It's almost midnight on a Friday at restaurant in Chinatown called the House of Nanking, and the place with packed with students from Starfleet Academy and UFC. These two are no exception. One of them is nursing a mystery drink—he remembers it's got absinthe in it, and his doctor's brain is telling him what a bad sign that probably is.
Sitting across from him is the boy who is almost the man who's going to be Captain Kirk someday, and he's sagging against the wall with a grin that seems to be sliding off his face. "Bones, my man," he says, leaning across the table. "Got a question."
"That's great, Jim," McCoy says. "That's real great."
"Wanna hear it?"
"Okay. Well," says Kirk, clearly taking that as encouragement, and his companion nods along sleepily like that's what he'd meant all along. "Bones. Leonard. You're a doctor, right?"
"That's the rumor."
"So, like. Well." Kirk leans closer, he speaks quieter, and McCoy wonders if he's actually trying to get serious here. "You're a doctor, right? So you've gotta help people, right? If they're sick, ri—"
"Right. Right, Jim, right. Spit it out."
"So, um, if I was—dying, seriously dying right here would you—" He lowers his voice. "Would you—" He lowers it more. "Would you give me—oh, man. Would you give me mouth to mouth? To save my life?"
McCoy blinks. Very slowly.
Kirk holds a straight expression for almost a whole second, then he breaks down into helpless juvenile giggling. "Oh man," he says. "I'm sorry, I just—I had to. Your face! It—"
McCoy shoves him away, back across the table, tack into his seat, but it's not like it's hard—the guy is falling all over himself, laughing like he just can't stop.
"You're cute," McCoy says. He means the opposite, and he tries to get that across with his tone but he's too drunk to know if it's working.
It probably isn't. "I'm so glad I came to school here," Kirk is saying, still laughing. "This place is awesome. This place is the best."
Scotty knows he's brilliant, he does. The problem is making everyone else see it, too.
"Come off it!" he says. "You just cannae think that after a man—or a woman!—has been broke down to the atom that you're limited by somethin' ridiculous like distance, it's simply a matter o' realizi—"
"Mr. Scott," the professor says icily. She's a visiting teacher, from America—or so she says, but the impassive glare she's giving him right now would give most Vulcans a run for their money. "Are you standing in the middle of my classroom and telling me the course material I'm teaching is ridiculous?"
"… Did I say ridiculous?"
"Yes, Mr. Scott. You did."
Scotty gestures helplessly, and the students who are seated on either side of him are shrinking away in both direction. "Okay, maybe I said ridiculous, maybe I did! But what I meant to say was it's just—" He chuckles, and it's strained. "—It's a little hard to believe that—"
"You're teachin' it ass-backwards, is what it is! You're lookin' at it that way, too, when it's obvious that…"
And this is where Scotty always runs into trouble. He can see it in his head, in pictures instead of words, except he can't draw the pictures any more than he can put them into sentences. He's sure that if he had a real transwarp engine, a real transporter pad in front of him, then he could put the pieces in an order that'd make sense to him and everyone else, but when he was doing this theoretical garbage…
"Think o' if as somethin' like…" He shakes his head. "It's not the man that's movin', it's… If you look at it like… From where I'm standin'…"
He doesn't know what he's trying to say, and he knows that no one is probably going to ever look at it from where he is.
The professor crosses her arms and narrows her eyes. "Mr. Scott," she says. "I have three degrees in related fields and I've been teaching this class for nearly fifteen years. Do you think you could take over this lecture for me?"
"No, no ma'am, I'd be a terrible, terrible teacher, but—"
"Do you believe you know more about the subject than I do?"
Scotty hesitates. "Is that a trick question?"
Uhura can't believe she's here.
She shouldn't. It's an amazing honor, to be standing on a foreign planet after just barely a year and a half of experience at Starfleet Academy—she's a cadet, she's only here to observe and learn. It's still amazing. She's not the only one so awestruck, either, the other three Academy students are moving around the United Earth Embassy in a sort of gave. They're talking about the architecture, they're marveling at the novelty of suddenly being the species minority, they're peering out the windows to look at the Vulcan sky.
Uhura is so much more focused than that.
"I trust you've learned a great deal on this trip," Spock says, walking beside her. he seems more relaxed than she's ever seen him, though the difference is slight—if there even is one at all. There seems to be something about his eyes… "It's a shame this excursion had to end so quickly. You followed the Vulcan discussions without trouble, I trust?"
She smiles. "Until the conversation turned to the trade agreement with the Andorians. I don't think I've learned the vocabulary to talk about every type of edible good this planet—your planet imports and exports."
The corner of Spock's mouth turns up slightly. So slightly she might be imagining that, too. "The Vulcan council members do enjoy lengthy debate about topics which are of little interest to those of us whose age leaves us with less experience and wisdom in these vitally important subjects. Or, indeed, to anyone who is not a member of the Vulcan High Council."
Uhura looks at him, she looks for any change in his expression and finds none at all. "Mr. Spock," she says carefully. "Did you just call the council members … windbags?"
Spock's faint, ghostly smile doesn't disappear, like she was certain it would. "Cadet Uhura, I think you'll find I said nothing of the sort."
"Of course, Mr. Spock," she says, putting her fingers over her mouth to cover just how far her grin was spreading. "I must have misunderstood."
"You're progressing remarkably," Spock says, coming to a stop in front of one of the tall windows of the Embassy. It gives them both a remarkably view of the Vulcan landscape but his eyes don't leave her. "Not only are you showing a rapid rate of improvement in your xenolinguistic skills, but you have what a human might call an 'uncanny knack' for understanding cultures which are alien to you. Without such a skill, your translation attempts would be quite handicapped. Your efforts are commendable."
Uhura isn't sure if she's learning to read Vulcans, or if she's only learning to read him. "It's why I requested this mission," she says earnestly, dropping her hand so he can see her smile. "I thought it'd be an educational experience."
"Amazing," Chekov says in Russian, slouching down in the seat of the shuttle so he can better get a look out of the window—he can see the Hollywood sign from here. "'Dis is … fantastic."
"Just a flyover, kid," the pilot says from the front of the shuttle, just a few feet away. "Just trying to get you guys used to being off the ground. Fun, isn't it?"
Chekov turns in his seat to look at him, grinning wide and speaking quickly. "Yes, sir, I know. And it is! you are doing a … wery good job. The wiew is wery … how'd you say … cool?"
The pilot chuckles. "And where did you say you were from?"
"I didn't, sir," Chekov says. "I am from Russia, sir, Saint Petersburg, which is the second largest city of—"
"I was joking. I could sort of tell."
"Oh. Right." Chekov sits back in his seat, wondering how he should proceed with this conversation. He knows he wants to, people don't strike them up with him all that often. "So, vhere are you from, sir?"
The pilot hits a few more buttons and answers, "San Francisco, born and raised." He pressed a few more things, but for all of the things he has to do Chekov gets the impression that steering this thing is all very easy for him. "Official Starfleet business like this is pretty much the only thing I ever leave the city for."
"Really? That must be nice…"
The pilot glances back at him. "What?"
"You don't have to…" Chekov tries to put what he's thinking into the proper English grammar. "You didn't have to go so far … from home."
The pilot looks back at his controls. "Yeah," he says, after a minute. "It is pretty nice." And then he adds, "I'm Sulu."
Chekov brightens. He's been here for almost a month, and Sulu is the first person to introduce himself to him. "Chehov, sir."
"Well, Chekov, I hope you had fun. We're taking her back to good old San Francisco, now."
When Cheov looks out the window again, the city of Los Angeles is gone, and they're over the ocean. He understands how the shuttle works, he knows how fast they can go and he could explain in excruciating mathematical detail how it does all these things—and he knows that it is, indeed, excruciating for practically everyone else in the world. He did spend at least a couple years in school with all the other children.
He knows all this, but it still fills him with a childlike sort of glee, watching the shuttle glide so quickly. The planet beneath them is just falling away, but from the inside it feels like they're standing still.
Nero stands at the window of the captain's quarters, his hands are over his head and against the wall and he stares into nothing at all. He doesn't know the statedate.
Some of the crew have requested that they return to Rolumus, this year and the year before it, and they don't understand that their world ends at the thick, shielded hull of this ship. The Narada is a hulking anachronism drifting through this new time, erasing all they encounter, leaving everything in flames—except in space, nothing burns. In space, there might be a million different stars, and a thousand different worlds, and on all of them there are too many lives to even number, but none of them are theirs.
Nero's hands curl into fists against that wall. He understands.
On this ship the stardate doesn't matter. Outside, things change. In here, nothing does, and so they don't forget.
Nero makes sure of that.