Disclaimer: Star Trek was created by Gene Roddenberry, et al, and is the intellectual property of Paramount Pictures, et al. (No power on earth can force me to untangle the rights further than that!) No money is being made from this story, and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.

Author's Note: This story was inspired by the 6/1/09 word #112 on the 15_minute_fic livejournal community. It is thinly disguised meta on the relationship of the new movie to TOS, and on the futility of declaring one continuity better or more real than the other. (In other words, I love them both and you should too! Well, if you want to. I fully support everyone's right to like and dislike series as they please; I just think both versions of this particular series are wonderful.)

I stole a few things from TOS book fanon (the Vulcans' name for their sun, the Romulans' names for their homeworlds, a mangled paraphrase of one of Surak's more memorable quotes), but that's basically just for color. This story has been slightly edited from its livejournal form.

Summary: Spock compares his timeline to its original. Thoroughly gen, depressingly philosophical.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o
And in the Bottom of the Box
o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

This world is an error: a misbegotten, slow-motion catastrophe, building inevitably from an initial tragedy.

From one perspective, one hundred twenty-nine years from now, in a different reality, Romulus and Remus -- ch'Rihan and ch'Havran -- will be destroyed. From another perspective, they are already gone. Those planets and their people perished because of the brute indifference of unnamed nature, the shortsighted political delays of the Romulan Senate, the stubbornness of the Vulcan Science Academy. The shock of that tragedy spilled over, back in time, where reality acted to heal the infection by sealing it off in a new stem of spacetime. Everything after that initial incursion was wrong.

Spock had theorized as much in Nero's ship. Now he knows.

He spoke with Jim Kirk, twelve days into their shakedown cruise. Once enlightened about the truth behind the inference Spock's counterpart had led him to draw -- "Cheating again," Kirk muttered, incomprehensibly -- he allowed Spock to initiate a light meld and learn the details of the catastrophe that had propelled Nero back in time and driven him to pursue revenge worse than death.

Spock came away with more than that bleak narrative. He felt the echoes of his counterpart's emotions, and he carefully organized the fragments of memory -- both his counterpart's, and faded glimpses that must have originally belonged to Kirk's counterpart -- so they would not trouble this Kirk's sleep. Doing so gave him a cursory overview of major events in that other world: the original world, toward which their own is attempting, slowly and with thus far insufficient success, to correct itself.

In that other world, Vulcan still circles Nevasa, shining red and gold with reflected light. In that other world, his mother lives -- and will live to peaceful old age. In that other world, conflict with the Klingon and Romulan Empires simmers at lower heat, broken only by occasional skirmishes rather than the outright battles that have exploded with deadly regularity all through Spock's life. In that other world, Starfleet's internal scales tilt more toward exploration and science than toward military defense.

Spock compares the original world and the damaged offshoot in which he lives, and knows without a shadow of doubt that his world is flawed, perhaps fatally.

And yet. In that other world, he remains estranged from his father for years to come, and their reconciliation is never complete. In that other world, he never dares to love Nyota. In that other world, Romulus and Remus will suffer Vulcan's fate, with no chance of reprieve. And in both worlds, Spock has the Enterprise and her crew, whom he thinks -- he hopes -- are becoming his friends.

Weighing one life against another is monstrous. This, if nothing else, Spock has seen in his counterpart's memories: that while according to logic, the many outweigh the few or the one, logic is helpless to weigh the worth of friendship and love. You are the Other; the Other is you; how, then, can one assign relative value to life? One cannot. All life -- all love -- is the same and worth the same.

This world is an error: a broken mirror held up to truth, its fault lines fracturing the chain of events into ever-ramifying splinters. But this world is all he has. He loves it -- loves what he has all the more because of what he has lost and what he will now never have.

This world is an error. But the universe does not stop for grief. Life continues despite death, and in time even the greatest tragedy is transmuted into truth, into art, into a light that reminds the future not to repeat the past.

This world and its people have known tribulation their originals never felt, were born in the shadow of doom.

Spock wonders what glory may be born in transcending their plight.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

AN: Thanks for reading, and please review! I appreciate all comments, but I'm particularly interested in knowing what parts of the story worked for you, what parts didn't, and why.