Author's Note: Is it? No...
It's a real, honest to goodness chapter and it could not have come too soon;)
Deepest apologies for everything... here we go!
McCoy opened up the door and for just a second he imagined he was a cadet again, head in the clouds, with absolutely no clue that his life would turn into this disaster.
This glorious, incredible… adventure, all thanks to one James Tiberius Kirk.
Speak of the devil.
The captain was taking residence over a bar stool looking like he'd been in a run-in with a space ship. Like his ego had been extracted from him and put in a jar on Marcus's shelve. The assessment wasn't far from the truth.
McCoy wished he could bring Marcus back to life just to kill the admiral himself. With his medical training, it wouldn't be hard to create a very painful death.
"Bones, do you remember that one time when you saved my life with the blood of an three-hundred year old Nazi after I almost started a war with the Klingon?"
Jim wore a smile, but it was clear he felt both the physical and mental weight of his situation in the full. His eyes shone with guilt and sadness, and nobody thought it suited the captain well.
The doctor walked hesitantly toward his patient and deepest friend.
It had only been days since their last McCoy last saw him, but between them there was death, a court case, and endless moral debate.
To think we thought life couldn't get worse than the blasted catastrophe over winter break.
"Dammit Jim," McCoy hugged Kirk with ferocity, "I really thought I'd lost you."
"Yeah, me too. Thanks for everything. Putting up with all this… must have been rough."
The doctor raised an eyebrow.
"Kid, you have no clue. Don't get used to this whole immortality business, its made life living hell. Not that I'm not used to it. It was only a matter of time before you pulled something as big as this."
Kirk looked down at the floor broodingly.
"All jokes aside. Medical didn't tell me a thing about the trial. Is it going to be closed court? I mean you're basically being tried for war crimes right?"
Nyota emerged from the bathroom, dressed in her formal uniform. The trial was in just under 2 hours.
"If you have high enough clearance, you can watch. Of course the list of people exempt due to involvement with the situation is quite extensive. Basically anyone involved with Marcus is removed. That investigation will be soon. Marcus was killed, but they've still got a network running down here."
Jim couldn't help but wish that his people could be searched for and removed from their positions, but the power of Starfleet made questioning higher-ups beyond complicated.
Nyota bit her lip hesitantly, "Unfortunately… you are also on that list. Not that they think you're involved, obviously you were a victim of his plan, but until they decide you haven't screwed up, your sort of out of the picture."
"I'm damn sure you'll be getting all the awards later anyhow." McCoy said over the buzz of a coffee grinder.
Jim could not imagine ever wanting an award for all of this. He hadn't been able to find the casualty count, and he was absolutely sure that he would be destroyed when he did find out. Hypothetically, he was a hero, but in his mind though, he was the one who detonated a bomb that would change history.
No glory was worth that.
"Well im pretty damn sure I have no interest in those awards."
"No, but you want the ship back." McCoy knew that much. When Jim had been just on the cusp losing the ship, it torn him apart. There was no way he was willing to risk that again. Especially now that Pike was gone, having someone other than him in control of the ship was unspeakable.
"What about you? I mean this is probably a pretty big deal medically speaking."
The doctor shrugged.
"In some ways, yeah, its huge, but at the same time, a lot of the technology is old. The tubes the bodies are stored in are over 300 years old remember. We'll see."
"So what are they doing with the bodies then? They could just destroy them. They are technically dead."
"Yeah, right, as if it were all that simple. Some idiots wants to preserve the bodies for medical. Which is noble until you think about it. I mean how the hell are they going to keep it from just going to rich diplomats and Starfleet officials. There's no way to go around that unless we destroy the bodies. It's a waste, but it's really the only option. " McCoy was as angry he could manage to act at seven in the morning.
"Its true." Nyota chimed looking far too composed for someone on two weeks of minimal sleep, "Also, the subway is closed. Apparently infrastructure damage was pretty bad…"
"Well hell. That means we have to get a cab, so we should probably get going. I hate the taxis in this city. All freaking hills."
Kirk made a move to get up and Spock put up his hand as if to stop him.
"Captain Kirk, you have neither the authorization nor the need to attend trial."
"I am not a Captain anymore Spock."
He bit the words with ferocity and the room cringed.
"Kirk calm down, we don't even know…" Nyota knew her words were left useless in the tangled web between the two of them. There emotions toward each other were a tough glass to crack even on the clearest of days.
"Uhura, its fine, you guys go, tell me about it later. I'm not interested."
Everybody glared at him, even McCoy.
"Kid, come on, don't be a jerk about it."
He walked up to the bedroom door and began opening it.
"No really, its fine, you guys go, and tell me when you have answers. Not that anyone ever does."
Khan had never been considered an interesting man.
He never fooled around, drank, or showed much interest in as a kid he was known for being incredibly reserved. Top student, incredible study habits, and even better standardized test scores. In all reality, he had been the perfect candidate for the best of Starfleet's programs.
However, as he delved further into the tests that Starfleet put in his path, they found some less obvious traits of his. One was loyalty.
Incredible, fierce loyalty that they knew would make him the perfect commander.
The other was violence.
This was the trait that Starfleet feared the most. In some ways, they looked for this. It was necessary when going into battle. However, Starfleet was never designed as a war machine, and this was enough to turn away the hopes of a few examiners. It was only after they altered his blood to create the perfect captain that they realized how much they underestimated his capacity for violence.
They had wanted a solution to the problems of the world, but had ignored the danger of genocide.
When you consider how close he had been to carrying out his plan for a "Clean Slate" it's incredible that the bodies of the seventy-two on Khan's crew had not been destroyed immediately.
Khan himself couldn't understand this when he woke from the sleep.
300 years ago he had failed.
Programs that don't succeed are to be destroyed.
That was a belief that he had lived by.
Today, he would turn himself in to let the authorities finish what they had started all those years ago. With the precautions he had taken, there was no chance Marcus's men would go against his last wishes. By the time their loyalties were exposed, he and his men would be gone. The rest did not concern a dead man.
The pounding on the door had been almost completely covered by the pounding in Kirk's head. He was at the awful crossroads between the dullness of waiting and the anticipation of what's to come. There were three million different questions the world wanted to ask him and he wanted to answer zero of them. He barely knew the answers himself.
Which is exactly why when he opened the door to see the paparazzi the only thing he could do was slam it back at their faces with a colorful load of expletives.
After a while, the paparazzi left, and Kirk took it upon himself to disable the connection on nearly every piece of technology just to keep from hearing what had happened.
When he said he wanted news, it was more to convince himself than any of the others. Kirk knew that they would give it to him in time.
It was only when the Paparazzi came back an hour later (and then again two hours later) that he knew he had to do something.
Feeling a lot like the teen he had been, stealing from gas stations and breaking into buildings, he climbed the fire-escape of Spock's 9th story apartment and ran to find a taxi. In a hoodie and jeans, he knew it was unlikely he would be recognized by the driver, and even if he was, he had the money to tip him for silence. The bigger problem would be getting into Starfleet without being stopped by security.
Well, actually, the whole purpose of the plan was to turn himself in. He just wanted to do it on his own terms.
Giving Starfleet the official report would allow them to release to the press an official story and give him protection.
More importantly, it would put him on their good side.
I'm going to get my ship back.
At the end of the day, that was the one thing he could control.
Stepping into the nearest taxi bound away from the swarm of Paparazzi, Kirk took a deep breath and prayed the driver wouldn't recognize him. He was allowed to be out in the city, but the annoyance of questions was enough to make him pray for silence.
The taxi driver had no interest in him though, and he focused his attention on the people, or lack thereof in the city. Normally the streets would be a swarm of students, businessmen, and homeless on their daily schedules.
Loud, careless, and busy.
Now, people were staying in their homes, either out of a job or to devastated to make their routines. Kirk did not knew if this was the case. He didn't even know what parts of the city had been hit. All he knew was that when Khan's ship had went down, it made contact with something other than water.
"This is a weird route you're taking."
The taxi driver just glared at him.
"Well yeah, if you want to get to Starfleet, it's not like you can just take the normal routes anymore. Half of downtown's destroyed, or have you not seen the news lately?"
His last were heavy with sarcasm, but to Kirk, it was news.
Responding with an equally biting remark was not even on his mind, because the bored taxi-driver was almost prophet-like in that moment. Suddenly it became painfully apparent why medical had refused to tell him anything. He felt destroyed. Like his insides were being ripped from him.
Kirk spent the rest of the ride in silence, and waited for his ride finish.
"Just ouside Starfleet headquarters" was apparently a few blocks away to the driver. Kirk felt a flash of anger at the drivers obvious carelessness. He had dropped him off by a popular homeless spot, and he was not in the mood to get mugged.
There were only a few people out at in the morning, which is why Kirk was more than surprised to see that he recognized one of them.
Grungy coat and beanie aside, the icy blue eyes and cutting cheekbones were unmistakable.
Paralyzed by fear and memory, Kirk almost just ran.
He really, really would have, except he was overcome with a sudden wash of complete anger.
Anger at the one who had destroyed everything from his life to the entire city of San-Francisco.
Not wanting to attract the other homeless, he dragged pulled the superhuman deep into an alleyway by the collar of the coat.
What came next was nothing but raw emotion.
Kirk swung with incredible force into Khan's face, again and again.
He kicked him down until he was sure that the bones in his feet were bruised.
Like last time, nothing he did left a mark.
Like last time, it was clear that Khan was letting him have his way.
Clear that he let him drag him back.
Clear that he let the punches rain and the kicks come like a hailstorm.
When Kirk's energy died, Khan laughed and it sounded nothing at all like a human. It left the Captain a wreck, leaning against a dirty wall, nearly in tears.
"What do you want to do with me brave one… do you want to turn me in? You can if you'd like."
His voice was a purr, like a dragon, and even though Kirk had heard it before, it was still the most terrifying thing he had ever witnessed.
"You monster. Do you even realize what you have done."
Khan considered from his place on the ground.
"Of course I do. Unlike you, I have a history of owning up to my decisions. In fact, I am going to finish my duties right now. Turn myself in so to say. I am finished with these games. I can do no more work here. Would like to take me as your prisoner? The offer still stands. I would be very angry if I were you."
Kirk just fumed. He would never play games with a mass murder.
"Go. Just go. I have nothing I want from you. Your end cannot bring me happiness."
Khan got up with ease and began to walk away.
"Good. I expected as much. They will be proud when they learned you did not play my game. You have been good at that, not playing the games. Starfleet will learn one day."
Spock had just been released from his debriefing. They had not requested him to come in, but he knew that if he did not give the officials the full report, Starfleet would demand the same answers out of Captain Kirk. It would be easier for him to tell of their recent mission than it would be for Kirk.
The questions had been both thorough and complicated, primarily because the nature of what they asked could not be expressed as "black and white". For the first time in Spock's life experience, he could not see the facts as any more than gray. What they had done had been both right and wrong, necessary and entirely avoidable.
This revelation had stung him throughout the interview, and he found himself understanding what had happened with the clarity that was only found in hindsight. For the first time in his life, Kirk's propensity to lie was perfectly logical. Telling the truth when it is not a plain thing was incredibly difficult.
Especially when the life of a friend was on the line.
Captain Kirk had given up his Captaincy to protect a friend. Spock had not understood this until Kirk was put in the same place he had been in.
When someone important in your life is affected by your choices, protocol loses its value.
Spock let this justify the times in the interview when he approved Kirk's sometimes questionable commands, even when he had disagreed with the logic behind them.
It was not the first time he had given a report without the permission of his Captain, but it was the first where he had used his feelings toward Kirk to influence the events.
Despite the lack of logic, Spock did not regret this.
It felt right.
The Vulcan looked up at his Captain. It was illogical that the man would be here now, when he had been banned from the trial and it was clear that he was avoiding questioning.
"I know you're going to yell at me, but trust me, I've got a plan. I'm going to give the report. The paparazzi is only going to leave us alone if Starfleet gives an official statement, which they can only give if we give to them. So if you're with me, then let's go. If not then don't ask questions and i'll get going."
Spock thought the Captain's torn jeans, mud stains, and bloody knuckles spoke a much louder than his words.
"Actually, I have already given the report. A far more productive story would be how you came about your current state."
Kirk looked himself over and smiled.
"You know what Spock. You might not be a pointy ear'd bastard after all."