Time Waits For No Man (Or Vulcan)


'Captain's Log:
We are on route to the planet containing the entity known as the Guardian Of Forever. There have been rumours that Romulans have been spotted on the planet, attempting to use the power of the Guardian for their own use. Of course, there have been many of these rumours before, and they have turned out of be just that - rumours. However, Starfleet has reason to believe that this is something more serious and we are to meet with the leader of the exploration team stationed on the planet, upon arrival.'

Kirk turned off the recorder and sat back in his chair.
"How long until we arrive at the planet, Mr. Chekov?" he asked.
"We will arrive in just under one hour, Captain", the navigator replied.
"Very well. Put her in a standard orbit upon arrival Mr Sulu, and then contact me. Mr Spock, you have the Con. I'll be in my quarters."
"Aye, Sir", came the responses as he left the bridge.
In the turbolift, Kirk let out a sigh of relief. Any dealings with the infamous Guardian of Forever left him wound up tighter than a spring. Time was a risky thing to mess around with. Add Romulans into the mix, despite the peace treaty, and who knew what would happen. Now that they were almost there, Kirk was ready for some action, rather than sitting about worrying.

On the floor above his quarters, the lift suddenly ground to a halt, the lights going out.
"Damn!" Kirk muttered, reminding himself to get Scotty to do a full check on all the lifts, and hitting the emergency button. In the 23rd century they broke down way too often.
Before he could do anything, though, he felt a great pounding in his head. He fell to his knees, the darkness closed around him, and Captain James T Kirk lost consciousness.

*********************************************************

'Captain's Log:
Recent military reports have uncovered a possible Romulan base on a deserted planet in the Merculan system - a previously unexplored area of the Alpha Quadrant. The Enterprise has been sent there to follow up on these reports and if possible, to uncover the Romulans' plans. We have orders to capture any Romulans found there and bring them back for questioning, with the hope that this will turn the tide of the war.'

Captain Kirk sighed and rubbed his eyes. It had been a long day, and the war with the Romulans just seemed to be forever getting worse. He hoped this would turn things in their favour. He was tired of all the fighting.
"How long until we arrive Mr Chekov?" he asked.
"We will arrive in just under one hour, Captain", the navigator replied.
"Very well. Put her in a standard orbit upon arrival Mr Sulu, and then contact me. Mr Wilson," he continued, turning to his British First Officer, "you have the Con. I'll be in my quarters."
"Aye, Sir", came the responses as he left the bridge.

On the floor above his quarters, the lift suddenly ground to a halt, the lights going out.
"Damn!" Kirk muttered, reminding himself to get Scotty to do a full check on all the lifts, and hitting the emergency button. In the 23rd century they broke down way too often.
Before he could do anything, though, he felt a great pounding in his head. He fell to his knees, the darkness closed around him, and Captain James T Kirk lost consciousness.

"He's coming round", was the first thing that Kirk awoke to. Sitting up, he realised he was in sick bay, and his head hurt.
"Bones", he greeted, noticing Dr. McCoy standing in front of him.
"Easy, Jim", the doctor replied.
"What happened? I feel like I've been run over by a shuttlecraft!"
"Well, Scotty got the lift doors open and you were just lying there unconscious. I couldn't find any signs of injury, so I've just given you a stimulant. Do you remember what happened?"
"Yeah. I just left the bridge, and was on my way to my quarters to get some rest before we encountered any Romulans. Then, the lift just stopped and there was a great pounding in my head. I guess I must of lost consciousness."
"Strange, and yet there is no sign of injury..." commented Mr Spock, who had been standing on the other side of Kirk, out of his immediate field of vision. Kirk turned towards him, and his mouth fell open in shock.
"What the..?!" he spluttered. "Romulan!!" he spat.
"What are you doing on my ship, and wearing a Starfleet uniform?!"
Spock, eyebrows raised, exchanged a look with a bewildered McCoy.
"Jim..." McCoy began, but Spock interrupted him.
"Captain, it is I, Spock, your first officer. And, I am a Vulcan, not Romulan".
"What the Hell's a Vulcan?! If this is some kind of Romulan trick, well, you won't get anything out of me", was all that Kirk could manage.
"Relax Jim. It's me, McCoy. No-one's gonna hurt you. We'll get to the bottom of this."

Just then the three were interrupted by Lt Uhura.
"Captain, we are being hailed by the head of the research team down on the planet..."
Spock and McCoy exchanged another look.
"I'll take it, Lt. Please put it through to Dr McCoy's office", Spock replied.
"Acknowledged, Mr Spock".
"Dr, I must speak to Dr Robertson..."
"You go ahead, Spock, I'll, er, carry on here."
Spock nodded and disappeared into the sick bay office.
"Bones, what's going on? What's a Vulcan, and since when is that pointed-eared 'thing' my first officer. Where's Peter?"
"Peter?"
"Yes, Commander Peter Wilson - my first officer".
"Jim, I don't know what's happened, but that is Spock, he's your first officer, always has been. I don't know any Peter Wilson. As for, what's a Vulcan? Well, what do you mean, how can you not remember what a Vulcan is?!"
"I don't know Bones, I really don't. Either I got hit harder on my head than we thought, or something is terribly wrong."
"Well, Vulcans are from the planet Vulcan, the fifth planet in the Vulcanus system..."
"But that planet was destroyed over 5000 years ago. There's no life on it now".
"Yes, there is," McCoy sighed. "Look, we'd better wait until Spock comes back, he may be able to figure things out. Just...trust him".
As McCoy went to see whether Spock had finished yet, Kirk sat in bewilderment. He didn't understand what had happened to him. One minute he was in the turbolift, then he blacked out, now he was in some kind of parallel universe where he was the same but things around him were different!

*****************************************************

"Captain, how do you feel?" an unfamiliar voice inquired as he came to.
"Give him a minute", a more familiar voice interjected, as Kirk became aware of his surroundings. It looked like he was in sickbay.
"Bones?" he asked, latching onto the familiar gravely voice.
"I'm here, Jim. Just sit up slowly". Kirk did so, rubbing his head.
"Ohh, what happened? I feel like I've been run over by a shuttlecraft!"
"Easy, Jim. We found you unconscious in the turbolift after Scotty finally managed to open the doors."
"Yeah, damned lifts."
"There was no sign of injury though."
"What happened, Jim? What do you remember?" asked the first voice. Kirk turned towards it. It had a slightly British infliction and belonged to a tall man with short blond hair and blur eyes. He was wearing a commander's uniform.
"Commander?" Kirk asked, hazardly, "I'm sorry, but do I know you? Have you recently been transferred here?"
Commander Peter Wilson exchanged a look of bewilderment with McCoy.
"Jim, this is Peter Wilson - your First Officer".
"Uh-uh. My First Officer is Spock".
"Spock? Who's Spock?"
"You know, the green-bloodied pointed-eared logic machine you love to argue with all the time."
" 'Pointed eared logic machine?' Sorry Jim, I'm not following you. I'm more concerned with why you can't remember Peter. He's been with us since day one."
"Maybe amnesia?" suggested Wilson.
"Could be, but if so, why does he remember me, who he is, and what he was doing last. Even temporary amnesia only affecting trauma patients doesn't usually isolate one person to forget."
"You remember going to the lifts, the mission, the planet, Jim?"
"Yeah. Rumours of Romulans messing with the Guardian of Forever again. We were headed for the planet..."
"What system?" interrupted Wilson.
"The Merculan".
"Fouth planet of the Merculan system - that's where we are."
"Yeah, but what's the Guardian of Forever".
"What's the...?!" Kirk spluttered.
"Bones, you must remember it. It's permits time-travel. We discovered it about a year ago when you accidentally injected yourself and we had to follow you down to the surface. You went through the Guardian and we all ended up back in the 1930's..."
"I remember that incident Jim, but you and Peter stopped me before I could get down to the planet. After that we left the system after an urgent hail to help the USS Explorer."
"And we never did explore that planet", Wilson finished.
"Then why do I remember it so well? Why do I remember Edith, and the 1930's - the cars, the houses, Spock building that primitive communicator and finally finding you."
"There you go with 'Spock' again. Who is he?"
"I told you, he's my First Officer. He's my friend. He's saved my life more times than I can care to count, and yours Bones."
"I wish I knew what was going on Jim. You called him a pointed eared logic machine earlier. The only ones I know with pointed ears are the Romulans, and unless we're suddenly in league with the enemy..."
"Enemy?"
"Please don't tell me you've forgotten about the War!"
"War? What war?"
"Damn, I knew it!"
"The war with the Romulans the one we've been fighting for the past 100 years".
Kirk visibly paled.
"100 years! My God!" he whispered.
"You really don't know? And you don't know me?" asked Wilson, somewhat shocked.
"No. I'm sorry, but I don't".
"We've been serving together on the Enterprise for the past 3 years. Before that we were in the Battle of Vefernius 5 together. We've been friends and collegues for the last 10 years, since military school. It was because of your actions in Vefernius 5 that you got this commission, and you requested me for your First Officer."
" 'Military School', not the Academy?"
"What Academy?"
"Starfleet".
"Starfleet? You mean the new academy that opened 2 years ago".
"2 Years!"
"Yeah. Why, how long do you remember it being around for?"
"About 80 years."
"Hmm, it could have been, I guess, if there wasn't a need to divert resources to the war effort."
"I never went to a military school. I went to a Starfleet Academy where there was just as much emphasis on peaceful exploration as on defence. I never fought on Vefernius 5, and I've never been at war with the Romulans. Granted, I wouldn't trust one as far as I could throw one, but we're never been at all-out war with them".
"My God!" whispered Wilson.
"And, I'm sorry, Peter, I've never met you. My first officer is a Vulcan named Spock."
"What's a Vulcan?!" asked Wilson.
"They're from the fifth planet in the Vulcanus system. Distant relations to the Romulans but much nicer. It was because of them contacting us that Starfleet began."
"Vulcanus Five was found to be destroyed by nuclear weapons roughly 5000 years ago. Starfleet was first started due to the threat from the Romualans attack", responded Wilson, sighing.
"I think I have to sit down", the Commander continued. Kirk felt for the younger man. He tried to imagine what he would feel if one day Spock or Bones just said that they didn't remember him.
"What in God's name is happening, Jim? All that Peter's just told you is the truth! You saved his life on Vefernius 5. That's how you got your commission here!"
"I wish I knew, Bones. Tell me, am I going mad? Why can't I remember?"
"You don't sound mad, as much I wish I could give you an easy answer. I'm just as baffled as you. It's not so much that you can't remember, but that you're remembering different things to us".
"But why. Is it some kind of elaborate trick?"
"I can't kind any trace of drugs in the system and the basic cranial scans show no changes in your brain patterns."
"So, what, Goddamnit!? These memories seem so real!"
"Maybe they are - to you. It's like you have alternative memories to us. Some things are the same - you remember who and what I am, the ship, the mission, well, kind of - but other things are slightly different."
"The main ones beings that I don't know about any war, or about Peter Wilson."
"And we don't know about Vulcans, or Spock".
"Because Vulcan was destroyed, and the Romulans attacked...".
Before they could continue, the ship was rocked violently.
"What was that?!" asked McCoy.
"We must be under attack", Wilson replied.
"Wilson to Uhura. What's going on, Lt?"
"It's Romulans, Commander. They just de-cloaked off our starboard bow. Can you and the Captain report to the bridge."
"On my way, Lt".
"A Romulan attack?" questioned Kirk. Wilson just gave a pointed look.
"We're needed on the Bridge, Captain".
"I think maybe you'd better stay here, Jim. I don't think you're in any condition to fight."
"I'm fine..."
"I think Bones is right. I'll be on the Bridge. Let me know if there's any more news". With that Commander Peter Wilson left sickbay.
"Damn", remarked Kirk, not for the first, and he was sure not for the last, time that day.
"You're really hurting the kid, Jim", McCoy commented, not unkindly, as fire continued to rock the ship.
"I know, but I can't lie to him, can I? Lie? Is that what is this? Has my life been one whole lie? But it seems so real."
"In my experience, Captain Kirk always trusts his instincts, and they normally come out right. If you feel that more going on here then simple tricks and delusions, I would guess it is".
"Maybe you're right. We've encountered enough strange things to not always go for the easy option."
"We sure have. Now, why don't you get some rest, and I'll see if they need me on the bridge".
"Ok, if you need me, I'll be here, I guess. Thanks Bones".
"Anytime Jim."
Kirk was left alone. Thoughts of Spock, Edith, the Guardian, war, and alternative memories swam around his brain. He was sure the answer was there, if only he could find it!

Sighing, McCoy went into his office. Despite trying to keep his friend's spirits up, he was worried about Kirk. He really wished that there was some outlandish simple explanation for it all, but he also knew that sometimes the most obvious answer was the truth, however painful. He was willing to hope though, for Jim's sake, and because a delusional paranoid Captain Kirk would be absolutely no use to anyone in this awful, never-ending war.

*****************************************************

"How is he Doctor?" Spock asked as he finished talking to the research team-leader.
"Physically, he's fine. But this thing about not knowing you, it worries me, Spock. There's something funny going on, and my guts are telling me that the Romulans are involved."
"Well, Dr, as much as I would dislike to disagree with your 'guts' as you put it, I am, logically of course, inclined to agree with you. An unusual memory loss like this does not occur from a simple collapse. Besides we have yet to discover the reason for that very collapse. As we have rumours of the Romulans causing trouble in this system, it seems likely that they may be behind this incident. We need to prove this though, before we can do anything. From past experience we know that involvement with the Guardian of Forever often has 'unusual' results."
" 'Unusual results'? Just slightly! If the Romulans have been messing around with the Guardian, with time, we may all be in big trouble..."
"Calm down, Dr. As yet we have no evidence that that is the case..."
"Oh, of course it is! Anyway, there is another thing, Spock. According to Jim, he is at war with the Romulans, and Vulcan was destroyed 5000 years ago..."
"But how? Is there any evidence of brain control, influence of any kind?"
"No, strangely enough, everything checks out normal. He's Jim, but a slightly different Jim!" McCoy laughed. Spock looked thoughtful.
"What?" asked McCoy.
"You may have a point there".
"What, you mean that's not really Jim."
"No, Dr. You just said it yourself. That is Jim, but he is slightly different. Only a little changed. As if he has a slightly different life..."
"Different memories. Like Vulcan being destroyed and the Romulans being at War with Starfleet."
"It is possible that they could have managed to escalate a first attack into full-out war if the Federation did not have the resources and experience with alien life forms given to them by First Contact with Vulcans".
"A First Contact not existing because Vulcan was destroyed thousands of years earlier..."
"It is all very logical, and actually very clever."
" 'Clever'! Those Romulans could have destroyed us all, and you praise them".
"Just because I do not approve of the results, it does not mean I can not appreciate the means. However, one question remains. If the Romulans have indeed finally succeeded in their mission to utilise the Guardian's power, why is it is only Jim who has these new memories, this new history?"
"You're sure that that's what's happened?"
"In the circumstances, I can honesty see no other logical alternative."
"Maybe if you mind-mended with Jim...?"
"It is unlikely that he will be willing to attempt that. It requires great trust on a human's part. However, we can but try, Dr."

"Jim, how do you feel?"
"I feel fine, Bones. Just confused. There's nothing wrong with me..."
"We did not say that there was, Captain. In fact, we have come to some possible conclusions as to the cause of your confusion."
"You mean, you think you know what's going on?!"
"Quite possibly."
"Is he always like this?" Kirk asked McCoy, curious about this Spock despite himself.
"Like what?"
"So...so precise!"
"Yep!"
"Oh. So, what is going on?"
"We believe it may have something to do with the Romulans and the Guardian Of Forever..."
"Well of course it's gonna be Romulans!"
"Calm down, Jim. Spock's only trying to help. He thinks that if, like you say, there was no life on Vulcan, without First Contact with the Vulcans, Earth could well have entered into war with the Romulans. It comes down to that one difference between what you remember and I remember. From our previous dealings with the Guardian, it does seem very likely that the Romulans have somehow managed to travel back in time and change history so that Vulcan was destroyed."
"Time-travel?! But that's impossible!"
"Not with the Guardian Of Forever."
"The what?"
"It is a portal through time and space. We once travelled back to 1930's Earth through it."
"And you think the Romulans have used this portal to time-travel and change the future?!"
"Yes".
"So why am I the only one who remembers this change?"
"That's the problem. Jim, there may be a way. You could mind-meld with Spock."
" 'Mind-meld'? How dos that work, and why don't I like the sound of it?"
"It's perfectly safe, Jim. It is a Vulcan technique, to join minds."
"So you're just gonna poke into my mind?! No way! My mind is private!"
"Jim, calm down. Spock wouldn't go anywhere you won't let him, but it might spread some light on this. Please trust him. He's done this many times. In fact, so have you."
"No, I haven't! Or, if I have, I can't remember it."
"Captain, please. Jim. Even if you don't know me, I know you. I have melded with you many times. I only want to help you, but I cannot force myself into your mind."
"You...you can't?"
"No."
"Well, OK. What do I have to do?"
"Just open your mind. I'll do the rest."

Spock placed his fingertips against Kirk's face, and slowly began the meld. Moving through the familiar area of Kirk's childhood he could see slight differences. The spectre of war was always there. Kirk's father had fought, and his brother had died in combat. There had been less resources and freedoms available to this Jim Kirk than to the one he knew as his friend. He saw images of a familiar, yet slightly different Starship Enterprise, courageously entering battle, and a respected First Officer and friend named Peter Wilson. He saw no traces of deception, of mind-altering drugs, or worse. Kirk not only believed that what he knew was true, but to him, it was true.

Kirk, meanwhile, saw Vulcan and a race of people he had thought would never exist, saw their peaceful and logical lifestyle. He was astonished to find images of a Starship Enterprise who's mission was mainly one of peaceful exploration. And, most astonishing of all, he saw a Captain much like himself and a friendship with a Vulcan First Officer. He then saw Spock's memories of the Guardian and how he thought that time had once again been changed. It was so real, yet unreal, and he knew that it was how it could have been.

Spock reached further, past the familiar and accessible, into darker corners of Kirk's minds, hoping to find answers. Kirk allowed him, trusting this man who should have been his friend.

In a blank spot which even Kirk hadn't known had existed, Spock found subconscious memories of Kirk's collapse in the turbolift. There was a sense of floating and free-fall, Kirk somehow leaving time and space, then re-entering, his conscious mind having no memory of this, and shutting itself down in protection. It was unbelievable, yet, given the circumstances, totally believable.

Coming out of the mind-meld, Spock looked at Kirk almost in amazement, if Vulcan's could be said to be amazed. He had new admiration for this Jim Kirk who had seen so much suffering.
"So, did it work?" asked McCoy. Spock nodded, unsure quite where to begin. Kirk reminded quite, still somewhat in shock at what they had discovered.
"It is the Guardian, and Romulans, but their time-travel did not work quite as planned. It seems that on one level it did, and on another it did not. Do you believe in parallel dimensions, Dr?"
"I don't know. I've heard arguments for the existence of them. But what's that got to do with this?"
"Everything. It is thought that for every action that we take, a branch in time appears. On one branch, it is as we carried out the action, or went through with a particular decision. On another, it is an alternative. A different action taken, a different decision made. The Romulans have not succeeded in changing this present through their actions in the past. I do not know how or why. Instead, they appear to have created an alternative, parallel universe where they did succeed and where the Federation has been carrying out a century-long war against the Romulans..."
"You mean I'm not real?!"
"No, you are very real. You belong in an alternative universe, but that universe is just as real, at least to you, as this one."
"So, how did I get here?"
"That I do not know, and I can only think that perhaps the Guardian may know."
"Wait, wait, wait", interrupted McCoy. "This is crazy. You think because Jim starts remembering weird things that he's from a different universe?! But how? This is Jim, our friend. It doesn't make sense."
"On the contrary, Dr, it makes perfect sense. Using logic does not mean you have to eliminate the unusual. If it is the most logical, then, however impossible it seems, there is likely to be some truth there. This is indeed Jim Kirk, but not our Jim Kirk."
"So, say this is true, now what do we do?"
"I would surmise that Jim has somehow traded places with his counterpart. He does not belong here. We must find out how and how to return him to this own world, and our Captain to ours."
"Oh, of course. Easy!"
"I suggest we ask the Guardian".
"One problem", suggests Kirk, having finally snapped out of his trance.
"Wait. Jim, you believe this?"
"Strangely enough, yes, I do. Everything's been kinda 'off' since the turbo-lift, like reality isn't quite right. This seems to make sense, and what I saw in the mind-meld confirms it."
"So, what's the problem."
"My counterpart. There's no Spock on my ship to mind-meld with, and as much faith as I have in Bones and Peter, I don't think they'd work this out on their own. Presumably, whatever I would have to do to get back, the other Jim Kirk would have to do the same."
"You were both doing the same thing at the same time. We must trust that if we can find a way to get you back, the other Kirk will subconsciously also find his way back."
"That doesn't sound very logical, Spock."
"Sometimes, Dr, even logic suffers in the face of the human spirit".
"So, you want to go and see the Guardian?"
Spock and Kirk just nodded.
The decision made, the three men made to leave the room, and were interrupted once again.
"Captain, Mr. Spock, to the Bridge. We are under attack", announced Uhura.
At that moment the ship shock with the force of being fired upon.
Spock nodded at Kirk.
"By who, Lt?" Kirk asked.
"Romulans, Sir!" With McCoy in pursuit, Spock and Kirk rushed to the Bridge.

"This cannot be a coincidence, Captain", Spock commented as they reached their stations.
"I agree. Try to contact, them please, Lt" Kirk replied. He may not know this universe but he did know Romulans.

********************************************************

"What about the Guardian?" asked Kirk still in sickbay. He couldn't shake the feeling that the Guardian would provide some answers. It could not be coincidence that this incident had occurred here, and when they had been investigated Romulans, as had this, somewhat different, Enterprise. They were currently hiding from the Romulans at the other side of the planet.
"Erm, time travel?!" asked McCoy.
"I know I'm not crazy, and I've seen the affects of the Guardian before. We were investigating rumours of Romulans using it for their own purposes, and it is not the first time that they have attempted time-travel. What if they have succeeded?"
"That's impossible".
"No, actually, it makes sense. It's very logical", replied Wilson, making Kirk do a double-take just to ensure that Spock hadn't suddenly reappeared.
"What?" asked Wilson, aware of Kirk strange look.
"Nothing. You just...reminded me of someone".
"If the Romulans have done something to time..."
"They could have done something that caused the destruction of Vulcan. Everything is linked to that. I'm just the same apart from events leading from that".
"So, why is it just you who have different memories?"
"I don't know. It's as if you remember they way things are after the change, while I still remember how it was..."
"So, we're the ones changed?"
"I don't know. I think we need to speak to the Guardian". The decision made the three men made to leave the room, McCoy still worried about Kirk, Wilson still wary, but knowing they had to get to the bottom of this. He just hoped that the Romulans didn't find them first.

**********************************************************

"On screen, Sir", announced Uhura, as she finally made contact with the Romulans.
"This is Captain Kirk of the USS Enterprise, and you have invaded Federation territory", Kirk said. He was desperately trying to remember that they were not at war and that he should not tell them that they were dead meat. The information gained from the mind-meld helped.
"I do not see any prior claim", the Romulan Commander replied.
Kirk suddenly realised that he knew this Romaulan, at least in one version. He had killed him. He realised that he had an advantage knowing how this Romulan thought and fought.
"R'Til. Well maybe you need to have your eyes examined".
"What?! How do you know me, Human?"
"Let's just say that I've...heard of your exploits", Kirk replied, trying not to cringe at being so civil to Romulans.
"Anyway, I'm afraid this planet is Federation protected, so care to let me know what you are doing here?"
"Purely some planetary observations. We have not completely charted this system, and are carrying out scans".
Kirk, to say the least, was sceptical.
"And why were you firing on us?"
"Ah, our mistake, we believed that you were about to fire upon us".
Even Spock raised his eyebrows at that logic.
"Uh-huh", Kirk responded non-committedly.
"Now if you would be so kind, we are eager to return to our observations. I trust that that is why you are here?"
"Of course."
The Romulan nodded, and broke the connection.
"They do not want us to question their actions on the planet", remarked Spock, somewhat unnecessarily.
"I know R'Til. He would never be interested in planetary observations, even in an alternative universe," Kirk started, ignoring the strange glances from Uhura, Chekov, and Sulu.
"If we go down to the planet we can stop them, and speak with the Guardian."
Kirk, reassured that they wouldn't be fired on any time soon, swiftly agreed. While the Romulans were convinced they had bought their flimsy story, they could confront them.

***********************************************************

Down on the planet, the light shimmered and three people appeared on the surface.
The Guardian awoke, sensing a disturbance in the time-stream.

************************************************************

Down on the planet, the light shimmered and three people appeared on the surface.
The Guardian awoke, sensing a disturbance in the time-stream.

Getting his tricorder out, Spock indicated the direction of the Romulans. They were over by the Guardian and looked to be carrying out tests on it. There were five of them.
"It seems that despite their original use of the Guardian they are still trying to determine exactly how it works", he commented.
"Wow, and you've travelled through that thing?" enquired Kirk, getting his first look at the Guardian.
"Yep. I'll never forget that", McCoy confirmed.
"If we can distract the Romulans away from the portal, I may have a chance of speaking to the Guardian",
"Ha, well, I could always do my little insane act again!"
"Hmm...actually..." murmured Kirk.
"Oh, no."
"Oh, yes. Come on, it's a distraction".
"Oh, hell, come on then. You're playing along, Jim, there's no way I'm doing this on my own. We may not be war with the Romulans but they're still not my favourite people."
That said the two of them edged closer to the Romulans while Spock kept hidden.

**********************************************************

"Romulans at 5 O'clock", hissed Wilson as they neared the Guardian. There were five of them.
"They look like they're trying to find out exactly how it works," commented Kirk.
"Ha, they don't deserve to know, scum", hissed back Wilson.
"You can't let anger determine this, Wilson. Focus on the mission", Kirk snapped, and Wilson was somewhat amazed at how easily he thought to comply. He had thought of this Kirk as someone different, not part of them or Starfleet. Sometime over the last half an hour, that had changed, and he saw that despite the differences, this was still Captain James T Kirk.
"Yes, Sir", he gulped.
"This thing is really a time portal? It looks like an old stone pillar", McCoy said, amazed.
"It sure is. Maybe if we can distract the Romulans I can speak with it. I've travelled through it and it should know me".
"Ok, sounds like a plan."
"And I know just how to distract them", grinned Wilson, pilling out his phaser.
"Wilson, I..."Kirk began.
"With all due respect Sir, we are still at war and this is actually a good time to obtain valuable information and prisoners.
Kirk shrugged, and gave Wilson the go-ahead. He was right and this wasn't his world. These brave men were still fighting a war and they could help each other, then all so the better. He had a sudden pang of homesickness for this own ship and crew, and hoped that this impromptu plan worked.

*******************************************************

"Look, McCoy, I don't care what you say you think you know, I'm the Captain and my orders stand!" Kirk started. Fighting somewhat sneaky Romulans had made him not a little sneaky himself. McCoy looked a little stunned for a mirco-second but then followed what Kirk was doing.
"No, leave me alone, I have to get to it! You don't know what it is!"
"It's a piece of stone, McCoy, now come on, we're going back to the ship!"
"Never! And you can take that as my resignation! This is much more important. It's not just a stone, it's the Stone Of Aratham. Don't you realise how important this is!"
"McCoy, don't make me shoot you. Come back and we can get you some help".
By now their heated argument was having the desired affect, and the Romulans were intrigued, both at what McCoy was saying about the Guardian, and by the 'great Captain Kirk' having trouble from his crew.
"Captain Kirk, are you having trouble with your crew?" the Romulan commander enquired. Kirk turned to look at him, as if surprised that he was there, and embarrassed to be seen like this.
"R'Til, you're still here?"
"Yes, we have some studies to finish. So, it seems are you".
"Not if I have any say in the matter. However, my Medical Officer here is convinced there is something important about that stone monument. I tried to tell him if was just a piece of stone, and if he doesn't obey my orders there will be trouble", he finished raising his voice and looking forwards McCoy. He looked back to R'Til with a short laugh and a wry grin as if to say 'stupid inferiors', one commander to another. McCoy meanwhile was making his way further towards the Guardian.
"McCoy, if we don't leave down I am beaming back up without you!" Kirk yelled, running after McCoy, leaving R'Til still watching amusingly.
"Do what you want Jim", McCoy replied, enjoying his role. He was now upon the other Romulans standing in front of the Guardian. They stepped back, unsure of what was happening.
"Please, just ignore him", Kirk told them, throwing them one of his charm-filled grins.
The Romulans just shrugged and moved out of the way.
Suddenly McCoy whipped out his phaser, seemingly aiming it at Kirk. Kirk whirled round, as if to get out of the way, and fired his own phaser on R'Til, who was behind him. McCoy's fire missed his commander and took out two of the remaining four Romulans, exactly as he had planned. The Romulans, still slightly shocked, were no match for Kirk as he turned his phaser fire on them as soon all were too stunned to know what was going on. At that, Spock approached out of the distant shadows and the three made their way to stand in front of the Guardian.

*******************************************************

"Hey you, get away from that, it's Federation Property", Wilson yelled, firing and launching himself at the Romulans. They immediately turned and drew their weapons. Dodging their fire, Wilson run towards them, Kirk and McCoy lose on his heels.
"I'm Captain James T Kirk of the Starship Enterprise and you can consider yourselves prisoners of war", Kirk announced, turning his phaser on the Romulan commander.
"I am Commander R'Tok, and I will not go without a fight", he declared, firing at Kirk. McCoy meanwhile was trying to make his way to the front of the Guardian, whilst the Romulans were distracted. Kirk threw himself out of way and shot a Romulan who was approaching Wilson. The Commander nodded his thanks and returned fire an another, and the incident turned into a full-scale fire-fight.

With three Romulans down, Kirk noticed Wilson was suddenly in danger.
"Wilson, get down!" he yelled, seeing R'Tok getting a clear shot at the First Officer. Wilson turned, but was too late. Yelling, Kirk furiously fired at R'Tok whilst McCoy somehow stepped out of the shadows to dispatch R'Tok's last inferior. Suddenly all was quiet. All the Romulans were stunned, but Peter Wilson was down. Kirk felt for the First Officer he hardly knew but had begun to respect.
"Jim, it's doing something..."
"Bones, quick", Kirk interrupted.
"What?" he asked, stopping as he noticed Wilson. He checked the younger man with a grim look on his face.
"He's dead Jim", he announced.
"Damn!"
"The bastards! It wasn't supposed to be like this!"
"Jim, it was war, Peter knew what he was getting into..."
"Bones, this wasn't war, this was my fault. This was my idea."
"You can't blame yourself. Peter wanted to do this, you were still his Captain".
"Don't let his death be for nothing, Bones. You have to try and bring this war to an end. There is another way. There has to be, even without the Vulcans. Your Captain may now understand that as well. Use it", Kirk declared, a determined glint in his eye.
"If I at all can, Jim", McCoy replied, for there was really nothing else to say.
"Now, the Guardian...?"
"Yes, it lit up when I approached".
They made their way back to stand in front of the grand portal.
"Guardian, do you know us? We have travelled with you before", began Kirk.
"One I know, you have indeed travelled through the portal. The other is known but not known. A different version. There is a disturbance in the time stream and not all are where they should be. It must be fixed before it is too late".
Both men gasped in surprise. So, it was true. The time-stream had been altered.
"Can you fix the time-stream?"
"I can, but the one who does not belong here, the one called Kirk, must return to his own times, as must the other".
"The other Kirk?"
"Correct".
"Can this happen? Will it be successful?" asked McCoy.
"It can be, if both are returned at the same time, and quickly. I will open the portal".
"If it is not at the same time?"
"Then they will both be lost in the time-stream".
"It's too dangerous!" cried McCoy.
"I have to. You heard what it said. If I don't then it will be too late".
"But...?"
"Trust me. And trust your Captain, your friend. He will have found a way, I feel it. After all, he is me".
"Ok, I guess I have no choice. Good luck".
"Thank you. Goodbye". With that, James Kirk stepped into the time portal, and was gone.

****************************************************

"Guardian, do you know us? We have travelled with you before", began Spock.
"Two I know, you have indeed travelled through the portal. The other is known but not known. A different version. There is a disturbance in the time stream and not all are where they should be. It must be fixed before it is too late".
Two of the three men gasped in surprise. The other raised an eyebrow. So, it was true. The time-stream had been altered.
"Can you fix the time-stream?"
"I can, but the one who does not belong here, the one called Kirk, must return to his own times, as must the other".
"The other Kirk?"
"Correct".
"Can this happen? Will it be successful?" asked McCoy.
"It can be, if both are returned at the same time, and quickly. I will open the portal".
"If it is not at the same time?" asked Spock.
"Then they will both in lost in the time-stream".
"It's too dangerous!" cried McCoy.
"I have to. You heard what it said. If I don't then it will be too late".
"But...?"
"Trust me. And trust your Captain, your friend. He will have found a way, I feel it. After all, he is me".
"It is logical that the other Kirk will do this". Kirk smiled.
"Thank you for trusting me, Spock. I will miss you."
"Remember what you learnt here, Jim. The war can end, you can make it happen. Talk to your version of McCoy and your First Officer."
Kirk nodded, thoughtful. Perhaps there could be a way, in some distant future.
"Thank you. Goodbye". With that, James Kirk stepped into the time portal, and was gone.

***********************************************************

Thunder clapped and lightening flashed above the Guardian. Then suddenly, as quickly as it had started, the elements were quiet again. If he was so inclined, McCoy might almost have called it a religious experience. Looking up at the Guardian, he saw one last flash as a single figure appeared out of the Guardian. Then, the Guardian was still again, and all was as it had been.

McCoy approached his friend, still mindful of the body of Peter Wilson laying a few meters behind him and a group of still-stunned Romulans.
"Jim?"
Kirk smiled.
"Did it work?" asked both men.
"Is Peter here?" Kirk asked.
"Jim, you're back! Aren't you? You remember being at Military School with Peter?"
"Every minute", Kirk replied with a grin.
"Jim, I...it's Peter...he...he's dead, Jim!"
"No!"
"I'm sorry, it was Romulans, we were trying to get to the Guardian".
"Damn them!"
"This can't go on, Jim, will all the bloodshot ever end?"
"I know, Bones, I know. I have just been on an Enterprise where the primary mission is one of peace and where there is a pointed-eyed alien I would be glad to call friend."
"Spock?"
"Yes, he told you then?" McCoy nodded.
"We can make it real for us as well. We have to!"
With that the two friends beamed back to their ship, saddened but somehow hopeful.

******************************************************

Thunder clapped and lightening flashed above the Guardian. Then suddenly, as quickly as it had started, the elements were quiet again. If he was so inclined, McCoy might almost have called it a religious experience. Looking up at the Guardian, he saw one last flash as a single figure appeared out of the Guardian. Then, the Guardian was still again, and all was as it had been.
"Jim?" Spock asked, approaching his Captain.
"Spock? I missed you my friend". It had seemed like he had been away a lifetime.
"Jim, it worked!" cried McCoy.
"Yes, Bones, it worked. The other Kirk went through the portal?"
"Yes..."
"Back to a land of war and a dead First Officer - and friend".
"What?"
"Commander Peter Wilson was killed by Romulans, trying to get me home."
"Jim, I'm sorry..."
"It's OK, Bones. I know he wasn't my First Officer, but...but he could so easily have been! We don't know how lucky we are, Bones!"
"I think we do now, Jim. Let's not waste that knowledge".
"You're right. Are we ready to return to the ship?"
His two friend nodded, saddened but hopeful and grateful.
"Kirk to Enterprise? Three to beam up".