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Somewhere in Federation Space: stardate 2293.7
Kirk stepped onto the bridge and walked over to his seat. Their joyride had gone on long enough. It was time to order the old girl home for her decommissioning. He tried and failed to open his mouth to give the order several times before he managed to muster the will. As he began to speak the words that would doom his ship, every bit of his being wished for something, anything, to happen that would allow him to delay their return for even just a few minutes.
"Captain, I'm picking up a subspace disturbance off our starboard bow," Spock announced calmly. "It appears to be an interphasic rift."
Ask and ye shall receive. "On screen," Kirk ordered calmly, fighting to conceal his elation.
The crew watched as a ship with the characteristic saucer–atop–two–nacelles design of the Miranda class emerged, though it differed from a typical example in a number of ways.
Firstly, the ship was incredibly battered. Whoever was aboard that ship had been to Hell and back at least a dozen times over.
The evidence of untold hundred battles scarred its hull in between myriad telltale signs that wherever it had been had left was far outside the normal maintenance channels; barely an inch of the ship was intact. Kirk found himself recognizing paneling taken from Vulcan, Andorian, Klingon, Romulan, any number of sources the ship looked to have been pounded to death, brought back from the dead, and hammered to death again. Several times.
And secondly were the weapons.
Weapons of every conceivable shape, size and form studded the ship's ragged hide – and most of them were obviously salvaged and jury-rigged into place; no matter how mismatched, they had been cobbled onto the hull willy–nilly, lending the ship a strange aspect of hedgehog – there were enough of them that Kirk couldn't imagine how the ship's power plant would cope.
"It appears to have at one time been the Reliant," Spock announced, outwardly impassive, although Kirk immediately knew that his old friend was intrigued and more than a little concerned then exactly what he'd said sank in.
"What?" Kirk blurted. "But the Reliant … Hail them."
"Yes, Captain," Uhura said from her place at the communication console. "I'm getting a response."
The screen flickered to reveal something resembling the standard bridge lay-out for a Federation ship–if, that is, one were to repeatedly devastate it and rebuild with whatever came handy.
At its center in the Captain's chair sat an elderly but still powerful-looking man. On his feet were a set of worn leather engineering boots over which sat a patched black set of trousers that resembled the old Star Fleet uniform bottom. An old-style phaser pistol in a worn shoulder holster sat atop a commando sweater, and the whole thing was topped by a much abused Aussie slouch hat. But it was the face that drew Kirk's attention, a face that was both familiar and terrifying, a face he'd last seen in his nightmares.
"Kirk," the man growled. The strange way the communications officer on the other ship had introduced themselves had lulled him into a false sense of hope, hope now dashed after seeing the hated face of his enemy. "I warn you, my ship may be damaged, but I am more than capable of destroying you should you attempt to harm those under my care."
"Khan!" the captain spat the name like an insult. "Shields up!"
"I do not wish to fight you again, Kirk," Khan calmly said, surrounded by an aura of cool menace, "I give you the chance now, just walk away. Leave and survive to fight another day, stay and know that I will destroy you. Stay and die or leave and I give you my word that I will not hunt you down like the dog that you are."
"Captain!" Spock interrupted insistently. "I do not believe this is the Khan we know!"
Kirk took a deep breath, fighting through his rage, and considered his old friend's words.
Spock was right. There was something different here.
"I am Captain James T. Kirk of the Federation Starship Enterprise. Who are you?"
"I am Khan Noonien Singh, renowned for being the most wanted man in the Terran Empire for most of its history." He made a mental note of the fact that his counterpart on the other ship gave a slight involuntary twitch at the words 'Terran Empire.' "If you are indeed who you claim to be it is my very great pleasure to make your acquaintance." The man's smile returned. "It seems we have some things to discuss."
"It seems that we do," Kirk agreed, exerting his iron will to prevent any visible reaction to the man's words as he remembered a particularly odd long–ago experience.
"Before we begin, dare I hope that you have a doctor on board your ship?" Khan asked.
"What do you need?" Kirk asked instantly. It wasn't the first time the captain of another ship had asked him that question, wasn't even the hundredth.
"We are carrying a large number of refugees and much of my crew was injured collecting them. I am requesting humanitarian aid from you, Kirk."
"Wait one," Kirk said, signaling for the transmission to be cut. "Suggestions?"
"It is an opportunity to gain first hand knowledge of their ship, Captain," Spock stated.
"An opportunity for them to take a hostage too," Kirk said sourly. "Do we have any way to prevent that from happening?"
"Aye, Captain, if they're willing to power down their shields completely, it would give me more than enough time to get back any personnel we send over," Scotty spoke up.
"Put him back on screen," Kirk ordered.
"Yes, Captain," Uhura agreed.
Khan smiled, his expression lacking any of the arrogance and superiority of his native counterpart's. "Have you decided what you want in return for the use of your doctor? Myself as a hostage perhaps?"
"No." There was no way in hell Kirk was going to let the man on his ship until he was one hundred percent sure of his intentions. "Are you willing to completely power down your shields?"
"If you are willing to do the same," Khan replied. "The Kirk I know would see the price of his doctor to be well worth my death." The man laughed. "At this point, I would gladly make the trade myself. What I refuse to do is put my passengers and crew at further risk."
"Deal," Kirk said, eyes locked on the man. "On the count of ten?"
"While we both watch the other with our sensors for any hint of betrayal," Khan agreed. "Your count or mine?"
"As I have suggested the method, you have the honor of the count," Kirk said, quoting the code duello with no little sarcasm.
Doctor McCoy was appalled at what he found on the other ship; not five minutes after he arrived he signaled the Enterprise he was quickly running through the supplies he'd brought. Triage was almost impossible with the way his hosts had distributed the wounded throughout the ship after they'd run out of space in the ship's tiny and poorly equipped med-bay. It seemed like every time he treated a patient there were ten more in line waiting for his attention.
Many of them were entirely too young – the obvious conclusions left him numb; they were but children, yet each one bore up with a strange, somehow elated sort of stoicism, even as they looked upon him with an edge of terror.
"Is there anything I can do to help?" Khan's voice caused the old doctor to jump.
"Don't sneak up on me like that!" McCoy barked. The earnest expression on the other man's face was more than a bit disconcerting. "What happened to them?"
"I rescued them from one of the most notorious extermination camps in the Empire," Khan calmly stated, in entirely the worst form of calm.
"They're children!" McCoy barked, horrified by the implications of what he'd just heard and the injuries he'd found on his new patients. "What kind of monsters …" the doctor trailed off.
"Crimes against the Terran Empire are punished for three generations up and down," Khan explained, his tone devoid of inflection. "The knowledge that any act of rebellion condemns not only your children, but your grandchildren and great grandparents, to a particularly gruesome death, is only one of the Empire's many tools of oppression."
"I hope you killed the bastards," McCoy said, sickened to his core.
"Every single one of them," Khan told him in a tone of deep satisfaction. "Every single one of them; I confess that we showed them more mercy than they had ever deserved – compared to what they were capable of a phaser bolt is an end entirely too kind for them, but I prefer my friends and comrades clean."
Clean. Doctor McCoy had never realized just how much meaning could be packed into that one little word.
"Good." The doctor's face looked as if it were carved from a block of wood. "I need to go back to the Enterprise for more people and supplies." Regretting bitterly the necessity of his captain's orders that he was not under any circumstance to order anything lest he be under duress. It was a reasonable precaution, he'd privately admitted even while hating the fact that he'd have to waste precious minutes returning to the ship.
"Whatever you need to make them better," Khan instantly agreed, "I will of course compensate you for everything used," he added. "I lack the local currency, but perhaps we could arrange a trade of some sort?"
Rage flashed in the Doctor's eyes. "I do need to be bribed to do my duty!"
"My apologies, Doctor. Intellectually, I know that this place is different from my own, but it is still difficult to believe."
"Just don't let it happen again," McCoy said sourly. He flipped out his communicator. "I'll be back in a few minutes. Scotty, directly to the sick bay."
Kirk arrived to meet Doctor McCoy shortly after he returned to the Enterprise. "Thoughts?"
"If you believe my patients, he's the greatest hero the universe has ever known," Bones replied, watching his staff assemble. "Can't say I'd argue with them if he really did rescue them from what he says he did – and the injuries fit."
"What sort of injuries are we talking?"
"The refugees show signs of prolonged torture, malnutrition, forced labor, sexual abuse," the doctor began, and the dam burst. "I...I found myself treating a catatonic five–year–old rape victim not half an hour ago...my God Jim, if I saw a man treating a rat half as badly as those poor souls have been brutalized I don't know what I'd do but it would not be pretty...The crew injuries indicate that they were heavily involved in ground and ship combat. Phaser burns, injuries from overloading equipment, a few severely burned including two with plasma burns – and my God Jim, slugthrower injuries, I found myself extracting bullets. Who uses slugthrowers in this day and age?"
"Those who have little other choice, for a start...You're absolutely certain that the crew isn't responsible for the injuries to the refugees?"
"In the last hour I have been informed by seventeen injured members of that ship's crew, including a young Klingon lady – a girl really, she can't be more than sixteen but my God her eyes, I swear her eyes are ten times her age with plasma burns so severe that I have absolutely no idea how she was remaining conscious let alone managing to speak, that if I brought harm to any of the refugees there would be nowhere I could hide...I have never been so certain in my life, Jim, those are good people over there and they need every last bit of help we can find them."
"Your hands are shaking, Bones."
"They won't once I'm working again."
At that moment in time, a conversation similar in character was taking place aboard the ship that had once been ISS Reliant.
"Doran..." Khan said, hesitant for all that he knew this conversation had to take place.
"Lord!" the severely injured Klingon girl gasped, attempting to rise to greet him, but he restrained her with a gentle hand on her unburned shoulder; they were both quite aware that if any other man in this universe or any other had replicated that gesture she would have removed the offending appendage at the shoulder, but her respect – nigh worship – for Khan overrode many things.
He was, for example, the only man who'd be able to survive demanding her respect – something he had never done, which was probably why he had every ounce of respect she had ever possessed.
"Save your strength," he advised her.
"Yes, Lord," she said.
"What was your impression of him?" Out of all his followers, she was the best judge of character.
"He has a distressing resemblance to The Butcher, but it is the same way that good air has a distressing resemblance to nerve gas."
"You believe the legends are true, then. A universe where good men rule..."
"Tara allowed him to touch her." That right there was all the proof they'd ever need.
"Rest, Doran, and heal; recover your strength."
"I will, Lord."
Doctor McCoy sighed in relief when the last of the critical cases stabilized. If nothing else, he could state that everyone was out of immediate danger. He turned to treat his next patient and nearly ran into a wall of muscle.
"Come this way please, Doctor," the large crewman said respectfully.
"I have patients to see to!" McCoy barked.
"The captain wants a word with you, Doctor McCoy." The crewman was impassive. "This way, please."
McCoy had worked himself into a terrifying rage by the time they got to the captain's quarters. "What's the big idea?! I still have work to do down there!" McCoy complained as soon as he stepped into Khan's quarters.
"Your chief nurse asked me to distract you," Khan explained. "I'd have told her no, but she looks like a formidable woman."
"She is," McCoy agreed, calming a bit. "Wouldn't bet on you in a fight with her even knowing about your so-called genetic superiority."
Khan had to force himself not to bust into deep chested laughter as he listened to the Doctor's tirade. It was wonderful, a dream, an impossibility. A man as good as his counterpart was evil A saint if the reports submitted by his own beleaguered medical staff were to be believed. If only his universe had been blessed with men such as he, men such as himself would not be necessary. It was a beautiful thought.
"Care for a drink, Doctor?" The augmented human opened a hidden panel to reveal a well-stocked cabinet. "I won't be insulted if you insist on using your medical tricorder to check for drugs and poisons."
"After what I just went through, I need a drink so badly I don't care if it is poisoned," the doctor said gruffly, eyes peeled to find a bottle of bourbon.
"It may amuse you to know that in my universe, 'Kirk' is slang for a particularly foul venereal disease," Khan said with a straight face, figuring the doctor could use a laugh.
The doctor snorted in amusement as he gathered the things to make himself a mint julep. "What's 'McCoy' slang for?"
"Nothing," Khan said a bit too quickly, causing the doctor to look up sharply. "In the back left corner of the third shelf, you will find a silver cup. I took it from his office after I killed him. He was the camp doctor in a place that was in some ways, very much like the one I rescued the refugees from." In others, worse, much much worse.
McCoy was silent for a moment and then nodded his head. "That explains some of the reactions I got." More than one crewman had reflexively reached for a sidearm upon seeing him moving through the corridors. "I don't think there are words to describe how grateful I am that you killed him, because after what I've seen I would be honor bound to hunt him down and break my Hippocratic Oath."
Khan smiled, and suddenly it was as if the sun had come out on a cloudy day. "It is a long time, a very long time indeed, since last I heard that term. I...Thank you."
McCoy toasted the thought with the silver julep cup. "Here's to you getting those poor kids out of that godforsaken place." He drained the cup and began making himself another drink.
"Were you able to save them all?"
"Every last one," McCoy said proudly. "Your crew too. Didn't lose a single patient."
"In that case, I owe you a debt I can never hope to repay."
"No debts for doing my duty," McCoy said sharply.
"No," the doctor interrupted. "Do you think those kids owe you for saving them?"
"If anything, I owe them for taking so long," Khan said calmly.
"It's the same damn thing! It'll be a cold day in Hell before I agree to take a thing for following my oath."
"You are a noble man, Doctor McCoy, am I permitted to say that much?"
"What are your plans now?" McCoy changed the subject rather than be forced to reject unneeded praise, earned or not.
"If your Federation is safe, I will see that the children are well taken care of and then see if I can find a way to return to my own universe," Khan replied.
"They'll be taken care of, you have my word on that," McCoy said firmly. "It's Federation policy to care for any and all refugees that are able to make it to Federation controlled space or are found by Federation vessels." He didn't ask why the man wanted to go back to the Hell he'd sprung from, not with the certain knowledge that there were more children to save and men like his counterpart to kill. "What if you can't find a way to get back?"
"If I can't get back?" Khan rubbed his chin. "Perhaps I could find some way to make myself useful here? It might be nice to spend a few years without the constant threat of death hanging over my head."
The two men spent the next several hours talking, reliving past battles and old glories before the doctor's communicator beeped to summon him back to the Enterprise.
"I'll be back to check on my patients again tomorrow," McCoy promised.
"You are always welcome on any ship I command, Doctor McCoy," Khan replied.
Despite having consumed four mint juleps and being almost dead on his feet, McCoy was immediately hustled into another staff meeting the second he returned to his ship. Surprisingly, this time Kirk was not the first person to set on him with questions.
"How did she look on the inside?" Scotty asked, eager to learn more about a ship from another universe.
"Damn it, Scotty, I'm a doctor, not an engineer!" McCoy barked.
"Yeh musta noticed something?"
McCoy pursed his lips. "Worn. There isn't a Starfleet captain or engineer alive that would let their ship get in that state. It should have been overhauled – hell, shoulda been scrapped years ago."
"And?" Scotty persisted.
"The inside is similar to any other Miranda but it's … rougher. There weren't any luxuries built into the crew areas. It was obvious that the ones that were there had been added later. Captain's quarters looked like the inside of a bordello and there were signs that a lot of luxuries had been removed." He snorted. "Imagine it looked a lot like our counterpart's quarters did on the other Enterprise."
Kirk listened intently as his doctor gave the first part of his report on what he'd seen on the other ship. Based on what he'd heard and seen, the other ship appeared to be exactly what it said it was. A group of refugees and freedom fighters who'd been fortunate enough to be transported away from the cess pit they called a home.
"Have a seat, Bones," Kirk ordered. His old friend was dead on his feet. "Take ten hours of personal time after the meeting ends."
"Damn it, Jim, I have patients over there that need me."
"Is there anything your subordinates can't handle themselves?"
"Ten in your quarters or twenty in the brig," Kirk interrupted, his voice as firm and unyielding as dura steel. "Your choice." Kirk smiled. "My word that we will wake you up and get you over there if you're needed for anything."
"Care for a look inside the other ship yourself?"
"What did you have in mind, Jim?"
"I was thinking they could use a few engineers to help them repair enough damage to limp to a dry dock," Kirk stated, eager for any chance to collect more information on the analog of one of his greatest foes. "Assuming of course that we can spare the people."
"Aye, Captain, the whole department if need be." He patted the bulkhead. "Old girl may only need to run long enough to reach the breaking yard but her engines hum like she was just commissioned. Not much for us ta do in Engineering."
"Incoming transmission from the Reliant," Uhura reported suddenly. "Khan wants to speak with you, Captain."
"Transmit video and audio from my station only, I don't want him to know everyone else is listening in," Kirk ordered. "What can I do for you, Khan?" he asked after the man's perpetually smiling face appeared on the screen.
"Kirk, I was hoping you would be good enough to share a bit of your database to pass the time while we are idle. I am of course, willing to grant you the same access to my own."
"Technical manuals?" the Starfleet captain asked dryly, remembering his encounter with the man's native counterpart.
"Engineering texts might be nice at some future date, but our ships appear to be similar enough that they're not a priority at this time. No, I'm much more interested in studying your history and philosophy," the augment said eagerly. "A gallery of the most famous pieces of art produced since our timelines diverged would also be much appreciated. And also…" the man hesitated.
"Yes?" Kirk prompted.
"We are carrying a number of children and would be most grateful if you could send over a selection of toys for them." His own ship being unable to spare the resources needed to construct them.
"I'll have something put together for you," Kirk agreed. "Speaking of engineering?"
"Mind if I send a couple of mine over? They're starting to get a bit bored over here."
"The more the merrier, Kirk," Khan agreed. "So long as they stay out of areas we tell them to stay out of."
"Agreed. Was that all you wanted to discuss?"
"Khan out," he said, trying to mimic what appeared to be the local communications protocol.
The captain was in his quarters a few hours later when the duty officer piped through Khan's next communication. The augment was obviously displeased by something.
"Problem with the engineering crews?" Kirk guessed, thinking there'd either been a brawl or that someone had strayed where they shouldn't have.
"No, the crews are fine," Khan replied. "Lifesavers even. Your Chief Engineer found several things that could have led to the destruction of the ship if they had not been found in time."
"If it's not the engineers and I presume it's not the medical teams…" He trailed off and got a confirming shake of the head. "What is it?"
"Kirk, I know you to be a civilized man, so I ask, how can you bear to serve the Federation controlled by such moral cowards?" Khan demanded. "I am speaking of this monstrous thing your people call the Prime Directive," Khan said hotly. "How can the Federation expect its captains to stand by and watch as whole worlds are destroyed, to justify inaction because of a culture's level of development?"
"I agree with you," Kirk stated, derailing much of the man's anger. "I serve in Starfleet because I believe the Federation and Starfleet are potentially great forces for good in the universe. They aren't perfect, no organization is, but it is far easier to work from within to change them for the better."
"You yourself have violated it on multiple occasions," Khan argued. "How can you allow yourself to be associated with monsters who allow genocide by inaction?!"
"That proves my point that the Federation can be such a great force for good that it's better to work inside it than alone," Kirk said passionately. "The Prime Directive was put in with the noblest of intentions. The fact that it might be used as an excuse by petty bureaucrats in uniform to stand by and allow entire planets to die is disgusting. If I were to leave Starfleet, to abandon the Federation, how likely do you think it would be for me or any other officer that things the same way to get an opportunity to change it for the better?"
"I don't know how likely it is you can change it from within, I suppose it might be possible," Khan admitted. "You are but one voice but–"
"One joined to many thousands," Kirk countered. "Every one of us that gives up makes it a hundred times more difficult for those who stay behind."
The two men stared at each other for what felt like years. "Alright," Khan broke. "I shall try it your way, Kirk. I will work with your system for the short time I am here. But know this; should our stay be prolonged, I will not do it forever. No man has unlimited patience."
"That's all I ask," Kirk said, pleased by the way things had gone. "Every man who joins me on the inside makes it easier to change things."
"We shall see, Kirk," Khan replied. "Perhaps…perhaps I have become so corrupted by my interaction with the Terran Empire that the thought of something so massive as the Federation being changed from within is simply too difficult to comprehend at this time. I hope you are correct, Kirk, more than anything I hope that you are correct." The freedom fighter cut the connection and went back to the files he'd been given, the seed of an idea forming deep within his subconscious.
Three hours later, that seed had bloomed and he called a meeting with all of his able-bodied officers, trusting the ship's communications systems to carry it to the rest of the crew.
Everyone stood when he entered the room and, with a smile, he motioned for them to take their seats. "Do our sensor readings give us enough information to travel between this universe and our own?"
"They do not, Great Khan," his second in command, a young woman with obvious Vulcan heritage replied. "I shall contact the Enterprise myself after this meeting to get a copy of theirs."
"Thank you, T'Pera." He allowed his gaze to sweep over the room. "It appears that we will be here for a while. I have spoken to Kirk and he has convinced me to try to work within their Federation to change it for the better. I propose that we build an organization dedicated to bringing relief to planets hit by natural disaster, war, plague, or anything else that would imperil large numbers of innocents. Thoughts?"
The officers exchanged glances, finally, his medical officer, a young Romulan male he'd picked off a wrecked freighter five years before spoke up. "I think it might be nice to have a bit of peace in our lives for a few years. I don't think any of the crew's had more than a week's rest since I've been on the ship."
"What are your other reasons?" his tactical officer, a one-eyed augmented woman, the granddaughter of one of his original men, asked with a grin. "You never have just one."
"If we are able to find a way to return to our own universe and our fight against the Empire, building a support structure here will dramatically increase our chances of success." Khan paused. "Let me rephrase that; it will make it easier for me and anyone who should wish to volunteer to return. My friends, what you have already achieved earns you a place on the throne of heroes a thousand times. There is no one in this universe or the other that has any right to ask you to do more."
"You do not need to ask, Lord," Doran spoke. No one having the heart or the courage to suggest excluding the injured girl from the meeting.
"Where you go, we follow, Great Khan," T'Pera spoke for them all. "As it has been, so shall it always be."
"I see." It took a moment to master his emotions. "Some will remain here in any case. The most successful guerrilla movements in history have always had a safe haven to fall back on. If all goes well, the Federation will be ours." Again he thanked whatever gods that might exist for being blessed with such friends. Surely no man had ever been half as fortunate as himself.
Spock had just finished his evening meal when the communicator chimed, indicating that he had an incoming message. The man answered it and an unfamiliar Vulcan female appeared on the screen. The woman was young, almost certainly not more than twenty, her black hair cut in a standard Vulcan pageboy, her fine features dramatically marred by a burn scar that took up much of the left side of her face.
"Am I addressing the science officer?" the woman on the screen asked.
"You are," Spock agreed.
"I am T'Pera, First Officer of the Reliant, I formally request copies of any sensor reading you might have of our ship's entrance to your universe."
"It may take some time to compile them," Spock cautioned, shading the truth a bit. Like his captain, he was becoming more and more certain that the crew of the Reliant were as good as that of their universe's Enterprise were bad. And, like his captain, he was unwilling to give them anything that could later be used to harm the Federation until they were one hundred percent certain. The potential price was too high for them to risk being wrong.
"We shall be here a while to rest and refit in any case," she said calmly. "I am willing to wait until your ship has assured itself that our intentions are good. To that end, my captain has directed me to answer any questions you might have regarding us."
"Thank you." Spock paused to consider what to ask. "May I ask how someone of your apparent youth has gained such a high station?"
"My captain has a habit of giving captured ships to his officers," the woman replied. "In the two decades I have served under the Great Khan, he has lost five first officers to promotion and four to death. I have refused promotion twenty-seven times to remain at his side."
"The price the Empire has offered for my head is nearly one one–twentieth of that offered for my captain," she added with no small amount of pride.
"A notable achievement," Spock complimented her. "What is the status of Vulcan in your universe?"
"The planet is an Empire satrap, but a large number of its people managed to escape, as did a portion of its fleet. They are a valued ally in the fight against the tyranny of the Imperial Fleet. Might I ask how it fares here?"
"Free and a founding member of the Federation."
Kirk called another staff meeting the next morning, taking advantage of the fact that he'd be able to get a report from his Chief Engineer coming back to the ship and give instructions to his doctor before he left.
"If I wanted to do nothing but sit in meetings all day, I'd have stayed an Admiral," Kirk joked. "Let's try to keep this brief. Scotty, what are your thoughts now that you've had a chance to look at their ship?"
"Their Chief Engineer's a bloody miracle worker," the man reported, pleased to have met someone capable of thinking at the same level he did. "It was a pleasure to get a look at some of the repairs they had to do over there. Still, Leonard's right, they need a new ship. That one over yonder's held together with chewing gum and prayers. Poor thing should ha' been scrapped years ago."
"I had an opportunity to speak with their first officer last night," Spock spoke up. "A fascinating young woman who requested copies of our sensor readings for their emergence."
"I'd like more time to examine them myself before a decision is made either way," Spock replied.
"Done," Kirk agreed. "Bones, how are our medical supplies? Do we need to call in another ship?"
"Not unless something else happens, Jim," the doctor replied. "We can deal with three more emergencies like the one over there before we reach the level I'll start getting worried we don't have enough."
"Good. Anyone have anything else?" The captain glanced around. "Meeting adjourned."
It took McCoy and his staff a bit more than three hours to go through the patients on the refugee ship. Most of them were doing better thanks in no small part to the fact that his people were the best in the Federation at what they did.
The doctor frowned in annoyance when he examined what he believed to be his last patient of the day, the young Klingon woman with plasma burns serious enough that she shouldn't have been conscious, let alone moving around. She was also one of the crew that had threatened him with death the day before. "You've stretched your skin plasts," he accused, finally placing his finger on what was bothering him about her. "I thought I told you to take it easy."
"You can't expect me to–" the young Klingon began to work herself into a fury, trusting that the human in front of her would be intimidated into giving up the idea of trying to convince her to shirk her duties to her Lord.
"I can and will!" McCoy barked. "Young lady, I think the two of us misunderstand each other. You seem to think my orders are suggestions. I know that if I catch you out of bed one more time before I've cleared you that I'll damn well fill you so full of sedatives that you'll think you can fly through space without a ship and I'll keep doing it until you're back to one hundred percent. Understood?!"
"Understood, Doctor," the teenager growled back, privately impressed.
"Good!" McCoy packed up his bag, turning his glare onto his escort. "Was that the last one or has one of you hurt yourself since I was last here?"
"That's the last of them, Doctor," his escort, a heavily scarred Andorian male replied.
"Take me to Khan's quarters and tell him I expect the bourbon, sugar, ice, and the mint to be out when I get there," McCoy ordered. "I damn well need another drink after dealing with stubborn idiots like her." A hand waved to indicate the now grinning Klingon, the girl having taken the doctor's epithet as a compliment.
The doctor stormed out of the room, only slowing when he was within sight of the Captain's door. "What was her name?"
"Doran, Doctor," the Andorian replied.
"Make sure she doesn't get it into her fool head to go back to work. I wasn't kidding when I said she needs rest. Any more aggravation to her injuries could see her recovery time doubled."
"I'll see to it, Doctor," the Andorian agreed.
"You damn well better!" McCoy barked. The man raised his hand and pounded on the door.
Khan was at his desk when his sensors indicated that his visitor had arrived. The man started pounding on his door a few seconds later.
"Come in, Doctor McCoy," Khan's voice called out, disengaging the lock on his door with a verbal command.
McCoy stepped into the room and immediately went through the steps to make himself a mint julep.
"I'd have done that for you but I doubt you'd have approved of my result," Khan stated. "What has happened to put you in such a state?"
"The young Klingon girl, Doran. I don't believe I've ever seen anyone stay conscious with plasma burns so severe...What in God's name happened to her?!"
"During our escape two days ago we suffered a fire in our reactor room due to a ruptured plasma conduit. The automatic fire suppression systems failed to activate... She ran into the blaze, cut the leaking conduit off from the reactor, and manually activated the fire suppression, saving the ship and everyone aboard in the process."
"She can't be more than sixteen," the doctor said in shocked wonder.
"About that," Khan agreed. "We estimated that she was ten when I plucked her out of your counterpart's camp six years ago."
It was another two weeks before Doctor McCoy was satisfied that his patients could do without him and two more before Scotty's engineers were willing to certify the ship safe enough to limp back to Earth with the Enterprise. Khan was waiting in the transporter bay to see the last crew off personally.
"Mr. Scott, you and your men have done wonders for her," Khan stated.
"I wouldna say that. If I had any choice, I'd never let my worst enemy fly her in the shape she's in," the engineer stated. "Beauty of a ship taken care of by a hell of an engineer, but beaten to pieces too many times."
Khan nodded to a crewman who handed Scotty a wooden crate. "I'm afraid I have one last favor to ask of you. I was hoping you could dispose of this case of empty bottles for me."
"They donna feel empty to me," Scotty said with a grin.
"Ah, in that case, I'm going to have to ask you to empty them for me, too. I'd do it myself, but I'm not sure I could still drink a case of twenty-year-old scotch in one sitting," Khan said regretfully. "I can only hope that you and your men do not suffer a similar failing."
"I think me and the lads can help yeh with that," Scotty assured the man.
AN: Not sure if this is the first fic posted of 2016 or the last of 2015, should be fairly close either way. I based the camps on real life examples. Wish I didn't have them available to use as models.
Omake for Chapter 01: Mirror Borg by Veive
Reading this dredged up a couple of stray thoughts about the Borg- namely that for machines bent on efficiency with the ability to tap into billions (trillions?) of minds at a time they seem to go about things in the absolute worst way possible.
Khan was desperate.
He had been on the run from the Terran republic for nearly ten weeks in a badly damaged ship full of refugees. His ship dropped out of warp near an uncharted nebula and limped towards it while the few able bodied crew he had left scrambled to make repairs.
Hopefully this latest maneuver would buy them a few much needed hours to repair and hopefully rest Khan mused to himself.
Just then his sensor officer chimed up and dashed his hopes.
"Contact, captain!" She said tersely. "long range sensors, looks like they will be coming out of warp any moment now, sorry I can't tell you more."
"Understood." Khan acknowledged. "Battle stations, get the shields and weapons online!" He turned back to the sensor officer. "Thanks for the warning, it may just save our lives."
"A pleasure sir." She said with a nervous smile. "Contact dropping out of warp- unknown class- it doesn't look like a Terran ship sir."
Khan frowned. "What kind of ship is it?" He asked.
"I don't know sir, it doesn't match any of the race profiles I've seen."
"Put it onscreen." Khan ordered.
The ship that Khan saw was indeed unlike anything that he had ever seen.
It was a smooth ellipse of grey, green and white metal without any visible
protrusions of any kind.
"Captain we're being hailed." The comm officer advised.
"Onscreen." Khan ordered, before his jaw dropped in shock.
There sitting before him was was quite obviously the bridge of a pleasure ship.
The crew of which seemed quite content to lounge in their quite comfortable looking chairs in nothing but their cybernetic implants, skin and the occasional bit of clothing.
"Hello there." A curvaceous betazoid purred as she flowed gracefully out of the captain's chair. "I'm captain Jenine of the borg recreational vessel Oblivion. It looks like you're in a bit of trouble, do you require assistance of any kind?"
"What would the cost of such aid be?" Khan asked warily.
"Access to your technical and medical databases." Captain Jenine said with apparent disinterest.
"I think I can agree to that, but I have to wonder why?" Khan asked warily.
"For a few reasons." Jenine answered with a shrug that did absolutely -delightful- things for her. "First it allows us to ensure that the aid we are rendering will not be harmful, it also potentially allows us the ability to enhance our own technologies or to develop new ones later."
Khan smiled, and failed once again to command his eyes to tell him what color her hair or eyes were. "A beneficial trade for both parties then."
"Indeed." Jenine agreed with a laugh. "I presume that you require an engineering team and a medical team, do you require rations?"
Khan nodded. "We're a bit short on food at the moment and materials for the repairs as well."
"Very well captain, we will accompany you into the nebula and have the first aid shipment delivered within the hour." Jenine said airily.
General idea is that the borg in the mirror universe aren't so much into violent assimilation as marketing- so they have nanites that can really do everything modern day spammers say they can do, and they will do so for a small fee and an injection of nanites.
From there it becomes a mind share where you get to retain (most) of your free will and work on what you like.
In return any idle brain power from when you are sleeping and a significant portion of those idle thoughts that pop into your head are taken over by the collective for use as extra processing power to help others.
In return you get to tap into the collective for solving your own problems, and everyone wins.
Anyone who is assimilated who can't exist peacefully in a society like that is
sent into the military. Any world who isn't willing to be assimilated through peaceful trade gets forcefully assimilated.
These borg don't do things like insert implants without anesthetic since that increases the chance of mental or physical complications and thus is inefficient, but they are still very much bent on galactic domination.
They are just open to things like developing new tech on their own and reproduction among assimilated individuals, which if you think about it could arguably make them even worse than canon borg.