Chapter 5D: "Sine Amicitia, Vita Esse Nullam"
Spock knew rationally that he and Mister Kirk had agreed about today's events, but there was still a small part of him that feared that Kirk would once again ignore their agreement and go to the Ambassador's room.
"Computer, indicate the location of Commander Kirk."
"Commander Kirk is in Conference room 4."
Spock felt a swell of pride. He quickly subdued it, knowing that he should have trusted Kirk's word. Nevertheless, hearing that Kirk was actually following through with their agreement made him believe that their conversation last night had made an impact, and the Commander would stop his attempts to be alone with the Ambassador. His anxiety gone, Spock decided it was time to go and visit the Ambassador to obtain any relevant information he had about the situation at hand.
Spock had had the impression that Captain Mitchell was hiding something from the moment they met. Putting aside his tactless remarks about Vulcans and his assumptions about the working dynamic between him and Commander Kirk, Spock thought there was something odd about Mitchell. At the time he had dismissed it as irrelevant, but now, with the updated data, it seemed important.
Spock was used to humans being overemotional and 'loud' in a manner of speaking. They projected emotions strongly, and he often had to raise his mental shields to avoid 'doing voodoo tricks' as McCoy called his telepathic ability. Having a human mother taught Spock to modify the standard mental teaching in Vulcans and adapt it to humans from a very early age. Vulcans had little experience with the human psyche, and Spock learned that they thought their every technique could be useful with members of any race. But humans were different. Mitchell was very different; he projected emotions at Spock, mostly frustration, but it was too… controlled. It was almost as if he had sensed the emotions Mitchell wanted him to sense. He was familiar with frustration; most humans felt that particular emotion towards Vulcans. Mitchell's frustration felt… forged.
As he walked to the Ambassador's room, Spock reflected on the talk he'd had with Captain Mitchell regarding his request to transfer Mister Kirk to his ship. In retrospect, it looked as if he had been shielding his real thoughts and emotions from Spock and projecting what he wanted Spock to see. Spock knew Mitchell was not a healer, and therefore could not have taken the class in mental shields and projection. Spock doubted that even McCoy took that class, and it was strongly recommended for Starfleet doctors. He had read theses about mental shielding in humans. It was possible, but it involved chemicals and suppressors and had a success rate of only 36%, with a possibility of severe complications for the experimental subjects. These discouraging results did not mean the trials had stopped; in fact, that was one of the topics that had been discussed during the Ethics Department meeting where they had also discussed Commander Kirk's hacking of the Kobayashi Maru. The data from the failed investigation had been stolen, and Starfleet suspected that separatists were using it to continue the experiments.
Spock waited patiently for the Ambassador to answer the door of his assigned quarters. Perhaps he would have some insight into this topic as well, if something similar happened in his timeline. At first, Spock had found the presence of someone from another time confusing; however, considering recent tragedies, perhaps it was for the best. If the Ambassador had knowledge that could prevent more tragedies in this timeline, it would be illogical not to use his knowledge. He had meditated on the topic several times and came to the same conclusion:the Ambassador could be a valuable source of information.
In fact, after a long mediation, he realized it was practical for the Ambassador to represent the Vulcan culture. He knew how to reach out to other races, and his experience would be an asset if they wanted to subdue any negativity towards Vulcans. Spock had concluded that he was uncomfortable for two reasons. Firstly, he saw him as a competitor. Spock was young and had a long road ahead of him before he could achieve anything close to what the Ambassador had accomplished during his time serving in Starfleet. The fact that he had been made Captain at a far younger age than his counterpart did not feel like an accomplishment. Illogically, Spock had the impression that the Ambassador's experience serving under his James Kirk's command gave him knowledge that Spock did not have. When Commander Kirk took charge of the ship during his compromised situation as a child, Spock saw that he was, as humans say, 'born to the role'. He was talented and intelligent, and he knew how to handle a crisis that would leave Spock at a loss. Having the Ambassador here reminded him of that, and it did not help that the Ambassador seemed reproachful about the situation. He was the one who convinced Spock to stay in Starfleet instead of going to the Vulcan Colony, yet he acted like Spock had asked to be Captain. He would have been content to be a Commander, the rank was of no relevance. But the Admiralty disagreed, and as he had been promoted by Admiral Pike, it was logical that he should accept his new rank instead of demoting himself back to First Officer.
The second reason involved Commander Kirk, and it was even more unreasonable than the first. Spock had worked hard to build a strong bond with Mister Kirk, a bond that had grown beyond a working relationship and settled into friendship. He had thought he was on the right track, until he saw the way Commander Kirk acted with the Ambassador. While he was polite and amicable with Spock, when he interacted with the Ambassador he seemed carefree and genuinely happy, and they had only conversed three times that Spock was aware of. It could be that the Ambassador was using his past with his Kirk to make the Commander more comfortable and at ease; nevertheless, it felt like all his effort had gone to waste when his counterpart appeared. Yesterday's events confirmed that Kirk was still uneasy around Spock. It was not reasonable that he had endeavored to form a good companionship with Kirk and the Ambassador took that away with his mere presence.
Both reasons were petty, unfit for a Vulcan, yet trying to deny them made no difference whatsoever to Spock's actions. Perhaps acknowledging them would help improve his interactions with the Ambassador and Commander Kirk. While he did not want them spending time alone under any circumstances, if he wanted to succeed he must change his strategy. Instead of acting like an irrational parent who wanted to forbid his son from playing with someone he considered a bad influence, he would act supportive, but firm. He knew that the best course of action was just to stop dwelling on this situation, and focus on what Captain Mitchell could be planning, but his meditation proved that it was not possible for him to ignore the Ambassador-Kirk situation. His mother often said that Spock was 'too stubborn for his own good', and he could see her point now.
"Captain." The Ambassador sounded surprised when he opened the door and saw him. "What can I do for you?"
"You expected someone else?" Spock inclined his head, trying to look calm. "Commander Kirk, perhaps?"
Must every irrational action on his part be witnessed by another Vulcan?
"Actually, I was expecting Yeoman Sanders. She has been attentive and has extensive knowledge of the Vulcan culture. I commend you for having such organized and professional crew."
He nodded, taking the compliment as the peace offering that it was. Vulcans did not give praise unless there was a logical reason to do so.
"May I come in? I need to speak with you," Spock said.
"Of course, Captain."
The Ambassador stepped aside, letting Spock inside. It still amazed Spock how he managed to make 'Captain' sound like something dreadful.
"Please, take a seat," the Ambassador said, signaling a chair near a very organized desk. "Can I offer you a cup of tea?"
"No, thank you." Spock sat down, waiting for the Ambassador to do the same and start the conversation. When he did, he was nursing a cup of tea with a strange scent.
"I do not remember that kind of tea being in the replicator." Spock arched his eyebrow. "Did you bring your own blend?"
"It is Andorian tea." The Ambassador smiled kindly. "The taste is ... strong."
That did not answer the question, and part of him wanted to push the topic. However, he remembered his new plan. Supportive, but firm, instead of confrontational and irrational.
"Is the room adequate for your needs?" Spock could make irrelevant conversation as well. He had been trained in diplomatic behavior most of his life, after all.
"Certainly. Even the temperature is satisfactory. The Enterprise has always been a good host."
"I am sure." Spock thought this was enough pointless discussion to fulfill his diplomatic duty. "I have some inquiries for you, if you are able to assist me."
"It would be my pleasure."
"Very well. When you were contacted by Starfleet about your transportation needs, what ship was assigned to that task?"
The Ambassador lifted his eyebrow with doubt.
"The Enterprise, of course," he answered.
"I see. Which Admiral contacted you?"
"If I may, perhaps it would be helpful if I relate the situation about my 'transportation needs'." Spock tried to subdue the anger he felt when he heard the Ambassador repeating his words in a mocking manner. Perhaps he was being too sensitive. "When I volunteered to be the Vulcan representative at the diplomatic reunion, the pressing matter was that I needed to arrive as quickly as possible, and I was on Starbase 5 for reasons related to the Vulcan colony. The Betazoid Ambassador suggested official transportation, such a ship from Starfleet, instead of Vulcan transportation, as that could be seen as hostile. The suggestion was made to Starfleet, and I was contacted by Admiral Pike afterwards to let me know that the Enterprise was assigned to that particular mission. I admit that the Enterprise was my preference from the beginning, but I was given the impression that another ship was closer to my location. It is possible that I was mistaken in my assumptions."
"You were not. What I am going to share with you it could be considered classified. Only Commander Kirk and I are aware of this information, at least on this ship, and we have concluded that discretion is the best course of action before rushing to conclusions. However, we agreed that you could be of assistance in clarifying some aspects of this mission that seem ... unusual. I request for you to be discrete about this information."
"I understand. I will be cautious and consider the information given to me as confidential."
"I appreciate it. Commander Kirk discovered that the ship originally assigned to your transportation was USS Archimedes. I presume that is why you thought another ship would be retrieving you. After further reflection, the Admiralty assigned the Enterprise to this mission, and the Archimedes volunteered for the task of retrieving the Andorian Ambassadors. That mission was assigned to the USS Pegasus; however, they claimed to be on the verge of a very significant discovery in their research and they could not spare time to fulfill the mission. "
"Ah. That would explain why Starfleet informed me about the ship assigned to the mission three days after my request. Do you have any thoughts on the reasons for the change of plans?"
"None that we can confirm; Commander Kirk believes it has to do with the Captain of the USS Archimedes."
"I am not aware of who is in charge of that ship. If I may ask?"
"Captain Gary Mitchell."
Jim decided to stop being impatient about meeting in private with the Ambassador and just let things flow. After yesterday's events, he understood that pushing things wasn't exactly helping his cause. And, even when Bones said he was being pushy and overbearing, Jim couldn't help it. It was like wishing for something so hard, and when you finally had it within hands' reach, you couldn't touch it. However, being in the Security department had given Jim a different perspective on life, and he had learned to tell when he should stop pushing.
If he didn't see any progress after being patient, he could plan something for when they reached Betazoid; if anything good could come from the whole Gary situation, it was that being overly cautious wouldn't be seen as an overreaction. He could volunteer to escort the Ambassador down the planet until he secured his location, and since he was in the Security department, it wouldn't be a strange request. With this new plan, Jim felt cheerful and optimistic, which was a nice change from all the frustration he was used to every time Spock interrupted his carefully thought out plans. Now he was supposed to dig for some dirt on Gary, and he knew the perfect source.
"Hello, gorgeous." He smiled at the screen.
"James Kirk." The woman smiled as well. "Haven't I told you not to flirt with married women?"
"Come on, Pike knows you're hot." Jim winked.
"And that's disturbing. Chris is like a father to you; that makes me your almost mother, so show some respect."
"Yes, ma'am," Jim said, saluting the woman.
They laughed comfortably. Jim had always enjoyed speaking with Number One. She was Pike's First Officer before Spock, and since Pike kept calling her 'Number One', the nickname stuck even after they married and she decided to go back to teach at the Academy.
"This is early, even for you. You're lucky Chris isn't here."
"I know, I know, he needs his beauty sleep. Where is he, anyway?"
"Meeting with Komack." She sighed. "He'll be in a foul mood."
"That's Komack's superpower: being extremely annoying." Jim smirked.
"I doubt you are calling me just to share your hatred for Komack. What can I do for you, James?"
"Don't be like that. You know I don't like it when you call me James."
"That's why I do it. You need toughening up, Chris spoils you too much. Stop changing the subject and tell me what you need."
"All right. You know Spock, right?"
"I hope that was rhetorical. You know damn well I recommended him for my post when Chris and I married."
"I still believe you could have handled working with Pike. You didn't need to quit."
"Oh, James … you, more than anyone, understand what working with my husband can lead to." She gave him the sad eyes, when she knew that it killed him.
"Not the point." Jim tried to get back on topic since this detour wasn't in his best interests. "Spock and I think Gary Mitchell is planning something."
That got her attention. She frowned, and Jim could almost hear her thinking. She and Gary had had a big argument during Gary's internship on Pike's ship, despite Number One's rank at the time. Pike meddled and set the record straight. (Of course, Pike wouldn't let anyone mess with his woman, no matter how he wanted to justify that afterwards).
"For once, I think you made a big mistake sleeping with him. Sex is like a bargain for that guy."
"You know about that too?" Jim gaped.
"Please, James, the only person who actually believes you two didn't have sex is Leonard."
"He thought it would be a good idea for me to be his First before Spock asked."
"Yeah, because in Leonard's mind he was the only Captain you hadn't slept with. My husband excluded, of course."
"Your husband was no longer a Captain then."
"My point exactly. Mitchell is … a very peculiar person."
"That's what you say when you hate someone."
"James, before I say anything else, I need to know why you are asking," she said, looking troubled.
"We have this assignment…"
"Chris told me. The Vulcan Ambassador, right?" she smiled. "He thought it would be funny for you to have two Vulcans aboard."
"Yeah, it's hilarious," Jim said, sarcasm dripping from every word. "Well, Gary was assigned to this particular mission first."
"That, he didn't tell me." She scowled.
"Keeping secrets from you already?" Jim teased.
"Hardly. He probably didn't think it was important. Why were you assigned to get the Ambassador, then? It's rare for a reassignment to be granted. The paperwork alone is hell, I know that from experience."
"Preaching to the choir, Number One," Jim groaned. "I have your post now, in case you haven't noticed."
"I've told you not to call me that. Only Chris is allowed ... Since you brought it up, has Spock called you that lately? I can imagine how it would sound, in that deep, raspy voice of his." She smiled deviously.
That woman was far too intuitive for Jim's taste. She couldn't know about the memories or the fact that Jim was getting all weird about anything Spock-related, but she certainly acted like she knew how Jim felt.
"He hasn't. I think we all agree you are the only Number One from now on; I doubt Pike called Spock that when he was his First."
"If he did, I would have some interesting questions for them both. What was the reason given for this change of plans, then?"
"None whatsoever. We were assigned as if it had been that way originally, but Cupcake -"
"Still calling him that? Didn't you learn your lesson after he gave you a set of lovely bruises?"
"He knows it's because I like him. Anyway, Giotto told me USS Archimedes was the ship assigned to the mission in the beginning, but Pike changed his mind like when he was about to propose and he tried like four different times, and the mission was assigned to us. Then, apparently Gary snapped and yelled at your dear husband and his mistress."
"I assume you mean Komack."
"Who else?" Jim grinned. "You got in the way of true love, I hope you know that."
"I'll make sure to share the sentiment with Leonard, since he's also standing in the way of true love."
"How exactly?" Jim knew he probably wouldn't like the answer, yet he asked.
"You and Spock, Leonard in the middle. It's tradition for the Second in Command to fall for the fearless and handsome Captain."
He was right, he shouldn't have asked. She was kidding, he knew very well, but those inconvenient memories had chosen this moment to pop up with graphic examples of how true Number One's assumption was for the other Kirk.
"James?" she asked, sounding concerned. "I thought we were joking. Are you okay?"
"Yeah, sure." Jim waved his hand, trying to pretend he was in no way affected by the image of the Ambassador pinning his Kirk down somewhere on the Enterprise. "Pike didn't tell you about Gary's breakdown?"
"I'm afraid Chris doesn't share information he thinks will upset me. He believes anything Mitchell-related falls into that category." She knew what Jim was trying to do, and she went along with it, which Jim was grateful for. Number One was like his foster mother, always nagging him and pushing him, but she also understood when he needed space and to avoid certain topics.
"So, what I want to know ... you knew the guy pretty well after that internship and the thing we don't speak of." Jim had always wondered what exactly happened between Gary and Number One. It was a big secret, and even getting Pike drunk had never got him any answers. Gary wouldn't tell either, he just said it had been a tactical mistake that wouldn't happen again. "Do you think we should be concerned about him?"
She seemed lost in her thoughts and Jim waited patiently for whatever she wanted to share. He knew she wouldn't tell him what happened, as it was classified information, but perhaps she could give him a hint. Gary was distrustful and hadn't made many close acquaintances in the Academy; that was the main reason he didn't like Bones. He thought he would betray Jim, and from what Jim remembered of their last encounter, it seemed Gary still believed Bones wasn't reliable.
"What happened with Mitchell could be seen in two ways. One, as the rash actions of an eager cadet trying to earn his place. The other, as a xenophobic person contaminating the Fleet."
Jim gasped at Number One's bluntness. He didn't expect her to be that direct.
"Wait, if you suspected xenophobic behavior, why didn't you report him?"
"He was sent to counseling, and apparently it was a misunderstanding. A failure to communicate, if you will. What I can tell you for sure and without breaking any confidentiality clauses is that Mitchell often questioned our intergalactic accord, believing that the Federation was being extremely supportive to certain planets and leaving others at a disadvantage; he thought this was unfair. Being in the Federation meant equal rights and support to every civilization."
Jim remembered how vocal Gary had been when he was named Captain of the Archimedes. He had plans to change the requirements to be part of the Federation, and he believed there should be a more selective method to let someone in. Jim had laughed back then, comparing Gary's thoughts to a beauty pageant. Now he had the feeling Gary had shared many of his plans with him and Jim had just dismissed them as silly jokes.
"He volunteered Archimedes to get the Andorian representatives." Jim frowned. "Pegasus was originally assigned but they backed out for some research. Do you think he planned this too?"
"I doubt Mitchell has that kind of influence over Komack and Archer, and they are the ones who approved the change in missions. However, I must say I'm intrigued; two missions reassigned, and Mitchell's crew-members keep getting injured somehow. It does sound suspicious."
"I knew you would agree with me." Jim nodded. "But I thought Gary was harmless; just an idealist, not necessarily genocide material."
"Being Pike's First taught me that when the Admiralty suspects sketchy behavior, instead of confronting the suspect, they let them run and then shut things down when required. If the Admirals suspect Mitchell, they will let him be until he shows what he truly is planning, and then they'll act."
"What happens if they're too late?" Jim asked, throat dry. This was too familiar. He couldn't help but relate this to the Narada incident, and many more before that one, where Starfleet waited until it was very late.
"That's why you are asking me, isn't it?" She smiled weakly, knowing what Jim was thinking. "And from what you told me, Spock is wary too. Remember my seminar?"
"Observe, prepare and detain." Jim recited automatically.
"Good boy." She winked at him. "Act normal, but be vigilant. Stay in close contact with Giotto, and most importantly, you and Spock need constant communication so you both can be ready if something happens."
"And -" Jim kept quiet, not knowing how to ask this without sounding weird. Number One was smart and perceptive, he didn't want her to know how much he cared about Spock. He still had problems acknowledging that particular fact himself.
"And?" she prompted.
"I - from what Giotto told me - does Gary have a particular race in mind when he refers to the preference in the intergalactic accord?"
She tilted her head, considering the question.
"He had problems with Spock; not directly, but he didn't like that he was in charge of the Kobayashi Maru. I think he has something against Vulcans in general, not just Spock. But I'm just assuming, James. Don't get paranoid and start behaving like a mother hen towards your Captain."
"I wasn't asking because of Spock! I have a Betazoid daughter, you know." He tried to look offended to see if she took the bait.
"Whatever helps you sleep at night, son." She didn't buy it. Typical. "I have eyes, and I know how you look when you worry. Just observe -"
"- Prepare and detain, yeah, I got it," he sighed. How was he supposed to break the news to Spock? He didn't want to make the Vulcan suspicious, and Jim was nervous enough with this particular piece of information.
"This was enlightening, I appreciate the information."
"You know who else could give you good scoop about Mitchell?"
"If you say Komack, I'll tell Pike about the tequila breakdown," he warned. That was a fun night.
"No, and you promised to keep your cakehole shut. I was referring to Hikaru Sulu. He's serving on the Enterprise too, right?"
"Sulu? Are you sure?"
"Of course, James. Sulu was assisting Mitchell during his seminar here at the Academy. You probably don't remember him at all since you focused your attention on Mitchell and the wonders he performed in bed, but I heard he saw a fight in one of the hallways and had to break it up. He said it was a misunderstanding when Pike questioned him, but he pissed off a guest professor."
"A Vulcan professor? Spock?" Jim gaped. There was no way Spock lied and pretended he didn't know Mitchell before he introduced them during shore leave.
"I like how your mind works, honey. I say professor and you jump straight to thinking about Spock in that sexy uniform. I can't blame you, he looked delicious."
"Number one -" he sighed. He didn't need the mental images, thank you.
"Oh, calm down, I'm teasing you. No, it was Karen Klein."
"Karen Klein, the neurobiologist?"
"The one and only."
"Please tell me he didn't hit her or anything," Jim said, dreading the answer.
"It was a verbal confrontation, James. You and Pike are so alike, ready to jump anyone who dared to harm a damsel in distress. Women can handle pushy and obnoxious men nowadays, you know?"
"Hey, I know all about that, I had female classmates in the self-defense course. But you said fight, so I assumed punches were thrown."
"Not all fights are physical. Anyway, when I asked Karen, she said that Mitchell was opposed to the fleet's decision to cancel a certain research he took personal interest in."
"Classified information. Become an Admiral, and I can share the gossip."
"Yeah, that's the solution to all my problems." Jim snorted. "Klein was the one who had the theory on mental shielding in humans, right? After her time on Betazoid, she thought of duplicating the mental method they have with the empathy thingy."
"Empathy thingy?" Number One smiled. "Is that your professional opinion? It doesn't matter; I can neither confirm nor deny what you said. Now that I remember, better than Sulu, ask McCoy. He knows Karen and rumor says they bonded. Twice."
"Man, you sure are bored. You haven't shared this much gossip since the time Pike went rogue and left you in charge of the wedding preparations."
"I have spent a lot of my free time with the medical staff lately. They have the juiciest tidbits. You really tried to do the eight defensive maneuver with Gaila in bed? That must have hurt."
"Hey! She said I could bend that way; besides, that's not the point. I'll appreciate any information you can offer about this topic, before I provoke an intergalactic incident because I think Gary is a xenophobic bastard who fooled me the entire time." Jim shook his head. You think you know someone, and when you least expect it you discover that you were completely wrong.
"He's ambitious, I give you that. James, before you rush off to freak out to Leonard ... Winona called me last week."
Jim froze immediately. Number One and his Mom had been friends while they both served, and after the Kelvin incident she tried to help her with the mourning. In the end, his Mom married the asshole and cut ties with both Number One and Pike. He'd been surprised to find out that Pike and his father had been friends before and that was why Pike, as soon as he recognized him, invited him to Starfleet. At first he thought it was just to have the hero's son aboard, but after a few months, he could see Pike actually cared.
"I imagine your surprise," Jim said neutrally.
"She has called me since you joined the fleet," she responded calmly.
That was unexpected. Neither Pike nor Number One had even hinted about being in touch with Winona after she re-married (and since they weren't invited, Jim never had the chance to actually meet either of them before joining Starfleet). Why would Winona call her after all these years?
"Why?" It seemed like the safest question out of all the ones Jim was thinking at the moment.
"Jim, she's worried about you. She knows you wanted space from her, but she still wants to know how you are doing, or if you need anything. She was so proud when you defeated Nero and earned the Commander post ... She wanted to call you, but thought you wouldn't take it well."
"So, you are defending her or what?" Jim frowned. Number One had been careful around him before, and avoided topics she knew would upset him. That deal apparently was off.
"She doesn't need to be defended. Besides, you always justify her when someone says bad things about her parenting style."
"I've talked to her a few times, I even asked her for advice during a mission ... I don't know what else you want from me."
"I want you to think about why sometimes you reach out to her, and when she reaches back you walk away. She's your mother, Jim, but she is by no means perfect."
"Oh, that I know very well," he snorted. "What do you tell her when she calls?"
"I mostly share what Chris tells me, about how you are taking your post seriously and you and Spock are a good team. She still talks about George."
"She never stops talking about him; that was the point of discharging her. She's nuts, remember?"
"You know better than this," she chastised. "It's hard to let go."
Jim was about to say something sarcastic, when he thought of the Ambassador. He had tried to move on after losing his Kirk, but he obviously still felt the burden and couldn't let go. He coped differently than his mother, of course, but he still missed his Kirk and he still loved him as fervently as when he was alive. Perhaps this set of memories could give him a better understanding of his own mother. Jim sometimes regretted being so distant with her, so he reached out and called her to ask about the Fleet, or something equally trivial; but when she tried to do the same, then Jim put the barrier back up and didn't let her. Deep down, Jim knew his trust issues came from his childhood, being reinforced by what happened in Tarsus. Risking letting his Mom in and being disappointed wasn't something Jim was prepared to do.
Maybe he never would be ready to trust her.
"I'm glad she can at least talk to you now," Jim said, trying to regain some composure.
"I thought you should know." She gave him a weak smile. "In case you think she doesn't care."
For him, it was easier to think she didn't care. Number One wouldn't understand that, though.
"Thanks." He tried to sound sincere. "I appreciate this touching moment. I should go, and you probably have better things to do than play mediator between me and Winona."
"My pleasure. Keep me updated about Mitchell. If I can, I will tell you what I've heard about the situation, like our own secret mission."
"I love having secrets with you, Number One," Jim smiled.
"I know, handsome," she smirked, "and don't call me that. Take care, Jim."
She waved goodbye, ending the call. This conversation had left him with more doubts and questions that actual answers, but at least now he knew for sure that Gary was up to no good. Perhaps in his idealistic mind whatever he was planning made sense, except that he apparently wasn't considering the consequences of his actions. Jim wouldn't let him risk everything just because he thought he knew better.
Spock observed his older counterpart's change in demeanor when he mentioned Mitchell's name.
"You have met him?" Spock asked.
"I have met a version of him, yes. Has he done something reckless or suspicious to provoke Jim's wariness?"
He was about to correct the Ambassador, demanding that he should call Mister Kirk by his rank, when he recalled that he did not care what Spock thought on the subject. With some difficulty, he let it slide.
"He and Mister Kirk had some sort of friendship. He wanted him as his Commander, thinking that I would have an antagonistic relationship with him given our previous differences."
"Marooning him to Delta Vega and trying to strangle him at the Bridge? I can see how he came to that conclusion." The Ambassador looked calm, but Spock knew passive-aggression when he heard it.
"Mister Kirk and I have moved on from the petty arguments we had under stressful circumstances. The Commander had not expressed any mistrust regarding Mitchell until he found out about the change of missions. Admiral Pike warned me about him, however."
"And you want me to share whatever information I have on Gary Mitchell," the Ambassador said, sipping from his cup of tea.
"If you could give the insight of your experience, perhaps we can theorize with greater accuracy about the situation," Spock agreed.
"I cannot tell you about Gary Mitchell, as the man I encountered and the one you know are probably as different as you and I, or my Captain and Jim." Spock felt glad he did not refer to the Commander as 'his Jim'. Otherwise Spock could have acted impulsively, and he was trying to avoid that. "However, if he shares some of the same traits as the one I once knew, he will do everything in his power to obtain his goals. I apologize for not being as helpful as you expected."
"On the contrary, this has been enlightening." He wished he was just saying that out of politeness, but this information gave him a new perspective about the situation.
"Perhaps this could be useful as well," the Ambassador said. "There is a rumor spreading on Star Base 5."
"A rumor?" Spock asked in a disdainful tone. Vulcans were above speculation and imprecise data.
"You will find that rumors can be more precise than what you might expect. Dismissing information because it came from a questionable source can cause you to be surprised and caught off guard."
"As can trusting information from unfounded sources," Spock debated.
"It is not detrimental simply to listen. I am not saying you should assume everything you hear to be accurate, but rather treat it as something to be considered in case new information is revealed."
Spock almost felt the patronizing tone and the unsaid 'do you want to know about the rumor or not?' He inclined his head, conceding the point. Kirk had said the same thing on a previous occasion.
"I was informed about a group of rebels who thought it was unfair to blame Romulans in general for the actions of a single individual. The same group blames Vulcans for this state of affairs, believing we are creating conflict between the planets for our own gain."
"We lost our home planet and our families," Spock interrupted. "How can we gain something out of that tragedy?"
"It's not openly debated. I have discovered that Vulcan was less appreciated than I had thought. Unfortunately, only Earth and Betazoid have agreed to give us their full support. The rest of the planets in the Federation are reluctant to 'lend a hand', in a manner of speaking".
"What exactly is the meaning of that?" He had noticed that the Ambassador often used human vernacular as part of his speech.
"They publicly support the new colony; however, every time we request aid, they refuse, giving unsatisfactory reasons for not doing so. Part of the information I received included how this group was taking advantage of that hesitation. It was also hinted that I should be careful, as they were trying to 'make Vulcans fight fair', which could be interpreted in many ways."
"Indeed." Spock recalled what he wanted to ask the Ambassador besides the ship assignment. "Ambassador, if I may ask one more question ... have you heard about humans shielding their emotions from touch telepaths?"
The Ambassador looked at Spock with curiosity.
"Humans bonded to Vulcans would be able to do that with the proper training."
"That is a consequence of the bonding ritual; the Vulcan mate teaches and gives the guidance necessary for the shielding to protect both partner's privacy. That is not what I was referring to. I meant humans without any telepathic bond."
"Outside a bond, I have not heard of such event. We are speaking strictly about humans, correct? Not hybrids?"
"No, humans only."
"Do you suspect a human has achieved the mental shielding even when they are psi-null?" The Ambassador sounded doubtful.
"I was just wondering if you have come across the phenomenon." Spock refused to be intimidated by what, for all intents and purposes, was an older version of himself.
"I suppose certain humans can be extraordinary; my Captain often showed talents not fitting for a human. He sometimes made me believe in miracles."
The fondness in the Ambassador's voice made Spock feel sympathy. It was clear that the James Kirk of his time made a significant impact in his life, from the way his face showed such emotions as pride and happiness. He could relate. He was certain that if he shared as many years in service with Commander Kirk as the Ambassador did with Captain Kirk, he would also be fond and proud of his friend.
Friend ... this, at least, was something he could thank the Ambassador for. At first he'd had doubts about his next course of action when they returned to Earth after defeating Nero, but he gave the Ambassador the benefit of the doubt and embarked on the five years mission, knowing that he could go back to the Vulcan colony afterward. This gave him the opportunity to earn a loyal friend, and to challenge everything he had experienced so far. Mister Kirk often pushed boundaries, and he never surrendered. He frustrated him to no end when he refused to play by the rules, when he changed his strategy whether they played chess or they discussed a mission, and he made him feel secure when he was overprotective of Spock. There was no need for Mister Kirk to put himself in the line of danger for Spock; he was a Vulcan and three times stronger than Kirk. Still, Spock felt a sense of security each time he risked his life to 'have his back', as Kirk put it when questioned about this illogical course of action. Of course, Spock disliked it when Kirk put himself in unnecessary danger, and it frustrated him when the Commander insisted on 'babysitting' him; however, he knew Kirk would stand next to him even when he disapproved. He did indeed have his back, and Spock was content that, with a few missteps, they were working on forming a strong bond.
"Captain Spock?" the Ambassador said gently. Spock realized he had been sitting in silence while he reflected on this topic.
"I apologize." He inclined his head. "Then you believe it is possible."
"Captain," the Ambassador said solemnly, "working in Starfleet gave me the certainty that everything is possible. Do not dismiss your suspicions, share them with Jim. He could give you a point of view that I am unable to offer. He often does prove enlightening, and can make you consider the most irrational ideas. As I said, he makes me believe in miracles."
"I thought you were referring to your Captain," Spock said frostily, not liking the way the Ambassador talked about his Commander. He barely knew Mister Kirk at all.
"James Kirk has that particular trait regardless of the timeline or dimension. Knowing Commander Kirk better than I do, do you think I am mistaken?"
Spock could not answer. It was obvious that he agreed with the Ambassador.
"I am grateful for your time, Ambassador." Spock decided he had enough information, and their conversation was diverting to a topic he did not like to discuss.
"Any time, Captain." The Ambassador nodded politely.
"If you excuse me, I need to speak with Commander Kirk." Spock probably imagined the glint of approval in the Ambassador's eyes. "Yeoman Sanders is informed about your particular needs with regard to nourishment and rest. Even though you visited out departments yesterday, I have arranged a meeting during lunchtime to introduce you officially to the head of each work area; they have agreed to show you any department you find yourself interested in, and you are considered a distinguished guest. Is this acceptable?"
"It is more than I have hoped for, Captain. I appreciate your thoughtfulness."
Spock stood up and the Ambassador escorted him to the door. With a nod, Spock left and decided to search for Commander Kirk. They needed to discuss the information he gathered. It baffled him that he was so eager to share this with the Commander as quickly as possible. But if they had agreed to obtain information, it was logical to want to hear what Mister Kirk knew. Once he convinced himself that the over eagerness was not unreasonable, he approached the nearest terminal to ask for Kirk's whereabouts.
"Computer, indicate the location of Commander Kirk."
"Commander Kirk is in Sickbay."
On second thought, the conversation could be postponed until another time.
"Who told you about that?" Bones was fuming. It was always fun riling him up.
"That's not relevant. You made her call you Doctor McCoy in bed?" Jim smirked.
"You are confusing me with you, Commander Kirk," Bones said sarcastically.
"I'll have you know that nobody has used my rank in bed, as I haven't slept with anyone since we started the mission, so the joke is on you," Jim said proudly.
"You know I would call you a filthy liar, if it wasn't for the fact that I know very well you really haven't been fooling around ... unless we count that French kiss with Mitchell," Bones mused. "I'm still surprised he hasn't become another notch in your bedpost."
Jim grimaced, but tried to hide it. There was no need to burst Bones' bubble; it was nice he actually gave Jim the benefit of the doubt, even if he didn't deserve it.
"But we are not talking about me, Doctor McCoy." Jim winked. "So, how was she?"
"Stop defiling my profession. What makes you think I'll share those details? I haven't done it before; I'm not going to start now because you are bored. Masturbate like the rest of the population and leave me alone."
"All right, all right, no need to give me the lecture on 'safe forms of self-pleasure'... again." Bones had given him that lecture at least three times so far. "But as you do know her ... I want some dirt."
"Forget it," Bones snapped. "I'm not talking about a colleague."
"What if I told you that I need the information for something ship-related?" Jim asked.
"How is Karen Klein related to this ship at all?" Bones frowned. "She's on Betazoid, and she's only a guest lecturer at the Academy. Nothing to do with Starfleet, at least not actively."
"Oh, Bones, don't tell me you have a crush!" Jim teased to cover the fact that he was quickly jumping to conclusions. Number One hadn't mentioned this, and she must know ... that was why she had directed him to Bones! She couldn't share the information herself since it was classified. That woman was amazing.
"Shut up, that's none of your business. Unlike some people, I happen to read medical journals. She is publishing an article about empathic bonds and such. In fact, she asked me if you could help her, with your daughter and all." Bones spoke quickly, a thing he only did when he was nervous.
"Relax, I'm not interested. I don't even know her." Jim tried to calm Bones' anxiety. His friend hated the thought of competing for the same woman.
"That's not what worries me," Bones said, and he sounded honest. Weird. "If you must know, I'm concerned about this mission. Karen is there, and these negotiations can turn ... ugly."
"So you're afraid she might be harmed? Come on, Bones, aren't you being a little pessimistic?" Jim was surprised. He didn't know this gal was so important to his friend. Why didn't he know?
"I know, I know, Starfleet is sending their bullies. But there's risk and she refuses to leave the planet. It could go wrong at any moment."
Jim then realized what Bones was actually saying: I've been in frequent communication with this woman, and I'm interested.
"Holy shit Bones! You like her!" Jim said, amazed. "Why haven't I heard about her? I'm your best friend."
"It's not like I'm broadcasting it ," Bones grumbled. "I'm a private person."
"Yes, but ... I'm your friend ... I thought we shared things like this."
"Really Jim? We aren't high school girls talking about boys after school. You are a busy Commander who had a tiny Vulcan stalker; I'm a doctor worried about those memories of yours and trying to find a solution ... where's the time to talk about feelings?"
The saddest part of this wasn't that Bones was right ... it was that he sounded resigned to the fact that their ranks and responsibilities were killing their friendship. Jim had said he was going to change this, and yet he hadn't done anything to spend time with Bones outside work. When it wasn't Spock as a kid, it was his dumb memories, the freaking out over the Ambassador ... Jim was a narcissistic bastard.
"Tell me about her." Jim sat down. "Sounds like an interesting lady, if she can keep up with you."
"Don't you have a big meeting with Spock before we go kiss the older Vulcan's ass at lunch?" Bones challenged.
That was the thing, right? There was always a meeting, a mission, an emergency. Jim monopolized the little time they had to actually be friends with his problems and never gave Bones a chance to share. Well, no time like the present.
"Nope, I'm all yours. I want to hear all the details ... Does she like to be spanked?" Jim grinned.
"Jim!" Bones glared, but he could see the beginning of a smile in his friend's mouth.
Jim patted the desk to make Bones sit. The Ambassador, Gary Mitchell and the conspiracies could wait.
A/N: An update! Yay! I'm sorry for the lack of action, plotting devices were activated in my brain. This chapter is dedicated to the wonderful A Maze Thing. I miss you, partner in crime! My life isn't the same without the stalking bush. Also a big thank you to you, kind readers, I'm grateful for your amazing comments! You are the best! Also, as you know, a thank you to my amazing beta Anbessette; without her, this story wouldn't exist.