that has taken place in your absence,” Spock says, with a tilt of his head and a lift of his eyebrow that Kirk will read as significant. Kirk nearly snarls as he turns a baleful glare onto Spock, who surmises that his trip to the alternate universe had been stressful for him. But Kirk steps off the transporter without leaving the room even as Uhura, Scott, and McCoy take their leave.

Kirk jerks his head towards Marlena. “What is she doing here?”

“The imposter,” says Spock, carefully naming the alternate universe Kirk, “forced her to assist him in attempting to leave the Enterprise.”

“My loyalty is to you as always, Captain,” Marlena adds. Kirk gives Marlena a significant glare and she nods, turning and leaving the transporter room without sparing Spock a glance. Spock assumes that Kirk has just indicated to her that she should remove him with the Tantalus field should he prove to be threatening Kirk. But he has no fear that she will use the weapon against him. Not when she knows he intends to depose Kirk, take his place, and set out with her on... what? Some kind of unknown and uncharted fool’s errand to hasten progress. An attempt to make this universe match the kinder mirror Spock saw in the mind of Alternate Dr. McCoy.

Kirk watches Marlena as she goes with calculating eyes, then turns that same gaze on Spock.

“So what happened?” he says, coming around to stand in front of Spock, a little too close for Spock’s comfort even though it’s not out of the ordinary. It is he who has changed in the past few hours, not Kirk.

“Unfortunately, Captain, all four imposters were disruptive in your absence. They lacked the knowledge necessary to blend in, and so multiple members of the crew remarked upon their strange behaviour. For instance, Ensign Chekov attempted to assassinate you, and the false captain allowed him to live.” Spock delivers this report with his regular calm, logical bearing, but in fact, he is stalling to allow Marlena time to return to the Captain’s cabin and access the Tantalus field.

“Chekov was allowed to live?” Kirk says in disbelief. “These mirror people are insane fools.”

“It is true, they do have a distinct logic which is contrary to our own, Captain," says Spock, dissembling.

“Well, what else happened?” Kirk asks.

Spock hesitates. He’s also stalling to try and figure out what the most logical way to neutralise Kirk is. He has orders from the Empire to kill him. However, he’s still reeling from the words of Alternate Kirk, and no longer wishes to contribute to the Empire’s illogical wasting of life, as with Kyle. Yet if he is to become Captain, Kirk must be removed.

This will be his first act, Spock decides. His first symbolic act of treason and mercy. To preserve the life of this miserable Kirk rather than simply grinding him under his heel.

“I have received disturbing orders from Starfleet,” Spock reports at last. “Before you respond, I must warn you. Should you act against me, Lt. Moreau will use the Tantalus field against you.”

Kirk’s eyes grow wide as he realises the implications of Spock’s first statement (that he has been ordered killed) and then of the second (that he is at Spock’s mercy).

“You don’t want command,” Kirk snaps. “What is this a ploy for? What do you want from me that you don’t already have? Goddamnit, Spock, I don’t have the energy for this bullshit right now. Just come out and tell me what you want or get the hell out of my way.” Kirk’s eyes gleam as he looks Spock over. “You want money for your science experiments. No. You want some kind of recognition, a commendation. No –” he pauses and those shining eyes rake over Spock’s body mercilessly. Spock is as still as a statue, every inch of him under control. “You want my body,” Kirk concludes, licking his lips and taking a slow step towards Spock. “Why, Mr. Spock. You could have only asked.”

“What I want,” Spock says forcefully, “is for you to return to the transporter, and if you do not do it in five seconds I will have you destroyed.”

Kirk pauses.

“Five,” says Spock, starting a countdown. Kirk grinds his teeth, his eyes aflame with hatred and rage. “Four.” Kirk looks as if he’s about to lunge for Spock’s throat. “Three.” Spock raises his phaser. “Two.” Kirk finally steps back. “One.” Kirk takes his place on the transporter, looking as if he’d gladly rip Spock’s throat out with nothing but his teeth. His entire posture screams belligerence. Sweat beads on a face set with eyes that are wide and burning, with nostrils flared like those of a cornered stallion.

“Goodbye, Captain Kirk,” says Spock, and activates the transporter to return Kirk to the Halkan planet, where he will be forever marooned.

Although it is illogical, Spock experiences a momentary flash of regret. Not at sparing Kirk’s life. But that in the mirror universe as he saw it through his mind meld with Dr. McCoy, he is friends with Captain Kirk. It is illogical to regret that his Kirk can only ever be his enemy from this point forth. In this universe Captain Kirk is, morally speaking, unredeemable, and it would be pointless to imagine ever being close to him.

Spock has no time to dwell on it. He has three tasks of great importance to perform: Firstly, to assume control of the starship by announcing the death of Captain Kirk – not entirely a lie if one considers it a symbolic death rather than a literal one. Kirk may still exist, but captain he is no more. Secondly, to meet with Marlena and establish their working alliance and likely the sexual relationship which he expects her to demand. Thirdly, to meditate on the images he saw in Alternate Dr. McCoy’s mind, as well as the speech given to him by the alternate Captain Kirk. Then, he will be able to establish a short term plan to save the Halkans and a long term plan to sabotage the Empire.

It is as if Alternate Kirk’s words have unlocked some kind of door within Spock, allowing him to think and act on possibilities and ideas he has always considered unconsciously, but had been forced to reject because he could find no logical justification for them. What Alternate Kirk asked him for is revolution. In Spock’s former point of view, it was illogical to act out against the status quo for no reason other than personal moral preferences. But if the Empire itself is illogical, as Kirk proposed, it is the duty of logic to oppose it.

And Spock is nothing if not dutiful and logical.

In the future, there will be statues in Spock’s honour. Captain Spock, the one man with a vision who first began dismantling the Empire and building bonds with other species in the name of galactic peace and equality. Instead of 240 years, the Empire will fall apart and be replaced with something better in less than 70. But of course, Spock himself knows nothing of this future at the time when he first sets out on this course.

What he does know is: constantly thinking ahead of the Empire, everything he says and does calculated twelve steps in advance, like moves in an endless game of chess. Logic working overtime, danger from not only the Empire’s enemies but now also the Empire itself. Every person who outranks him threatening to uncover his secret goal, every person beneath him threatening to try and replace him.

Attempts to cultivate a new environment on the Enterprise, loyalty instead of fear. The agonisers are dialled down to their lowest settings and eventually used only in the most serious of cases. The cage is abandoned. Soon everyone in the fleet wants to be transferred here for both the wrong reasons and the right reasons (easy pickings, they think, predatory; gentler life, they hope, yearning). Judicious application of the Tantalus device, many beings destroyed but more beings saved than have ever been saved by an Empire ship.

Earning the secret fierce loyalty of Mr. Scott, Lt Uhura, and Nurse Chapel while losing Sulu and Chekov and replacing the latter with a man named Reilly. Having to maroon Bones in the same way he’d marooned Kirk. A relationship with Marlena, aborted when his Vulcan ways failed to satisfy her and she took Lt. Uhura to her bed; now Marlena is his first officer, and they are close and profound friends.

Space battles and space anomalies and alien beings and moral dilemmas that Spock is in no way, shape, or form equipped to handle, yet he tries anyway, tries to find a logic in a positive morality that has long been unknown to him. Every imaginable quiet form of treason. Mind melds with enemies to control and with friends to understand. Thinking of the future always, even as he wrestles with the present each day.

And always, always in the back of his mind, a memory of the tumultuous, soul-changing day that started him down this path, and a memory of deposing his Kirk. Who is now a dangerous spectre, a reminder of everything he’s afraid of and of everything he’s trying to change.

Ten years later

The bridge of the Enterprise rocks with a blast of phaser fire, and the ship comes to an abrupt halt to the sound of an explosion. On the viewscreen, the Empire ship chasing them is closing in fast.

“Impulse engines are down, Captain,” comes Mr. Scott’s voice from the communications panel on the arm of Spock’s command chair.

“Mr. Reilley, status of the phaser banks?” Spock asks his security officer.

“Still inoperable, sir,” comes the reply, as Spock expected.

The warp engines are down. The impulse engines are now down. Their shields are drained. All their weapons are also down. The ship is totally crippled, unable to fight or to run away. Spock analyses their situation. If the Enterprise is captured, doubtless he and his officers will all be tortured and killed. There will also be an inquisition into the ship’s recent history, which will no doubt reveal Spock’s traitorous goals and the crew’s complicity in most of them. Therefore, his crew will also be tortured and killed. Spock can’t allow that to happen. At the very least, his officers and crew deserve a clean death.

“Computer, initiate self-destruct sequence,” Spock says.

“Length of time to self-destruct?” the computer queries.

“Ten minutes,” Spock says, and in this moment near to death he is not ashamed to admit that his heart is heavy like a stone. There is a chance that in these ten minutes, Mr. Scott will be able to miraculously repair the engines, as he has done so many times before. But the most likely scenario is that the Enterprise will be blown up just as the Empire ship reaches it, ensuring their mutual destruction. The Enterprise will not go out without making a statement.

“Input password,” says the computer, and Spock does.

“Nine. Minutes. And. Fifty. Nine. Seconds,” the computer counts out.

The bridge is totally silent. Spock and his bridge crew – loyal Reilley, clever Uhura, visionary Marlena, all courageous to the last – fix their eyes on the enemy stalking towards them with their deaths in its sights.

“Eight. Minutes. And. Thirty. Seconds.”

All of a sudden, a blast of red fire streaks across the stars, completely engulfing the Empire ship. The bridge watches in astonishment as a third ship appears seemingly out of nowhere, driving the Empire ship away from the crippled Enterprise, pushing until it gives.

The ship appears to be Romulan, although Spock does not recognise the design – he simply recognises the bird of prey painted on the underside of the ship. The ship’s abilities, too, are not unheard of, but they are rare and unexpected – invisibility, this powerful firey weapon. If this Romulan ship has business with that Empire ship, perhaps the Enterprise can use the combat between the two as their window of opportunity for an escape.

“Computer, pause countdown,” Spock orders, and the computer pauses at Seven. Minutes. And. Forty. Eight. Seconds.

Spock presses the communications button his chair and contacts the chief engineer.

“Engines still aren’t back online, Captain,” Mr. Scott reports. “I need thirty minutes, but it can be done.”

On the viewscreen in front of them, the mysterious Romulan ship fires on the Empire ship until it is subdued. To Spock’s surprise, the Romulan ship does not destroy the Empire ship, but simply chases it away. The sky is now clear, black and dotted with innocent stars.

“You shall have your thirty minutes, Mr. Scott,” Spock replies, and the bridge crew collectively, silently relaxes.

Spock is pondering the Romulan ship’s intervention when, to the bridge crew’s horror, the ship itself reappears from the distance, advancing towards them rapidly. Spock is not given to flights of fancy, but the unknown quality of the ship, coupled with his observation of its powerful weapons, gives it an air of predatory menace.

“Phasers, Mr. Reilley?”

“Still none, Captain.”

They are out of options. If that ship fires on them, everyone aboard the Enterprise is dead or soon to be enslaved. All Spock can do is gauge the situation and restart the self-destruct countdown if necessary.

“They’re hailing us, sir,” reports Lt. Uhura.

“On screen,” says Spock. If he can somehow engage the captain of the enemy ship in conversation, he can stall long enough for Mr. Scott to finish his emergency repairs to the engines. He expects the enemy ship will demand their surrender. He supposes they can play along for a time, if necessary. False surrender is considered dishonourable and shameful, but the Empire does not believe in honour, even if Spock himself has developed a taste for it in the past 10 years.

At Spock’s command, Uhura accepts the Romulans’ hail and switches the viewscreen to an image of their bridge. Immediately, Spock stiffens, his spine becoming ramrod straight. He hears shocked gasps from Uhura and Reilley. Calmly hailing them from the Romulan bridge are:

For one, a Captain James T. Kirk. For two, a Dr. Leonard “Bones” McCoy.

There was no way the James Kirk that Spock knew would be here for any reason other than an immediate and vicious revenge. As for McCoy, his presence is equally sinister. He and the Enterprise had not parted as friends.

“I am Captain Kirk of the Repercussus security vessel.” Kirk’s expression is unreadable. ‘Security vessel’ is doubtless a euphemism for mercenary or even pirate ship. Aside from Dr. McCoy, Kirk seems to be accompanied by two Romulans and a few other multi-species bridge crew who Spock doesn’t recognise. This also points towards the pirate ship conclusion.

“I am Captain Spock of the ISS Enterprise,” Spock says in acknowledgement. “State your business with us.”

“We come to offer you our surrender.”

Spock is momentarily stunned. Then, he instantly starts analysing Kirk’s words to try and figure out what kind of trap Kirk plans to spring on him. There is no way Kirk can’t be aware that the Enterprise in its current state couldn’t put a scratch on his ship even by colliding with it head-on. Spock raises an eyebrow.

“Their shields are down, sir,” Marlena reports.

“Captain Kirk,” Spock says after a moment’s reflection, “we would be happy to accept your peaceful surrender. Please allow us to beam you aboard to discuss the terms. We will send a prize crew aboard your own ship as well.”

What Spock is suggesting is contrary to standard procedure, in which the highest ranking officer of the victorious ship visits the defeated one to accept the surrender, rather than the other way around. However, Spock does not wish to make himself an easy target by delivering himself directly to Kirk’s ship.

He expects Kirk to object. Instead, Kirk nods. “So I can be within range of the Tantalus field?” Kirk gives a slow smile. “Alright, Captain Spock. I’ll put myself in your hands. We want this transaction to be peaceful just as much as you do.”

Spock immediately assumes Kirk has found some way to overpower the Tantalus field. Kirk seems so self-assured, to the point of appearing relaxed. Though he would never admit it, that frightens Spock. He interprets Kirk’s confidence as meaning Kirk sees himself as a threat, a threat Spock is completely unprepared to counter.

Nevertheless. Spock must buy his crew time. If that means risking an encounter with Kirk, so be it. First Officer Marlena Moreau is more than fit to run the ship by herself if Kirk should get the better of him. And there is a certain sense of inevitability in Kirk’s return after all these years. The decision to maroon rather than kill Kirk was one of the few Spock had never been completely sure of.

“I will beam you aboard momentarily,” Spock says, signalling Lt. Uhura to end the communication.

“I don’t trust him, Captain. He should be eliminated as fast as possible,” says Marlena.

“I do concur. However, I must risk meeting with him in order to delay his ship. Please, attend to the Tantalus field. If it fails, have a security crew standing by. Mr. Reilley, prepare a prize team, but delay sending them to the enemy ship until I have ascertained Kirk’s intentions or our engines are operational.”

Reilley acknowledges his orders, and Marlena follows Spock from the bridge. Once they are inside the turbolift and the doors have closed, Marlena turns to him.

“I’ve got your back,” she says tersely, though he can tell by her posture that she is concerned and upset.

“As you always do,” Spock says, acknowledging her feelings with a slight incline of his head.

“I always wondered why you didn’t just let me vanish him in the first place,” she comments, looking straight ahead at the closed doors of the lift. “But then, you couldn’t have known he’d escape from the Halkan planet.”

“It would have been a waste of life. And waste is illogical,” he says, echoing his old rationale, even if he still isn’t sure it was correct.

Marlena shakes her head. “No, it’s wasting your life when you spend your time wasting other people, like he used to do.” She sighs, and the edge in her voice drops. “Spock. We’re really in it today. So if we don’t get out – thank you for everything.”

The turbolift has stopped now. Spock inclines his head. “Likewise,” he says. “But if anyone doesn’t ‘get out’, as you say, it shall be me and me alone. I intend to give you the best possible chance to continue on as captain of the Enterprise, regardless of the personal consequences of my meeting with Kirk.”

Spock does not think it is an exaggeration to acknowledge the very real threat that Kirk poses to him personally.

Marlena clasps Spock’s shoulder, hesitates, then quickly leans forward and gives him a kiss on the cheek. Giving him a lingering glance, she exits the turbolift, leaving Spock behind. The turbolift continues on to the transporter room.

As he enters the room, Spock estimates that there are twenty-one minutes left on the engine repair. If he can keep Kirk talking for that long, the Enterprise could still fly away from this intact. Regardless of what happens to Spock.

Mentally composing himself, Spock manipulates the transporter controls to lock onto Kirk. After a few deft touches, Kirk shimmers into being. Spock gives him a clinical once-over.

His former captain is no longer wearing the uniform of an Empire officer (what did it cost him to give that up, Spock wonders). Instead, he wears a patchwork of alien clothing that could hardly be called a uniform, save that his rank is shown with unexpectedly restrained badges. If pressed, Spock would say Kirk is dressed like a half-Romulan space pirate with pretensions at military rank.

Although aged ten years since Spock last saw him, Kirk appears physically fit and healthy. He is golden-haired and hazel-eyed as ever, and he wears an impenetrable mask of calm confidence. Whatever sinister intentions he has are expertly hidden. It is frustrating to Spock that he can discern no further clues from Kirk’s appearance.

After a few moments of silence, Kirk speaks. “Do you intend to strike me down, Captain Spock?”

“Not at this time,” Spock replies. “If you will follow me.”

In silence, he guides the Captain to an empty meeting room containing a large table lined with chairs, where neither of them sits. Spock stands blocking the door, while Kirk casually leans against the table between two of the chairs.

“I wish to know your intentions,” Spock says. “Surely you are aware that your surrender is unnecessary. You will tell me of your true intent towards the Enterprise. If the threat of the Tantalus field is not enough to coerce you, I will allow you to experience my agoniser.”

Kirk shakes his head, continuing to look not at all concerned. Not that Spock has ever known him to show weakness in his life. “There will be no need for that,” Kirk says. “My intentions are exactly as they appear to be. I have an idea of the game that you’re playing from Dr. McCoy. You’re resisting the Empire, trying to change it somehow. How you’ve managed to do it while remaining captain of a starship for ten years, I don’t know. But I surrendered to you as a sign of goodwill, because I want to join you. It seems to me that the Enterprise needs an ally to watch your back. My crew and I are willing to be that ally.”

For one, wild moment, Spock entertains the notion that Kirk somehow staged their confrontation with the Empire ship that had crippled them in order to gain Spock’s trust and manipulate him. That could be the Romulan ship – Kirk’s ship – had chased the Empire ship away rather than destroy it. But no. Spock couldn’t imagine anyone in the Empire other than an Admiral having the credibility to stage something like that. Even a master spy wasn’t likely to have that kind of power. Spock would have known if Kirk had crawled out of obscurity to somehow become an Admiral. Spy, however, was another question entirely.

“I am most perplexed at your accusation,” Spock prevaricates. “The Enterprise is loyal to the Empire.”

Kirk has the audacity to snort and raise both of his eyebrows.

“And more to the point,” Spock continues, “I have no reason to trust you.”

“My ship is in your hands, Mr. Spock,” Kirk says, looking dismayed. Now it’s Spock’s turn to raise an eyebrow. As if there were any reason whatsoever to believe that Kirk’s word might actually be his bond. That would be as logical as believing that Kirk had spontaneously turned into a Horta.

“As your phasers and other weapons no doubt remain operational, I find that difficult to believe,” Spock counters coolly.

I am in your hands,” Kirk says. Spock only raises his eyebrow again.

Although Kirk’s posture doesn’t change, Spock can see in the tightening of his eyes that he’s becoming – what? Frustrated, irritated. Spock waits, calculating the time of Kirk’s inevitable eruption of violence. Thirteen minutes and thirty-two seconds remaining on the engine repair.

Finally, Kirk sighs. “You spared my life once, Spock,” he says. “Is it so hard to believe I’d want to repay you for it?” He pauses. Spock does not respond. “You sparing my life... I’ve come to understand - it was intended as a gift.” Kirk tries again. “I never expected such treatment from anyone aboard the Enterprise, not even you, and I knew that you were loyal to me. You changed my life, and you changed me.”

Loyalty? A gift? Spock shakes his head. That’s not – those were never his motives in marooning Kirk rather than killing him. “We had an uneasy alliance at best, Captain,” Spock says coldly, though as he says it he is forced to acknowledge that yes, there was some loyalty there. It’s just that that loyalty was a pale imitation of what he’s actually capable of in a relationship where there’s no threat of betrayal on either side, like his current relationship with Marlena.

Kirk looks a little crestfallen that Spock’s memory of their relationship doesn’t appear to match his own. If he were given to sighing, Spock would sigh in frustration. He doesn’t trust Kirk, and they have talked each other to a standstill. There is only one course of action left to take.

“Captain,” Spock says gravely, “I will have your thoughts.”

Kirk’s eyes widen. He knows that Spock is suggesting a mind meld, something that Vulcans don’t do lightly. In the Empire it’s used as a tool of conquest, for taking over another’s mind by force. Spock is fascinated to see if Kirk will permit the vulnerability he has thus far displayed in surrendering to the Enterprise and coming into the range of the Tantalus field to continue. Especially since they have never melded before, and as far as he knows, Kirk has no clue what to expect.

Does Spock detect a glimmer of anxiety in Kirk’s guarded eyes? Kirk takes a moment to consider, and then he nods. “I have nothing to hide. I’m in your hands, Mr. Spock,” he says again, and sits down on the table.

Watching warily to see if Kirk will react, Spock quickly applies his fingers to Kirk’s psi points. Kirk flinches, but allows it. Saying nothing, Spock lowers his shields and enters Kirk’s mind.

Kirk’s surface thoughts are a tumultuous swirl of anxiety and anticipation. Anxiety – that his trust in Spock is misplaced, that Spock will hurt him or kill him. Anticipation – that this is their reunion, that Kirk wants to know Spock again (Spock still cannot believe it). There is a slight bite of aggression but it’s all defensive, not offensive, and masterfully kept under Kirk’s control. To Spock’s dismay, there is none of the brutality he was expecting, none of the anger, the hatred, the bitterness, the lust.

Where are they? Those were essential parts of Kirk’s personality and yet now they are gone. Spock keeps looking. Under the surface he finds pride, strength, calm, resolution, intellect. Spock has seen his former captain split in half, knows that the part of him which could be called good used to be pathetically subordinate and weak, and here it is quiet but when he looks closer he finds it steadfast. He wants to tear into it and dissect it but he is not here to do violence.

A gentle tug on his mind and Kirk is inviting him deeper, and they are falling into a memory.

There – the anger that Spock was seeking, exploding across their shared mindscape. This is the day that Kirk was switched with his counterpart in the mirror universe.

Rage, white hot, as Kirk is returned at last to his own Enterprise. Those mirror people, the alternate Spock, violate all the laws of Kirk’s known universe. In his own he is in control, he is proud, he fears nothing. Now he is home – relief, residual anger, the desire to forget. But then – he is cast out by his Spock – pain! The laws are broken again but this time he cannot pretend that it was just an aberration. All his power gone, stranded on an unknown planet, a planet in the shadow of the Empire’s sword.

The Halkans are hateful. None of them will help him get back to the Enterprise. Their weakness, their bleeding hearts, their pathetic morality – is transmuted into a stubbornness, a power that they hold over him. They are completely unafraid. They are fools. Then the world fails to end. Kirk tells himself he will be king of this planet within the week, but his every charm they resist and he is no more than an annoyance to them, a problem. What is it they have that Kirk doesn’t have? What is it that is missing from him? What part of him is broken?

Kirk refuses to be conquered by despair or any Halkan. He seeks to understand. He will have the power of the Halkans, the power of the mirror universe, the power of Spock. Whatever makes them impervious to bribery and seemingly, to fear, whatever makes them so intractable. He will have it.

So he learns – humility from his constant defeat, he learns – compassion as it is shown to him when he least deserves it, he learns – ideas and ideals, he learns – love exists, it is not a myth and it is not a weakness.

A shiver of fear, so Spock moves away from looking too far into that particular memory, which is more feeling than event. So he has seen Kirk’s story of how he supposedly changed from an evil man who hated Spock’s guts for marooning him in space, to a principled man who might find it in his heart to be grateful to Spock for sparing his life. But that isn’t enough. How did Kirk escape the Halkan planet? Why is he here now, offering Spock his surrender?

The Halkans would not let Kirk return to space. Kirk said: I am going back, I am going to challenge the Empire, I am going to make some kind of difference. One of you, come with me, breathe down my neck and make sure I never forget what I have learnt here, please. Please, for the first time in his life. At that, he secured an ally, Thorna, his ethics officer – I can get one for you too, if you’d like, they’re very helpful, Kirk suggests to Spock – and together they had stowed away aboard a passing ship.

After that – finding a suitable vessel, beg-barter-or-steal. The Romulan Repercussus (Kirk translates, Reflection) – pride, joy, ownership, respect, gladness. Building a crew – Cato, the Romulan tired of war, and his lover the Centurion Vitus, now Kirk’s first officer and security officer; Thorna the ethics officer; mixed human and Romulan crew; two Vulcans, a Betazed, an Orion, anyone who would come, anyone trustworthy who believed.

In a bar on a distant planet – a familiar face – confusion, familiarity, a strange hope – Dr. McCoy! He has been stranded here by Spock.

Spock. A name long unspoken. Feelings rise - loyalty broken by betrayal, betrayal softened by mercy, a sudden fascination. McCoy speaks of the Enterprise, of all Spock has done. Kirk is hungry to know, to understand. McCoy is angry at being stranded, hates that filthy hobgoblin who turned the Enterprise on its head. Kirk senses the same confusion in him that had once been in himself. Invites McCoy aboard, coaxes him into understanding, opens his spirit (where Spock failed to do so - Not your fault (Thank you, Kirk)).

Kirk thinks of Spock and something in him yearns. He hacks and spies and searches for rumours, for whispers. The Enterprise’s secret mission is on the verge of being uncovered by the Empire. The yearning grows stronger. Kirk will go help. Kirk will see who Spock has become. He knows that Spock has never been his enemy, now. He needs Spock to understand that. He calls to him.

Caught up in the meld, Spock can’t help but answer (without words) that yes, he is here. Kirk’s feelings unfold. Joy. Gratitude. Respect. A wish for friendship. A wish to know. And underneath it all, that great yearning, which Spock suspects that Kirk himself isn’t even aware of. The emotions crash over him like a tide and Spock, drowning, is forced to break the meld. He staggers backwards, staring at Kirk, one hand still raised.

Kirk shakes his head to clear it, blinking; he looks up at Spock. Their eyes lock and Spock takes a harsh breath. Kirk says, “Are you alright?”

The James T. Kirk that Spock knows would never ask such a question of him. But here he is, asking it; and even though they are no longer touching he can practically feel the genuine concern radiating from him. Somehow, Spock’s mind is still buzzing with Kirk’s emotions and he can’t seem to collect himself. In all his life Spock has never experienced such feelings in the mind of another, let alone felt them directed at him. Kirk – admiring him, seeking him, reaching to him, desiring him soul over body.

Unable to stop himself, Spock snatches Kirk’s hand and presses their fingers together, grabs Kirk around the waist with his other arm, and passionately kisses him on the lips. The current of Kirk’s feelings roars through his fingers, singing without words a surprised yes, yes, want this, yes. Kirk kisses him back.

The room shudders as the ship’s engines come back online, and Spock wrenches away and tries to recall himself. Yes: surrender negotiations with Kirk. Thirty minutes must have passed, for the engines to be repaired.

Spock goes to the communication panel on the wall and first contacts Marlena. “Stand down, Lieutenant-Commander,” he tells her. “You may resume your place on the bridge. Please inform the crew that Captain Kirk’s surrender was in earnest.”

“Tell them they can send the prize crew over,” Kirk suggests. “But just to collect information about my ship. If we’re going to be working together, your crew and mine should know a little bit about each other, don’t you think, Mr. Spock?”

Kirk’s being familiar with him in front of his first officer, but Spock choses to interpret it as a sign of goodwill. “Indeed,” he confirms to Marlena over the communications panel.

“Roger that, Captain,” Marlena replies, and Spock ends the communication. Slowly, he turns back to Kirk, grappling with his new knowledge of the man and his own momentary lapse in judgement. Kissing him like that. Spock wants to blame it on the meld producing an artificial feeling of intimacy, but he can't deny that something in Kirk had called to Spock and something in Spock had answered. Just maybe, that something in Spock has existed for longer than the past thirty minutes. Maybe it's been waiting ten years to be called.

That, Spock will need to contemplate in the future.

“Are we now allies, Mr. Spock?” Kirk says, managing to look not expectant in the slightest, despite how much the question must mean to him.

“We are indeed,” Spock confirms. All the evidence he’s seen so far today – Kirk’s ship rescuing the Enterprise, Kirk’s purposeful trust of Spock, all the things he saw in Kirk’s mind – points to one, unalterable conclusion: that it would be illogical not to trust Kirk. And Spock is nothing if not logical...

“Are you truly willing to assist me in sabotaging the Empire?” Spock asks. Kirk grins.

“I knew you were playing at something,” he says. “And of course. I’ve learnt my lesson by now. Might isn’t always right, although sometimes I still wish that it were.”

“Then allow me to gift you with wisdom that was imparted to me on the day of your departure ten years ago,” Spock says, and quotes Alternate Kirk, whose words will forever be seared into his brain. “‘In every revolution there is one man with a vision.’ I have been working towards revolution. But now we are two.”

“So we are. But who told you that?” Kirk says, frowning.

Spock does not smile, but he is easy as he responds, “Why, you did.”

And Kirk does smile, as if he understands.

In the future, there will be statues in Kirk’s honour, and in Marlena’s and in Cato’s too. Kirk, of course, will leave a controversial legacy due to the violence he perpetuated prior to his marooning on Halkan. Kirk himself will always regret that violence, and for every unjust death he once ordered he will try and right it with an act of mercy or a just death, or both, and this is what he will later be celebrated for. But of course, Kirk and Spock know nothing of this future at the time when they first begin their alliance.

What they do know is: two ships working in tandem, a new bag of tricks, new avenues, and new allies open to them. Frequent consultations with each other, equals and counterparts and friends, making use of Kirk’s extraordinary powers of innovation to supplement Spock’s unrivalled powers of analysis. Danger escalating as the Empire finally catches up to them, new alliances with the armies of other worlds. Spock being forced into what is essentially piracy and finding that he does not mind it so much as he thought he would. Long years of strategy, stealth, and combat, yet not once are they ever tempted to give up. The positive consequences of their actions ripple throughout the galaxy.

But most importantly, Kirk at now at Spock’s side, always there, never more than a few light years or a return trip away. Saving each other’s lives, saving each other’s ships, saving each other’s crews. Later, another stolen kiss, stolen nights together, and when the Empire blocks Spock from returning home to Vulcan, an entire stolen pon farr. Spock comes to think of himself in some respects as the galaxy’s greatest thief. Eventually Kirk and Spock reign the Enterprise together, while Cato retains control of the Repercussus and the two ships’ partnership continues. But finally, Kirk and Spock are together.

My thoughts to your thoughts, my strength to your strength, my heart to your heart.