Title: What Must Never Be
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: Property of Roddenberry, Paramount, JJ Abrams, etc. Alas.
Summary: It has been said-- by humans, whose eyesight is not as keen as that of Vulcans, so one must excuse the inherent imprecision-- that 'hindsight is twenty-twenty'. Spock Prime; 2000 words.
Spoilers: Star Trek XI (2009), Star Trek TOS (various; see notes)
Notes: Part of my connected STXI ficlet 'verse. References a wide variety of TOS canon, including at least seven episodes (mostly Season 1), three movies, and one book. You don't need to know all of it to understand this story, though; it's mostly brief recollections from Ambassador Spock's memories.
There are many events of his former timeline that Spock, now called Selek in the new timeline that his failures have created, would prefer to avert, and others which he would prefer to ensure. He is aware that it is a form of arrogance on his part to believe that doing so-- that affecting the paths of billions of other beings' lives-- is his responsibility, but his conscience, and his guilt, will not allow him to do otherwise.
It has been said-- by humans, whose eyesight is not as keen as that of Vulcans, so one must excuse the inherent imprecision-- that 'hindsight is twenty-twenty'. It is, indeed, easier to look backward and imagine what one might have done instead of what actually occurred, as one could not have done in the moment; to calculate the impacts of differing outcomes of traumatic events, given the known consequences, and construct a present reality more appealing than one's own. Selek is in the unique position of being able to give his younger self such a gift; and yet the very concept is illogical, as every change made will ripple outward to prevent some events from happening altogether and birth new ones whose impacts may not be at all beneficial to Selek's peace of mind. Yet, he must try.
He does not dwell upon the destruction of Vulcan, or the death of his mother; he has vented that grief already, and finds some comfort in the occasional missives received from Commander Spock as he and a Jim Kirk like and yet unlike Selek's own work to develop a friendship and a command style of increasingly formidable reputation. Instead, he dwells upon the adventures of his own life and crew, and those disasters that might logically be expected to reoccur-- and of that subset, which might be reasonably prevented.
These range from the significant-- the path of the energy ribbon known as the Nexus, for example, which will not take the life of a James T. Kirk a second time if he has anything to say about it-- to the miniscule. A moment's research into the career of one Lieutenant Commander Ben Finney, for example, reveals a daughter named Garnet rather than Jaime, a slightly different disastrous error on his record reported by an Ensign Gary Mitchell rather than James Kirk, but the same resultant blind hatred in search of an outlet. Selek calculates the odds that any James Kirk, still known to be a friend of a Gary Mitchell, would not invite the latter to join him on his starship, then hacks into Starfleet records to transfer Finney preemptively to the outpost previously abandoned by young Mr. Scott. Perhaps there, he will learn patience and responsibility for one's own actions.
Selek does not think such an outcome likely for Khan Noonian Singh, however. He plots the course of the SS Botany Bay from memory and constructs fragmentary messages in the style of Earth records preserved from their planet's Third World War that appear to mention the old-style sleeper ship's launch. It is a simple matter to insert the resulting records into a research library in such a way that they will be discovered as 'misfiled' within approximately the next seven point two four months. Starfleet will approach that vessel with the full knowledge, this time, of just whom it may contain; and no colony will ever be fatally established in the Ceti Alpha system.
Thoughts of Khan lead, as always, to his own death, and to the tangible costs of his resurrection: Enterprise, David Marcus-- and the unleashing of the Genesis technology. No intervention on that count will be necessary, as it has already been removed from Selek's hands; Lieutenant Carol Marcus, botanist and geneticist, perished aboard the USS Mayflower, having never met her timeline's Kirk. Selek's feelings are mixed on that count; he grieves for the son Jim never had the chance to know, and for the loss of a life, but is relieved that his Captain's younger counterpart will never experience either occurrence of paternal loss.
He does not speculate on what the negation of David Marcus' existence could mean for Saavik; she has not yet been born, either, and in this timeline might never be. He inserts a flag in the system to notify him of any news pertaining to the Vulcan scientific crews that were to have gone missing in the Neutral Zone (yet extant, as they had been off-world in this timeline as well as his) or to the world known in Standard as Hellguard. Only time will tell how the Romulans of this era will respond to the violence Nero's ship has visited upon the Federation, and the hatred the Federation has served them in Nero's stead. The internal political machinations that had resulted in the deadly experiments at Thieurrull would have already begun in his timeline, but Nero's actions may have altered their plans here. If Saavik does come to be, however, neither she nor the other children of her generation will be left on that savage planet one moment longer than is necessary to retrieve them. That, he vows.
Equally insoluble at this point in time is the matter of the Probe; the means of solving the crisis due to arrive in 2285 is as beyond Selek now as it was the Earth of his own origin. There are sufficient years yet to perhaps clone a humpbacked whale from preserved genetic stock, but no mere physical replication can provide the resultant being with the language it should have learned from its own community. Regrettably, he had never made the time to learn the language of whalesong himself, so he cannot even reconstruct learning tapes from existent recordings. Something will have to be done-- but it will not be he who does it. He will have to prepare a time-delayed warning for his counterpart.
Other things are simpler to take care of. Simple additions to planetary survey records warn of the potential presence of silicon life under the surface of Janus IV; of the unsuitability of Omicron Ceti III as a colonial destination; of sightings of unknown warships requiring further investigation near the location of a planned outpost; of minor modifications to standard sensor procedures that might prevent the parasite that had devastated Deneva from ever reaching that colony; and of a thousand other worlds and cultures that should be quarantined, or at the very least flagged with appropriate, though necessarily vague, warnings, even to the degree of 'galactic rumors' in the case of worlds yet undiscovered. He cannot directly refer to events the Enterprise may not even deal with herself this time around, but he can at least give those who will eventually encounter such situations some measure of preparation.
If he had had more time with Jim in their initial meld, he might have thrown logic aside entirely and simply imbedded such warnings directly; but it is better this way, he knows. Selek cannot smooth all the wrinkles from his own young life, or Jim's, completely; nor would it be advisable to do so even if he were able. Would he and his timeline's Kirk have become the legendary command team that they were had they not forged their strength together against all manner of challenges and hardships? There is a degree of interference beyond which he dare not go, and it has nothing to do with the Temporal Prime Directive and everything to do with his understanding of his own character and that of his friend. Jim would not have thanked him for 'holding his hand' in their own days aboard the Enterprise; how much more strongly would this younger, pricklier Kirk react to such protective treatment?
And that does not even take into account the likelihood that he might not be able to leave such implanted commands. That is one development of this timeline that has left him puzzled, and thoroughly intrigued; while his own Kirk had been an extremely perceptive individual, often able to read intentions accurately from the most alien of beings based upon very limited cues that any other human excepting perhaps a communications expert like Uhura would have overlooked, he had not, in fact, been gifted with any particular extrasensory capabilities. Though receptive and able to participate in a telepathic meld as initiated by Selek, he had never been able to overpower Selek's own control.
This young Kirk is-- different. Selek recalls, again, that moment when-- in the midst of trying to convey the experience of watching the Narada fall into the singularity, followed by his own arrival twenty-five years later-- a flash of an unfamiliar ship under heavy fire had crossed his mind's eye, interrupting his mental projection. The lettering on the vessel's upper hull had read "NCC-0514"; he had recognized the designation as belonging to the Kelvin, the ship aboard which George Kirk had served as Lieutenant and First Officer. Together with Kirk's question about his father, that vivid slice of conflict and the deeply fractured, foreign emotions that had overlain it had left questions in Selek's mind that he had sought to answer during the wait for another ship to arrive at the frozen outpost.
The image had been culled from fragmentary recordings of the Kelvin's destruction by one of its sensor probes, he knows now, later retrieved by an investigating vessel. Recordings that Jim must have watched obsessively at some point in his youth for the image to be imbedded so clearly in his mind. That encounter had been the first wound, the initial fork in the timeline; it had taken the lives of George Kirk and several other crewmen, had caused Jim to be born prematurely, and had set events on a course that left this Jim with an edge Selek's own had never quite possessed.
Though the younger Spock was born before the Narada's arrival, Selek suspects that the differences in the younger half-Vulcan run nearly as deeply as in his Captain. By Spock's current age, Selek had already begun to rigidify his emotional expression into a Vulcan structure so profound that he had been shamed by his early friendship with James Kirk; but then again, he had been science officer on Pike's Enterprise for several years by that point, rather than an instructor at the Academy. By the time he had met his Nyota Uhura, he had been impervious to her overtures-- and it had not been his programming Jim had flouted in the Kobayashi Maru; another computer engineer had had that honor.
As a result, Spock is in touch with his emotions in a way that Selek had not come to terms with for another fifteen years; he may still express himself in a reserved manner and think of himself as primarily a logical being, but the fire in his blood runs much nearer to the surface. The early loss of his mother will only exacerbate that. As time passes, Selek estimates that his younger self's behavior will grow more and more difficult to predict; he will not always react to even those situations that repeat in their lives in the same manner Selek recalls.
It is-- disturbing to realize that the events he remembers so clearly, the events that shaped him, the lives of his friends, the Federation, and indeed the entire galaxy, will forever more exist only in his memories. It is a profound loss. Nearly as devastating as the loss of Vulcan itself. And yet; and yet. He is fascinated, and enthralled, by all the possibility now unfolding. He has much to look forward to in the coming years, and that does not even take into account his rewarding work with the new colony.
But first, he must complete the work he has chosen for himself; this compilation of false orders and faked records and subtle warnings that outline what must never be.
It is the least he can do, he muses, as he takes up his PADD again to write of laurel leaves and Pollux IV.