Contrary to popular belief, James Tiberius Kirk's greatest crime was boredom.
Well, on record it was ditching school, but that was because middle school was boring and he'd rather hole himself up in the library than sit through lessons he'd already done on his own time.
He was a nerd, sue him.
Light years away, and 7 years ago Jim Kirk had been much worse things.
One thing that didn't bore him was Engineering, the kind that kept a Starship flying and whole civilizations floating across the galaxy. That was why, at the age of 14, the moment he had gotten back on Earth he tested out of his high school courses and went to get his Degree for it.
Everyone was on the edge of death and it was time to stop doing the unimportant shit and to move forwards.
His Mother hadn't wanted him to do it, and Sam had even called from his own dorm up on MIT to fight him. But in the end neither of them wanted him to waste his life either, entering High School would have been a death sentence.
They had both taken comfort in the fact that he, at least, wasn't going to be joining Starfleet.
On his 20th birthday, with some gin that Sam smuggled into Jim's dorm, they'd drank to that fact and Jim tried not to show that he was tucking a small piece of his soul into box and hiding it away.
So when he was done with school, Jim had to ask himself an important question: 'What does a 20 year old man do with a double major of Complex Warp Mechanics and Computer Sciences with a minor in Computer Engineering?'
The answer was obviously to become a grunt worker at the Riverside Shipyard, because that's what paid the bills.
Jim wasn't like Sam who was itching and burning to go out and tame planets, make them grow and fill them with knowledge and colonist. No, he had that in him a long time ago when he was just a kid who looked to the stars and longed to touch every single one of them.
But not anymore, he'd been out there and had seen what it was like, Jim didn't want it.
It was a mantra he recited to himself as he sat on the roof of the old family Farmhouse that only he lived in. Jim would gaze up at the constellations and sip at his glass of rum and coke while telling himself he was happy.
So, Jim worked at the shipyard and helped moved swathes of scraps and parts to and fro with an occasional glimpse at the beautiful and gleaming ship that was being built inside.
It was sleeker than anything he'd ever laid eyes on and the first time he'd seen the beautiful but nameless silver lady he'd had the thought that she was the most beautiful thing he'd ever known.
But the stirrings of his heart never became a storm, she didn't invoke love, and he was not moved.
The ship was mostly a shell with the interior having years to go, but the Starfleet engineers who were in charge of the project waxed poetic about the blueprints only they were privy to.
Rumor was they were building the New Flagship for the fleet, a yet unnamed and top of the line ship that would see worlds no outsider, or in some cases not sentient being, had ever seen before.
Jim had never felt part of it all.
It was work, and it was work he'd be doing for 4 more years. At least, that's how long the Engineers had projected she'd be in the yard.
Then, when she was space-born, Jim would be hauling parts on whatever refit was due.
He kept telling himself the same thing everyday for the past year, that this was what he wanted. This was how he wanted to spend his life.
Some days he even believed it.
When a swarth of Cadets descended on them for transportation to Starfleet HQ , it was not one of those days.
They were all so bright eyes and eager to lay eyes on the Silver Lady that lounged in the yard, most of them a in awe, the rest were completely love struck.
As for Jim, he just watched as the sea of Starfleet Cadets milled around the place like children. Mostly it was to be sure none of them touched anything. There was no telling which of the kids were on track to be engineers nor how long they'd been on that course.
So really, it was safest to be sure none of them touched anything.
Jim was hauling some of the new monitors from the delivery transport and onto the hauler. Stack and stacks of computers to fill conference rooms and crew quarters.
Ready to be inbound on the hover rail, and installed on the ship the moment it reached the engineers who were crafting her.
"Excuse me," a voice called as he sent off the hauler with a press of a button and a new one slid out from the wall to take it's place. Jim turned to the source.
The first thing he noticed was the Cadet Reds, the second that the owner of the voice was a red headed Orion Woman.
"Sorry ma'am," Jim gave it his best not to sound rude, "But Cadets aren't permitted out of the tour zone."
He then gestured to the yellow stripes of paint on the ground that formed a path which guided the tour, a path she had overstepped.
"Oh!" She looked at the lines and then gave him an almost flirty smile, "Well, I had a few questions, so maybe you can keep it a secret?"
The Cadet fluttered her eyes and Jim let his smile drop, "Can't do that, sorry. I'll have to ask you to go back on the path."
Undeterred the Cadet took a couple steps back and she was once more on the path, she fluttered her eyes at him, "Can you answer my questions now?"
"Nope," Jim gave a smile and felt a bit smug over the whole event before he started back to the deliver transport,"I'm not Starfleet and Therefore I an unable to answer any questions you may have about the current or future projects that this site has been sanctioned to complete."
He'd told a thousand tourists and a few diplomats the same song and dance when they came in and thought they could go over the Fleet and get the 'real' story on the ship yard.
Surprisingly the Cadet followed the tour path to chase him, "It's not about the ship! I was just wondering if you were doing anything later."
That was a shock but Jim wasn't going to be phased by it.
He, after all, wasn't a stranger to the comforts of companionship that another could bring. Ruth came to mind first, because she had been the first person he'd tried to give his heart to when he was back home.
She had been getting a degree in Computer Engineering and he'd cared for her in the way a young man who was just starting his life could. But she wanted to go out and work on Memory Alpha, the greatest database in the Galaxy called to her, so he'd let her go.
Jim did his best not to think of the one before her.
But there wasn't anyone after either. Jim was a romantic at heart but lived in an age where woman like Ruth, who had passion and a mind to shape the universe, chased their dreams to even the most distant stars.
He would always be alone, here in his home of Riverside, Iowa.
Any person with the traits he found desirable was destined to leave him because of the very reason he loved them.
This Cadet was no different, she could provide company for a night then she'd be gone to San Francisco and Starfleet Academy to chase her dreams in the morning.
"Sorry, I don't really like to go out with people just passing through," Jim replied, and it was true. The one thing he craved above anything was a connection to someone. And even if he allowed himself to be with a person like this Cadet, who would run off to be amazing, he couldn't be like Winona Kirk.
He couldn't live with being left behind like his Father had left her. The fact that it was for a purpose greater than any of them was what made it worse.
"It'll just be a bit of fun." She practically cooed as he lifted one box after another onto his trolley, "Not everyday you find someone as sexy as you in a place like this."
Jim couldn't help it then, he laughed. An honest to god laugh had bubbled from his belly and out at her rather straightforward behavior.
"Call me old fashioned Cadet, but I'm a bit of a romantic." Jim confessed as he finished loading his trolley and began pushing it towards the hauler, he threw her a smile too, "As beautiful as you are, I don't think it's be fair to spend just one evening with you. It would only haunt me, I think."
The Cadet, who followed him back to the hauler, bit her bottom lip and stared at him like she wanted to swallow him whole then. She opened her mouth to reply but another woman in the same red uniform stormed over.
"Gailia!," The woman sounded more exasperated than angry, she had dark brown skin and black hair that looked like it had been straightened and pulled back into a high ponytail, "The Commander has been looking for you! What do you think-"
She cut herself off and looked to him as if he were a particularly interesting insect.
Jim had continued loading the hauler but kept casting curious glances at them.
He couldn't help it really. The First Cadet, Gailia apparently, had been cut off by this new woman and he kind of wanted to see how the drama unfolded.
"You have to be kidding me," The new Cadet rolled her eyes at him, "My friend here was just leaving, and you better not follow us."
Gailia scoffed then, "As if he would. My new friend here was, as you humans say, 'letting me down easy'."
The newcomer seemed to see him with new eyes and gave him an actual smile, "In that case, I'm sorry my friend has been bothering you."
She then turned back to Gailia, her smile dropping,"Now let's go before you get written up for trying to get laid."
Gailia let herself be dragged off, but not before she cast him a flirty wink and Jim couldn't help but let out a small huff of a laugh to himself at the whole thing. She had been beautiful and bit funny from what he'd seen.
But, there was work to do and a life to live.
For the rest of the day Cadets were in and out of the yard, but no more approached him. That was a miracle in itself really. He had a least thought a few of the ones with a few more brains than wisdom would have pestered him.
It turned out that a few of the others had been approached by that type though.
As Jim entered the office to check out her could hear Sevi laughing with Graham, "One of those greenie kids stuck head in Amara's station and she screamed like a toddler!"
"Shut up!" Amara's voice was laughing and her eyes sparkled even though she was trying to frown, "At least I didn't hit on a Deltan like an idiot! Honestly, you morons really need to get off planet more, take a vacation.
"I hear Delta Vega is nice this time of year!"
Graham seemed to notice that Jim had entered and was making his way to the signing block, "Heard Jimmy here caught the attention of that Orion Chick!"
"Oh my!" Sevi gave a deep and lecherous exclamation, "Got a hot date tonight? I hear Orions are pretty wild!"
Jim rolled his eyes, at them and their archaic notions, "Leave it, I'm not going out with anyone. Besides calling Orions 'wild' is kind of disgusting, y'know all things considered."
Part of him knew his voice was tense, but he wasn't just going to smile and ignore the comment. The other part of him just felt sick at the reminder that people still has such 21st century values when it came to Off Worlders.
Jim clocked out and ignored Sevi as he jeered and waggled his eyebrows, "Sure, bet that's just what you want us to think!"
"I'm leaving!" Jim let that be his only reply as he gave the others a wave and backed out of the office. They continued to laugh and he could hear their muffled voices going on and on as he walked away.
They were always a bit less refined than would be ever be proper, but they were the type who were content to spend their life in one place, one planet, and one town. It was awful to think that there were people who still harbored such willful ignorance, but it was true.
Winona had raised him on the manners expected by the wider Galaxy, it made it so he would never really be friends with them. His morals wouldn't allow it.
Even if he too was to stay in the same place.
Feeling a bit weary from the long day Jim hoped on his hover bike and kicked it to life.
The rumble of the engine was a comfort against the cool air of the evening as he pulled his Father's old and battered leather jacket over his shoulders. It's weight a comfort as he kicked the bike into gear and zoomed out of the shipyard's parking lot.
Kicking up dirt, Jim kept his eyes on the unpaved road that stretched out before him. Ultimately it led to town but at a sweet spot just between Riverside and the Shipyard was his favorite little haunt.
It was a greasy place with greasier food, and most of the customers were locals who made a living getting dirt on their hands, and it was close enough to town that he didn't mind the fare a taxi would demand he pay in order to get home.
The road was dark and would be starlit if it wasn't for the bustling lights around the shipyard. It was a place that didn't' sleep with shifts running 24/7.
As Jim pulled into his regular spot in the parking area, he noticed a couple shuttle buses that possessed the Starfleet logo and held back a groan at the sight of it.
There was no way he was going to another bar, so sucking it up, he killed the engine on his bike and dismounted.
Just approaching the bar he could hear that it was extra crowded and when he pushed his way in, he was met with a sea of red uniforms exactly as he'd seen all day at work.
There were a few regulars but it was mostly Cadets taking in the local color. Jim smiled wryly at the sight of it and navigated his way to the bar. There was one empty seat at the end of the bar, so Jim brought himself next to it and lifted his arm for a casual wave, "Tonio!"
"Jim!" The bartender smiled, "We're busy as hell, you wanna throw on an apron?"
Jim laughed at the offer, he'd worked for Tonio for a few months before he'd gotten his job at the Shipyard and the man had been good to him.
"No way, I'm exhausted as it is," He smiled then, "I'll take a Saurian brandy on the rocks, just a couple fingers."
Tonio nodded and got to it as Jim took in the extra lively bar. He couldn't see any Officers present and wondered at that but didn't think to much on it. None of his business if they didn't watch their Cadets.
As he was waiting for his drink someone slid into the seat he'd been leaning next to. Jim turned to glance at the new occupant then did a double take at the Cadet before smiling, "Hey, I know you!"
The Cadet turned to him and frowned before she suddenly gave him a grin, "AH! It's the Heart breaker, Gailia is back at our accommodations positively weeping."
Jim laughed,"I'm sure she'll recover."
Tonio then arrived handed him his drink, before looking to the Cadet, "Whattya having ma'am?"
"Rizan Sunrise please." The Cadet requested and Jim pulled away from the bar before he could hear Tonio's reply.
He made his way to a more secluded table, his preferred one was luckily empty. It was a two seater in the corner where he could see the entire establishment. The table was unpopular due to it's cramped nature and he found it suitable for his use.
A quick drink in a public place so that he didn't feel depressed drinking at home alone. The one time Tom had visited he'd thought the spot was brilliant.
Unexpectedly though ,as he took a sip of his drink and turned his gaze over the room he found the Cadet from before casting a glance at him. Then she cast a second one as her drink arrived.
As if making a decision she got up from her place at the bar and began making her way towards his little alcove.
Jim's hear squeezed at the thought of company. Someone who knew, that at the moment, he wasn't really interested in romantic or even carnal companionship.
Before she could make it though another Cadet waylaid her and wrapped and arm around her waist. He was a large guy who seemed at ease with the move.
Jim payed closer attention to the Cadet he was more familiar with and found her face had shuttered closed at the other man's action. She pulled back from him , and Jim could feel acid build in his chest. He was already on his feet as the man pulled her close again.
As he approached Jim heard her sternly speak, "Get your arm off me or I'll make you."
"Aww C'mon !" The man smiled as if it was a game, "Don't be like that, I just wanna show you a good time."
Jim forced himself between the two Cadets, which was only easy because the other man hadn't expected it. Jim gently placed the woman behind him and he turned his gaze up to the taller man, "The lady said no, I'm sure you heard her."
"Stay out of it townie." The Cadet sneered, his breath was soaked with alcohol and he seemed mean with it, "She's a friend."
"Sorry," Jim spread out his hands in concession, then he smiled with a joy he didn't feel,"Just didn't seem very friendly, so I felt the need to step in. Code of Chivalry and all that."
He then glanced at the woman, for her his soft smile was genuine, Jim did his best to give her a semblance of comfort with his gaze, "This a friend of yours?"
"Not likely," The Cadet spat,"Jenkins isn't even worth calling a classmate. I can handle it though I'm fine thanks."
Jim turned back to Jenkins, and as she wished he stepped back so that she was no longer completely behind him but could be in a moments notice. Keeping his smile, Jim said, "You heard the lady, shunt off."
"The Ice Bitch thing is so old," Jenkins groaned as if this whole thing was a joke, "C'mon Ny you can't seriously wanna fuck this hick."
"Go screw a nacelle Jenkins," The woman spat then moved to leave, but Jenkins wasn't having and reached out his hand to grab her.
Jim wondered what kind of idiot this guy was as he shoved the Cadet's hand away from it's destination of the woman's arm, "Aw, c'mon, am I really that forgettable?"
Jenkins locked eyes with him and there was fire there. The rage of a drunken idiot was something fearsome. But Jim hadn't had any fear in him for 7 years.
There was only one way to let this go, so when Jenkins cocked back his arm and proceeded to throw the first punch, Jim let it hit.
It was hard and it rattled Jim's teeth and forced him back on his heels, but his nose was't broken, even though there would no double be a bruise later.
The Cadet behind him screamed as he himself rocked back forwards and used the momentum to punch the man straight in the right side of his ribs. Jim could feel his own knuckle pop as one of Jenkin's ribs cracked beneath his fist.
Jenkins was pushed back only a foot and surged forward swinging. Jim ducked and dodged one, then two punches before rearing back and lifting his left leg in order to place a well aimed kick into Jenkin's ribs.
As the sole of his boot made contact with the same place Jim had punched, he could feel an almost sickening crunch and hear a snap.
Jenkins let out a tight gasp stumble back onto one of the tables, "Holy shit!"
Jim shook out his hand and stared the man down, "What the hell's your problem? You know this place has security surveillance right?"
From behind Jim felt a hand on his back and with a quick glance he found the Cadet looking between himself and Jenkins, "Is he OK?!"
Several of the other Cadets,who had just stood and watch till then, converged on Jenkins to ascertain his condition and a low buzz came over the bar.
Jenkins continued to cradle his side and let out a groan of pain, he didn't seem to be getting up anytime soon so Jim checked his knuckles. They were red and sore but ultimately fine,
"I think I broke one of his ribs."
A voice at the entrance boomed over the din, "What the hell is going on in here?"
Jim looked to the Cadet behind him, to Jenkins, then to the man at the door. A hush fell over the establishment at the sight of him.
He had salt and pepper hair, and was dressed in the uniform of an officer. His braiding betrayed that he was a Captain.
"Townie assaulted Jenkins." One of the Cadets who was tending to Jenkins actually dared to say.
"Are you stupid?" Jim snorted, and if he'd gotten more than just a sip of brandy, then maybe he'd actually find the situation funny, "I just said there was surveillance in this place, and you're going to falsify a verbal report?"
"Jenkins laid hands on me sir," The Cadet behind him reported, her voice cool if a bit rattled but what had just happened, "He," She motioned to Jim,"Stepped in and Jenkins punched him for his efforts."
The Captain looked Jim up and down, "Looks like this outing is cancelled, someone get Jenkins to medical. I'm gonna have to ask you civilians clear out as well."
Jim moved to leave but the Captain stopped him with the wave of a hand and a pointed finger, "Nu-Uh, not you. You stay."
He fought back a sigh but did as asked as the rest of the bar cleared out. The Captain did have the right to detain him after all, a fight with one of his Cadets was plenty of grounds for it.
As the crowd cleared the Captain pulled out a PADD and began scrolling through it, all the while casting glances at Jim.
Once the room was cleared the Captain moved to sit at one of the central tables and waved Jim over, "Sit with me."
Doing as he was asked Jim pulled up a chair and slid into it, "Honestly just a thanks for not pressing charges would be nice.
"That guy was a real piece of work, maybe you people should be doing consent courses for the greenies you let in."
He gave the Captain a smile but it was fake. At the moment Jim was feeling plenty of things; angry, nervous, surprised, maybe even exasperated, but happy was not one of them.
"You know, I didn't believe it when the bartender told me who you were." The Captain spoke as if Jim had an idea of what he meant.
In his life that usually meant the person was talking about his Father. The man who had saved over 800 people in 13 minutes and died for it.
Died for him.
"Yeah well," Jim felt his stomach turn at the thought of it, he tried to smile again but he knew it was an awful attempt, "If you plan on keeping up with me, then get used to disappointment."
"I don't get it, your aptitude tests are off the charts. Do you like being the only Genius level, Double Major doing grunt work at the Riverside shipyard?" The Captain asked and managed to sound as if he'd asked Jim the question a thousand times,
"Because honestly your over qualification for the job is astounding. You could take 2 years at the Academy and graduate to be a ranking officer, 5 more years in the service and you could have your own ship in the fleet."
Jim closed his eyes and breathed, "You seem to think you know an awful lot about me Captain."
He opened his eyes, "You have me at a disadvantage."
"Christoper Pike," The man smiled in a way that made his eyes sparkle and crinkle at the edges, "I did my dissertation on the Kelvin Incident."
"I'm sure it was a wonderful piece." Jim smiled back, but it was a dark and bitter creature that had crawled its way up through the pit of his stomach. Jim began to stand, "Are we done?"
"No," Pike leveled a stare at him but since this wasn't an inquiry Jim felt free to begin walking away.
"That's not why I'm interested in you though," Pike informed him, but Jim kept walking.
"I was on the USS Endeavor y'know," The Captain's voice changed, it was suddenly grave, "On that day that Captain April touched down, 7 years ago."
Jim halted his retreat and suddenly he felt ice in his heart, he couldn't move except to turn his head back slightly. He had the distinct feel that any more motion would make him sick, "I'm sorry?"
Pike turned in his chair so that he was looking at Jim, "I was serving as his First Officer, I remember seeing you. The teenager who had pulled 8 other kids out of the jaws of death that more than 4,000 others didn't manage to escape.
"A few hundred were even fleet officers."
Jim suddenly felt tears stinging at the corners of his eyes and his throat was suddenly full and tight to the point he had to swallow as Pike continued,
"I remember Captain April, a man I knew to have ice for blood, looking at me and saying, 'I don't know what that Kirk kid did to the Governor, but he sure as hell scares the hell out of me.' and I never forgot that."
He couldn't help it, at the risk of vomiting, Jim pivoted around and looked Pike in they eye. He wasn't really sure what he was looking for, but Pike met his gaze without wavering.
"I'm not George Kirk," Jim spit the words and filled them with as much anger and venom he could.
"Good." Pike smiled once more, it was soft,"I don't need him. The way I see it, you're the next step in the evolution and let me just say, you've got the power in you to move entire star systems.
"But something's scared you. What's holding you back? What happened to that kid who was stronger than fear itself?
"After surviving all that, can you really settle for an ordinary life? Or do you feel like you should be part of something more? Something bigger."
Jim clenched his jaw and thought of his Mother, whose only comfort was the fact he wasn't in Starfleet. Sam who felt the same.
The thought of leaving them behind in a way that was more permanent than the ways they'd left him.
How when Jim thought about how unhappy he was, that he'd tell himself that this was better than dying out there all alone in the pitch black of space.
But he was alone now anyways wasn't' he?
Sam was out conquering planets with his brand new wife and his Mother was stationed on the Asimov touching the stars exactly how she feared Jim would.
He was still all alone, even more alone than he'd been back then. Because for all their fears for his safety, they had all but abandoned him. Only comforting themselves with bi-weekly calls to make sure he was staying in his box and not chasing the star song that had been in his veins from the moment he'd been born.
After Tarsus breathing had just become a thing to pass the time. All the promises he'd made himself on that hellscape had gone unfulfilled. Empty hopes and dreams a child turned soldier had whispered to give themselves hope and strength.
What was the difference between dying on that cursed rock and how he was now? Just drifting and swaying in order to give comfort to his family. The same way he'd whispered those hollow oaths to the kids he was responsible for keeping safe all those years ago.
"Enlist in Starfleet," Captain Pike urged him, and it was almost desperate. Jim found that there was little to say in the face of all that.