Slices of Life
Summary: 4 Mirrorverse drabbles, furthering the story of Commander Kirk's designs on the captain's chair.
Disclaimer: I don't own Star Trek, any of the canon characters, settings or situations.
1. Welcome Aboard
It was deep into gamma shift, ship-time. The Enterprise was docked at Earth's Spacedock for leave, scheduled crew transfers and supplies, and their new First Officer was due to beam aboard in 3.2 minutes. Spock stood next to Mr. Kyle, ignoring the human's obvious trepidation at his presence, and awaited Commander Kirk's arrival.
He had found himself fascinated by the effect that Kirk had had on the crew even before the arrival. Captain Pike had been even more violent and capricious than usual, sentencing crewmen to the full force of the booth for the most trifling of offences, brutally punishing anyone caught gossiping about their new XO. At one point he even spoke of purging the crew of anyone who had served with the Commander previously, but Spock dissuaded him from a plan that would have caused intolerable ship-wide upheaval.
Intrigued by Captain Pike's extreme actions, Spock had hacked into Commander Kirk's personnel file. What he found there was enough that he made a point of being the first to greet the Commander as he and his men materialised in a golden haze on the transporter pad.
The Commander stepped off the pad, flanked by hand-picked bodyguards, and Spock received an impression of compact strength and barely contained intensity. His eyes were wary, dangerous; tiger's eyes, Spock's human mother would have said. They took in the entire room: Spock, his two Vulcan bodyguards, and Mr. Kyle, as always superbly discreet. There was no surprise at the sight of a Vulcan on an Imperial starship; no doubt the commander had done some hacking of his own.
"Permission to come aboard?" Commander Kirk asked; a technicality, perhaps, but this was a ritual that must be played out. If permission was denied, then Kirk would be an intruder on the ship, subject to summary execution. For a long moment Spock was tempted, however if he assassinated Kirk now the Admiralty was sure to retaliate; they had made it clear by calling the Enterprise back to Earth that they meant their favourite to survive to take his assigned place. For that reason, too, Spock had refrained from arranging a transporter accident.
"Welcome aboard, Commander Kirk," Spock said with a formal Fleet salute. "I am Lieutenant Commander Spock, Chief Science Officer. The captain asked that I escort you to the bridge."
"Mr. Spock," Kirk replied, lazily returning the salute, and then prowling closer, almost into Spock's personal space. "I believe that Captain Pike gave you a field promotion to Acting First Officer after Commander Adams'…" he paused, "unfortunate accident."
"That is correct," Spock said stiffly, meeting those tiger's eyes straight on. A younger, less secure officer would have trembled, stumbled over himself in an attempt to explain and justify himself to those eyes. Spock was made of stronger stuff.
"And yet the Admiralty decreed otherwise. Tell me, how do you feel about that?" Kirk stepped closer. Spock's two bodyguards stiffened, made a move towards their phasers; Kirk's bodyguards reciprocated.
Spock did not back down from Kirk's challenge. He knew what the human was not saying: Are you a threat to my position, Mr. Spock?
"Vulcans do not 'feel', Mr. Kirk. What is, is."
A number of quicksilver emotions chased themselves across Kirk's face. Spock often found human expression difficult to decipher, but thought he could at least recognise satisfaction, and…irony? And then Kirk smiled, his whole demeanour shifting in a heartbeat.
"Very well, then, Mr. Spock," Kirk said, finally stepping out of Spock's personal space. "Show me to the bridge, if you will."
The two officers and their respective guards left the transporter chamber and the cowering Mr. Kyle behind. As they proceeded through the automatic doors, they were all very careful not to expose their backs.
Crewman Martinez writhed and twisted in the Agoniser Booth, his face contorted into a rictus of agony. Commander Kirk watched with detached interest; it was he who had ordered the punishment for crimes as yet unnamed.
"How long do you intend to keep the Crewman in the Booth, Mr Kirk?" Spock asked. "I have need of him in the Biology laboratory tonight."
Kirk turned away from his screaming victim and fixed Spock with his intent gaze.
"You'll have to get someone else for your experiment, Spock. Martinez is in for the full duration."
"Indeed, sir?" Spock subjected the DNA of the Enterprise crew to a swift mental review, seeking a replacement. There was no one; Spock had personally chosen the Crewman for his unique genetic traits. The experiment would have to be postponed. "May I ask what the Crewman did, to deserve so long?"
"You know better than to ask that, Spock."
Spock was well aware of the arbitrary nature of discipline in Starfleet, especially on starships. Remote from Earth for months at a time, the lower decks filled with criminals and victims of press-gangs, obedience was maintained by strict order and discipline, enforced by harsh punishment. It did not matter what Martinez had done – or not done; officers were not obligated to justify punishment for ordinary crew. It was a different matter for higher rankers, of course.
Still, Commander Kirk was not given to caprice. If he Boothed a man, he invariably had a reason for it.
"Very well, then, sir," Spock said formally. "Please inform me when Crewman Martinez is ready to resume his duty." He drew himself up and saluted, fist slapping against his chest.
Kirk casually acknowledged the salute, and then turned back to Martinez as he screamed and begged for mercy that would never come.
It was not until the next morning that Spock's operatives informed him of the rumours from the lower decks. Martinez, a new conscript not yet accustomed to starship life, had loudly and repeatedly complained of Kirk's attentions towards one Yeoman Landry, who had broken off her relationship with Martinez to take up with Kirk. Despite his crewmates telling him to keep his mouth shut he stood up in the middle of the enlisted Mess and publicly denounced the Commander, demanding to know why, if Kirk's name was already linked to two other women, he needed to pursue a young, naïve girl who had no hope of refusing him.
The fact that Yeoman Landry, whom scuttlebutt described as a "saucy piece", had purposefully set out to attract Kirk's advances seemed to have escaped Martinez' notice. The crewman also failed to take into account the serious repercussions of challenging any officer on board a starship, let alone the XO himself.
Spock found the whole matter deeply sordid. Kirk was an exemplary officer, resourceful and decisive, with an extraordinary ability to both control and inspire the crew. So why had he not known his relentless womanising would lead to such a debacle?
Much later, after Martinez had been released from Sickbay and Spock had finally had the chance to complete his experiment, he tracked Commander Kirk down in his quarters. It was the Commander's off-shift, and contrary to his reputation Kirk was drinking coffee and working through reports and spreadsheets on his padd. Of Lieutenant Twi'vok, Ensign Tranh or Yeoman Landry there was no sign.
"There is something I do not understand, Commander," Spock said, taking a seat across from him, aware that he had left his bodyguards outside and was therefore without protection of any sort. He dismissed the risk as negligible: Kirk was interested only in the captaincy.
Kirk looked up at him through his lashes and smiled, a slow, charming smile Spock knew was a weapon in itself. In the 6.3 weeks since Kirk had come aboard the Enterprise, that smile had been directed at Spock many times. He knew better than to trust it.
"Go on, Spock," Kirk said.
"My operatives report that scuttlebutt below decks is divided on the matter of Crewman Martinez."
"Martinez? That was almost a week ago. Why are you still focused on it?" A week was a very long time on a front-line starship. When lives and reputations could be won and lost in seconds, a week was an eternity.
Spock braced himself. "I wish to know why you allowed it to happen."
Kirk stilled, his eyes narrowing dangerously. The lazy charm vanished, replaced by suspicion and calculation. Again, he said "Go on," but this time in a very different tone.
"The enlisted crew is apparently torn between fear of your ruthlessness and admiration of your ability to keep three women satisfied at once. The matter has already passed into Enterprise lore." A human officer, subject to Kirk's whims, would have backed down long since in the face of his obvious displeasure. But Spock was Second Officer and Chief Science Officer, and he had power and influence of his own. "You are the First Officer of the Enterprise. You are adept at ensuring the smooth running of the ship and yet Martinez' complaints, which should have been silenced much earlier, escalated into a major disciplinary issue requiring your personal attention. I submit that you somehow engineered the situation with Crewman Martinez."
There was a moment of taut silence, as Kirk stared fiercely at Spock. "To what end, Mr Spock?"
Spock raised a brow. "I have never claimed to understand human psychology."
"You seem to be doing well enough on your own."
"Sir?" Spock prodded, determined to understand.
Kirk laughed abruptly. "Very well, Spock." He leaned back in his chair, easing the mood of dangerous tension. "Starship discipline is harsh and brutal, the majority of the crew crude and unsophisticated. To them, Starfleet is the ship and their officers. They need their officers to be larger than life, invulnerable and beyond petty flaws – but they also need to admire and relate to us somehow."
Slowly, Spock nodded. "Three women at once," he said, though he did not quite understand why humans should find this to be an admirable trait. "And some of the crew called you 'a hard bastard' as though they found it pleasing."
"Reputation is everything, Spock." Kirk smiled, a chameleon-swift reversion to his previous warmth and charm. "Although no doubt you find such extreme measures highly illogical–"
Even knowing it was false, forewarned of what danger lay beneath the smiling surface, Spock found himself tempted to respond. Compared to Kirk's fierce charisma, Pike, prematurely old and weary, seemed almost ineffectual.
Spock was beginning to believe that the Captain had been right to fear Kirk's presence on the ship.
"Stubborn bastard bit through his own tongue rather than submit to interrogation," McCoy drawled. "By the time I stopped the bleeding, it was too late to reattach it."
Kirk scowled at the unconscious prisoner, a high-ranking member of the rebel forces plaguing the dilithium-rich vassal world of Ixia. Though he'd been informed of the prisoner's incapacity Captain Pike had ordered Kirk to go through with the interrogation regardless, stating that there was no time to capture another rebel prisoner. The consequences of failure had been unspoken but all too clear.
If he were younger, braver, less of a drunken wreck, McCoy would have told the captain that the prisoner would be lucky to survive the next hour, let alone the rigours of Imperial questioning. But years of service in the 'Fleet had taught McCoy the fine art of survival on a starship, and anyone caught between Kirk's white-hot ambition and Pike's dogged determination to retain his captaincy would be crushed in an instant. What had begun as Pike's fear of a younger, stronger rival had become an intensely personal, entirely human battle for dominance between bitter enemies, and McCoy wanted no part of it.
"Spock," Kirk said.
The supposedly impartial Science Officer stood on the other side of the bio-bed, staring down at the prisoner as though he could make him talk by force of will. He stiffened, interpreting Kirk's unspoken order with ease.
"Mr Kirk, it is not –"
"Since when do you give a damn about Vulcan laws, Spock?" Eyes narrowed and intent, Kirk stepped closer to Spock, words falling like blows upon Vulcan composure. "If you cared at all for tradition you would never have joined the 'Fleet."
"Jim –" McCoy's eyes went wide "–I spoke of it in confidence, and only as a hypothetical situation."
Ignoring McCoy, Kirk moved closer again, aggressive and domineering. "This is the real world, Mr. Spock. I'm ordering you –"
"With respect, this is not something you can order me to do, not even as first officer." The denial in his voice was absolute.
There was a moment of silence. And then before McCoy's fascinated gaze, Kirk stepped back. "Spock." There was something very private in his tone now, something that caused McCoy to look away uncomfortably. "You know there's no other way. I'm asking you."
The silence stretched. And then –
Spock stepped up beside the prisoner's bio-bed and laid his fingers against the prisoner's temple and cheekbone. His eyes fell closed; his expression became distant and remote. McCoy looked to Kirk, who was watching avidly, almost greedily.
"Our minds are merging," Spock intoned. "Our minds are one."
The prisoner screamed in wordless terror and anguish as Spock ripped the information directly from his mind.
Afterwards, when the smoke cleared and the damage and casualty reports had been logged and the crew, crisis now past, turned their hands to repair and clean up, Kirk stole a spare moment on the observation deck. Outside the transparent aluminium viewscreen the enemy ship tumbled helplessly through space, its blackened hull sliced open by Enterprise's deadly accurate phaser fire.
"Whatever else they may be," Kirk said, "Sulu and Chekov are damned good combat officers."
"Indeed. They work together most efficiently. Something to take note of, in the future." Spock's tone was cold and dispassionate.
"When I'm captain –" Kirk began incautiously, still buoyed up by a remnant of adrenaline-fuelled triumph. At the height of the battle Pike had been thrown out of his chair and knocked unconscious. In that instant Kirk had stepped in, turned instinctively to Spock, and experienced in full for the first time the extraordinary sense of synchronicity, a mind that could follow his leaps and bounds and back up his wild inspirations with solid, rock-hard data. He'd had the mad feeling that with Spock's Vulcan brilliance beside him, he could do anything, no matter how impossible.
Spock was silent, and Kirk remembered that he was still, nominally at least, Pike's Science Officer. For a terrible moment Kirk thought he had misread the situation, but then, "You should have killed him on the bridge," Spock said quietly, moving up to stand beside him. "It was the perfect opportunity. His death would have been blamed on the attacking Klingons."
"Spock." Kirk reached out impulsively, grasped the Vulcan's blue-clad forearm, feeling the solid strength of alien flesh and bone. "When I kill Pike I'll do it openly, face to face, so that nothing and no one can deny me the centre seat. Do you think I'm afraid of an aging lion's teeth? With you beside me –" He paused, looked up into Spock's dark, saturnine face.
Spock understood. "Jim," he said, "I have told you before, I do not desire command. I will be content to stand beside you as first officer –" he paused for dramatic effect "– Captain."
Kirk felt a visceral thrill run through him. Had anyone else but Spock called him 'captain' he would have known it for deliberate flattery and an attempt at manipulation that would have sent his hand flying for his knife. But from Spock, it was an affirmation of absolute loyalty.
"Yes, Spock," he said, fierce and exultant. "Yes."