Title: What Makes The Men We Are
Author: Jedi Buttercup
Disclaimer: The words are mine; the world is not.
Summary: "This is about our counterparts, isn't it? You've been as cranky as a bear with a foot caught in a trap since they beamed over for that first meeting. Why?" 1600 words.
Spoilers: General ST:TOS, esp. 1.5 "The Enemy Within", and Star Trek XI
Notes: For kerravonsen, for Day 24 in Wishlist 2011, for the prompt, "Crossover between Star Trek XI and Star Trek Original Series; Jim Kirk meets Jim Kirk... and they don't much like each other." (Set after the 2009 movie.)
"So are you gonna tell me what's wrong, Jim?"
Captain James T. Kirk, aged thirty-three and four years into his five year mission aboard Starfleet's flagship, glanced over at his ship's doctor. He'd first met Leonard McCoy on Starbase 7, when he'd still been a Lieutenant stationed aboard the Farragut and the other man had outranked him as the base's CMO; they'd known each other for something like a decade, serving together off and on, before joining forces again aboard Enterprise.
Jim counted the man a close friend, and relied on him as one of his senior officers. So it shouldn't have disturbed him to see the echo of that man standing at the side of a duplicate James T. Kirk when another Enterprise had come through a tear in space to interrupt their latest mission.
But it had. And he wasn't sure how to articulate the problem in a way that would adequately convey his concerns to his friend.
"Did you ever wonder what would have happened if we'd met in different circumstances, Bones?" he asked, taking another measured sip from his glass. The Lieutenants Tanzer had broken out the good stuff for the intercrew reception in the larger, shinier Enterprise's main rec room, and much as he was tempted to take the edge off of the unease he was feeling and enjoy the party, Jim thought it might be wiser to keep a clear head.
This wasn't Deep Space Station K-7, full of cantankerous Klingons on shore leave; or a touchy diplomatic conference populated by factions who'd fought one another for generations. All the same, his finely honed instincts kept warning him that these people were dangerous.
Bones tossed back a portion of his own drink, a livid electric blue sparkling like sapphires in a fancy replicated crystal tumbler, and turned his back against the wall next to Jim to follow his gaze toward the other Captain's location. The foreign Kirk and his McCoy were busy chatting with Jim's Christine Chapel; the conversation was frequently punctuated by roaring laughter, and Bones' chief nurse seemed to be enjoying herself hugely, occasionally aiming smiles back over her shoulder in Bones' direction.
"This is about our counterparts, isn't it? You've been as cranky as a bear with a foot caught in a trap since they beamed over for that first meeting. Why? We've met alternates before, and you've never been like this about any of 'em. They'll go back to their own universe once the Spocks figure out how to reverse the damage to the subspace structure that brought them here in the first place, and that'll be that. No point fretting about details. They'll be gone soon enough."
Jim hoped so. His crew had worked miracles in the past, and he assumed the other's had, too; but there might not be anything to work a miracle with in this case. Whoever the madman had been that had gone around ripping tunnels in the space-time continuum and compressing entire planets into black holes, the secondary effects of his actions had set up a series of delayed and rather serious quakes in the subspace fabric of their cosmos. There might not even be a universe there to go back to, if the problem had grown any worse since the other Enterprise's accidental departure.
If they stayed... well. The size of the ripples produced by a rock dropped in a pond depended on the size of the rock, and between the advanced technology of the starship and the composition of its crew... should the Admiralty decide it belonged in more experienced hands, the situation could quickly become a very weighty rock indeed.
"Just watch them for a moment, Bones," he murmured to his friend. "And tell me what you see."
Bones frowned at him, furrowing his brow for a moment, then obediently turned back to the crowd, tracking his eyes over each of the seven senior officers present from their host's crew. Familiar names and faces, every one; but each one different as well in ways both subtle and significant. And they were all so alarmingly young, bonded to each other at an age when his own crew had been scattered to ships and bases far and wide across the Federation. The other Enterprise's native timeline was approximately twelve years behind their own- but that fact didn't account for all of the alterations.
"They're too pretty. That what you're asking me?" Bones replied with an amused snort. "I feel damn old just looking at them. Confident; more than I remember being at that age. But otherwise- they look like us, Jim. A little younger, a little more reckless, but- like us. What are you seeing that I'm not?"
"Nothing- and that's the problem," he replied, disquieted.
Jim shook his head. The others did appear, on the surface, as would any tight-knit crew who'd worked together for years- but the fact was, they were nothing of the sort. They hadn't gone through all of the preliminary training his own men and women had. They hadn't learned respect for the division of roles and ranks in the traditional command structure, beyond their initial education in San Francisco. They hadn't earned their confidence through the long process of trial, error, and hands-on education that either proved an officer qualified for a position on the flagship... or shunted him aside to some other, less precarious Starfleet station.
They'd forged their unity in a much more vicious arena, without any superior officers available to guide them. And that showed in the belligerent tilt of their Captain Kirk's chin; in the calculation behind their Spock's avid gaze- not nearly as detached as Jim remembered his Spock in the early days of their acquaintance; and in every glance exchanged between the members of their command crew.
"They're a pack of wolves, Bones," he said, grimly.
The doctor snorted. "I see them enjoying a party, telling stories, flirting with our people- hell, their Kirk acts like he really is a Casanova; I sort of doubt he went through the Academy with a stack of books in his hands like you did. But that doesn't necessarily say 'raised by wolves' to me."
Jim shook his head. The two bridge crews had shared enough details in their briefings to show that their Federation's history and Jim's differed in only a few respects, unlike the vicious Empire with which Jim had become acquainted during his previous encounter with an alternate universe. They shouldn't have been enough to produce such a difference- to turn an entire galactic culture into a funhouse mirror of Jim's own. But the fact remained that the other Kirk was four years younger than Jim had been when he'd first sat down in a Captain's chair, was both far less experienced and far more hot-blooded due to his divergent personal history than Jim had been- and yet Starfleet had still given him command of the flagship and his choice of an equally inexperienced, hell-forged senior crew.
It made his skin crawl just to imagine what sort of logic must have gone into their Admiralty's decision process. "Doctor." He threw his friend an eloquent look.
Bones made a disgruntled face. "All right, I do have some idea what you're getting at. Did you hear, my alternate has his pilot's certification?"
Jim's eyebrows shot up. "I knew he'd gone to the Academy for the same length of time as Kirk; they apparently joined on the same shuttle, and were commissioned the same day. I've been curious about that; I seem to remember the medical track being largely separate, and much shorter for doctors who already have civilian medical credentials."
"It certainly was for me," Bones shrugged. "Not so much for him, though, apparently. Seemed a little surprised that I'd never taken any tactical or self-defense courses."
Jim shook his head. "Even if they were all put through extra training ... no matter how many officers their Starfleet lost, or how damaged their morale, how dire would things have to be before you would give a crew that green that much leeway?"
Bones stared out of the crowd again for a moment longer, tracking the interactions of their crew with the other's, mouth pursed. Then he turned troubled eyes on Jim. "And they take it for granted."
Jim nodded. "Do you remember the time the transporter split me in two?"
"Do I ever," Bones grumbled. "You had your compassionate, logical Kirk... and then the violent one with all the willpower."
"Our Spock said his intelligence rules over his two halves, making them work together. He said the same of me, when we put me back together. What would've happened if the other side won out?"
Bones' eyes tracked to the other Spock, who had reached his fingers to brush over those of his own Uhura- a very public display of affection to one who knew a little about Vulcan culture, and something they'd never seen their own Spock do. "And if it weren't just you..."
Spock and Bones grounded Jim; over the last four years, they'd become as essential a part of Jim's command as the deck under his feet. If the other's were equally supportive, but goaded an even more impulsive Kirk onward, rather than tempering his rasher decisions...
"I want them out of my universe, Bones," he murmured. Call it an overly suspicious nature exacerbated by his experiences over the last few years, but the longer they were there, the more concerned he grew.
Bones snagged another glass from a passing waiter's tray. "I'll drink to that," he said.