Title: One Such Possible Journey
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Summary: The longer Kirk spoke to 'them other folk from over-mountain', the more interesting the away mission became. 2100 words.
Prompt: 24 Days of Ficmas, Day 4: For tpeej. Brought to you by wishlist_fic. Prompt: Spock meets Teal'c. Though the setup for that meeting got a bit out of hand?
"But after you got here, there was no sign of this- Stargate?" Kirk asked, drumming his fingers against the rough surface of the table he'd chosen in the back corner of the low-tech native tavern.
The silver-haired soldier seated with his second on the opposite side of the table slouched back on the bench and shook his head. "No," he replied. "We asked around a little the first few days, but no one seemed to have any idea what we were talking about, and the more attention we drew the more difficult it was to hide where we came from. Or didn't come from; if you get my drift. Before you guys arrived, we were afraid we might be stuck here for awhile."
Considering that the pair- and two others, currently seated at another table across the tavern with Spock and Uhura- had apparently been on-planet for at least three months before Enterprise had arrived to help set up an observation post, Kirk suspected that that was a drastic understatement. If the tavern owner hadn't innocently asked whether the away team knew 'them other folk who settled here from over-mountain', that wait might have continued a lot longer.
The cautious reconnaissance he'd ordered to see if 'over-mountain' might be as much a euphemism in the other strangers' case as it was in theirs had made it clear that O'Neill's team did indeed have similar origins- though not quite the same. O'Neill's group resembled Terrans more closely than their new neighbors; Uhura said they spoke the local language with a heavy Standard accent; there were several technological anomalies in their gear and clothing, among them the wire-framed glasses one of the other men wore and the construction of their boots; but those same technological anomalies spoke to a culture less advanced than most worlds currently admitted by the Federation.
Kirk had thought it well worth the risk to talk to them. And the longer they spoke, the more interesting the mission became.
He frowned, trying to remember if he'd ever heard of anything similar to what O'Neill had described. "I'm afraid I've never heard of a transportation device like that, either. Scotty?"
The engineer at his side, looking much more like the scruffy sandwich enthusiast Kirk had first met than a Starfleet officer with his combination of native-style clothing, knit cap, and dirty fingernails, took a long sip of the local brew and shook his head. "No, and I'd have heard about it, after all the research I did into transwarp beaming. The first successful point-to-point interstellar transport that I know of is that little jaunt we took from Delta Vega to Enterprise."
The blonde officer exchanged a frustrated look with her superior, then turned her determined gaze on them. "Maybe you've seen a Stargate somewhere, but just didn't know what it was? They're made of a mineral called naquadah higher on the periodic table than anything naturally found on Earth; most of the ones found in our galaxy are kind of a brownish color as a result, with a density more like stone, and weigh about 64,000 pounds apiece. They have nine clamps called chevrons spaced around the rim; the inner track of the circle turns inside the outer, and has symbols carved on it that represent star constellations as seen from Earth." The pace of her words grew more rapid as she spoke, as though she were desperate to find some detail Kirk and Scotty could recognize. "The diameter is typically wide enough for several people to walk through abreast without touching, and most of them are very old; the primary 'gate on Earth was placed there at least fifty million years ago."
Kirk raised his eyebrows at that detail: Earth, not one of the early generation-ship colonies as he'd been assuming, one of the planets that had lost contact with the homeworld early on and might therefore be expected not to recognize Vulcans, Starfleet, the notorious flagship Enterprise, or her famous young captain, James T. Kirk. Something strange was going on.
He shook his head. "Ma'am, I'm from Earth myself, and I'm a Starship captain- if we had an advanced alien artifact that allowed instantaneous interplanetary travel lying around, I'm pretty sure I would know about it."
The pair exchanged another long, troubled glance, and Major Carter sighed. "Another reality, then; I was afraid that might be the case."
Colonel O'Neill frowned back at her. "I thought time travel was the running theory?"
"That, too," she said, with a wan smile. "Sir- we've experienced both phenomena before, on separate occasions, so we know it's not impossible. And there are certain anomalies about our current situation that can be explained only if both are true."
Then she turned grave eyes on Kirk and took a measured breath. "Captain, what's today's date?"
Kirk raised his eyebrows, guessing that 'date' was not in this case an abbreviation for stardate. There were two stardate systems, the more neutral model recently adopted for use by the Federation at large and the Earth-centric one tied to the old calendar system that Starfleet still clung to; the latter was probably closer to what she was asking for. "2260.338- that's the fourth of December in the year 2260, by the old reckoning."
The colonel swore at that. "Two hundred and fifty years? Damn it. At least tell me we've learned how to predict solar flares by now."
Scotty gave an apologetic shrug, not even bothering to ask what solar flares had to do with time travel. "Sorry, I'm afraid not. Else we wouldna be here, either. Would we?" He gave Kirk a wry look at that.
It was true enough. The genocidal Romulan known as Nero had come back from one hundred and twenty years in their future to totally rewrite the history of the Alpha Quadrant in part because of the Vulcan Science Academy's failure to predict the exact timing of a particular star's violent behavior. And if the Vulcans didn't have that ability, it was a safe bet the technology to do so was beyond Starfleet's reach in the here and now.
"That figures," O'Neill replied grimly, throwing a look over his shoulder toward his other companions.
"Although..." Kirk added slowly, something in his memory finally jogged by Carter's description. "We did come across an ancient artifact of a similar type about a year ago. It was oval-shaped, not circular, but it functioned like a gate- stepping into it transported a traveler back into Earth's history." The less said about Bones' adventure through the thing- and what he and Spock had had to do to put things right- the better; but there were certain parallels between the two situations that might be more than coincidence.
If he postulated the existence of an alternate reality more widely divergent from their own than the one that had brought Nero and Ambassador Spock into Kirk's life, it all made a certain amount of sense. What if the gatebuilding race Carter had referred to earlier and the mysterious race some called the Preservers that had left traces of themselves all across the known galaxy were one and the same? In both realities, the ancient species in question had apparently meddled in the development of bipedal, roughly symmetrical carbon-based sentient life across an unlikely number of worlds; it was easy to believe that one tiny, technological choice made millions or billions of years ago could have led to Stargates in one reality and the Guardian of Forever in another. He'd have to run the idea by Spock later, see if he agreed.
He tilted his chin inquisitively at his chief engineer. "We might be able to take you to that artifact, and send you through- but I'm not sure whether it can handle alternate realties. Scotty, did you see any sign that the Guardian of Forever might allow transport in that direction as well?"
Scotty's eyes went wide with surprise, then narrowed a bit in speculation, then finally crinkled up a bit in enthusiasm. "Aye," he said, "I think I did. We didna get a very close look at the circuitry of the thing- I didna think it wise to prise up the skirts of a device with a mind of its own- but from what ye said in your report, it can at least see between realities, just as it could see into the past. It's worth a go, anyway- if you can get us the clearance to return."
Kirk nodded to himself. They'd cross that bridge when they came to it, though; he'd comm Admiral Pike as soon as they were back aboard Enterprise.
"So we might have the means to help you after all, though you'd have to travel aboard our ship and agree to abide by Starfleet regulations in the meantime."
O'Neill and Carter shared a consulting look one more time; then O'Neill turned back to Kirk with a nod. "We're certainly not going to get a better offer staying here," he said. "We'll have to retrieve a few things from our house, and speak to a few people in town about settling accounts. When would we need to meet you? And where? I haven't seen any sign of your ship."
Carter snorted. "If their version of 'beaming' is anything like Asgard technology," she told her teammate, "they're probably in orbit, not down here. Though-" she paused for a moment, wrinkling her brow and turning to Scotty. "Trans-warp? Does that mean what it sounds like?"
Kirk snorted, and stood, gesturing O'Neill away from the table as the two engineers devolved into a frenzy of technical details and waving hands.
"How about this evening, say three hours from now?" he asked the Colonel, as they walked toward the other table to pass on news of the decision. "Our mission ought to be completed by then."
O'Neill studied him sidelong for a moment, then nodded. "We'll be ready," he agreed.
A few steps farther, and they were within intelligible earshot of their teammates again. Uhura was gesturing expansively as she talked with the other team's apparent communications expert, the guy with the glasses. They were speaking a language Kirk had never heard before, and Uhura seemed energized by the exchange, totally in her element; and so did he. By contrast, though, the men seated next to them were like statues, speaking quietly with similarly placid expressions.
"Then your species is also effectively endangered," Kirk heard Spock say, and was immediately intrigued. Spock didn't often speak about the troubles that beset his father's people since he'd chosen to stay aboard rather than join the new Vulcan colony, unless there was significant reason.
The man called Teal'c, whose attitude and raised, golden forehead tattoo rendered him equally as alien to Kirk as Spock's cool logic and pointed ears, inclined his head in acknowledgement.
"To survive as a free people, we must overcome the biological limitations imposed on us by our ancestors' enslavement," he said, in deep, even tones. "Our partnership with the Tau'ri has led to the development of an effective interim treatment, but a permanent solution must be found in order to ensure our continued independence."
Spock leaned forward slightly, clasping his hands together atop the table. "It is possible our ship's physician may be able to assist you in devising that solution. Dr. McCoy's bedside manner is lacking, but his grasp of xenobiology is unmatched, and our medical technology is far in advance of that of your era."
A brief, hopeful expression swept over Teal'c's face; then he leaned forward in a slight bow over the table. "His assistance would be most appreciated," he replied.
O'Neill stepped forward then, angling to catch his teammates' attention. "Okay, kids," he said loudly, interrupting their conversations. "It's time to pack up; we're going to blow this popsicle stand."
Uhura and Dr. Jackson reacted calmly, turning to face their commanding officers with equally curious expressions. But Spock and Teal'c-
Kirk blinked at the near-identical expressions on the two men's faces. They had stood at the same time, postures unnaturally straight, hands clasped together behind their backs, and raised their right eyebrows simultaneously in the gesture he'd come to associate with Spock saying the word-
Kirk blinked as Spock stared at O'Neill a moment, then turned to his new acquaintance. "Yet another similarity; your commander is also fond of archaic Terran expressions."
Also...? Kirk raised his own eyebrows at that, and at the coolly amused response:
He shared a startled, amused glance with O'Neill, and found himself very much looking forward to introducing the other team around his ship.