"If you want to know why I did what I did...go and take a look."
"Give me one good reason why I should listen to you."
"I can give you seventy-two."
But there only ever was one.
Khan knew it. It was with him at every trigger he pulled, every blow he created, every move he made, every kill he sought out. That was how deeply the reason had been melded into his being. If it were possible to tear it away from him, it would never be a clean split for a remnant of himself would always cling on.
He levelled his gaze with the captain's own fiery blue one and pressed his left hand against the unyielding glass. The architecture of the ship was familiar to him as this very limb. He knew where they were keeping the weaponry and there...there...he was so close but he was careful not to betray his desperation. The Vulcan first officer Spock was by Kirk and coldly surveyed him from the other side.
"Do you really think I wanted to be in these circumstances?" Khan asked. "I never wanted to be awoken. Not in this time, not in this plane. The price I am paying for what I am is far greater than I had ever imagined."
Spock inclined forward. "You speak as though you had a choice in being as you are. My understanding is that you and your crew were genetically engineered."
"Not from birth." Khan's memory drifted back. "It was designed as a military experiment. Infinium. I and hundreds of others were selected for the program that used gene transfer therapies to enhance us. The seventy-two that remain are what is left of that generation including the people I hold most dear."
Kirk glared at him, realising what the statement implied. "So you had a say."
Khan lowered his head. "I was a real man once. Driven by science, puzzles mostly. In my former life, I was a private consulting detective. I had friends. I had a family. But I wanted something more than that, something beyond the banality of ordinary existence, and that is one of the reasons why I volunteered for the project."
He looked down at his hands.
"I never thought it would come to this."
"Are your friends part of the crew that's here?" Kirk asked.
"Some, not all." Khan was somewhere else now, in a far distant system and a city so different from the one that stood today on earth. A remnant of a time long past.
"And your family?"
Khan focused on an empty spot of a wall and willed his voice to be steady as he felt a tide of crushing blame crash against him. "They died."
"Did you kill them?"
"My wife and our children were murdered by Marcus." Khan's hands shook as they curled into fists, enraged by the accusation.
Grief splintered his thoughts as fragments of unspeakable images flashed throughout his head. The final breaths, the last signals the cryotube vitals gave before Marcus had ordered the occupants to be removed without adequate life support.
"But I suppose you are right. By extension, I am responsible for their deaths."
"Well you made a fine decision." Kirk sounded bitterly exasperated. "If any of the bullshit you've told me is true then you've just wasted the last three hundred years in a cryotube, got exploited by a Starfleet Admiral, and now you've put everyone you care about in jeopardy."
"And yet, captain..." Khan's voice grew soft with menacing. "You seem to have done the very thing of which you accuse me of. You also have put your crew in harm's way by agreeing to Marcus' manhunt. You let your impulse for revenge overcome reason. It would have been better for you to have had refused and remained on Earth."
Immediately Spock held Kirk back as he advanced toward the glass.
"Don't put me on your level."
In disgust, Kirk shirked away from Spock's restraining arm and strode off with his first officer closely following him at his heels.
When they had gone, Khan sat down and feeling the silence surround him, he put his hands in his head.
The circumstances of how he came to be were unusual and extraordinary. His very existence was a testament to a daring, astounding move made by mankind. Creating a lifeform in their likeness that was superior in every aspect was akin to the act of their God fashioning Adam from dust. He was marvelous, he remembered the scientists telling him. But a blasphemy too, so shouted the streams of protesters he encountered when the world was told of his origins.
The lack of mediocrity and human error was what frightened them, Khan had realised then. In reinventing himself, he had shed his identity in favour of being a demi-god among men. He had even sacrificed his name. His home. His friends. And...
"Molly." He whispered. "I am so sorry."
If impulsivity had another meaning, James Kirk would have been it.
Had he been a more emotive man, Spock would have experienced an overwhelming frustration by the sheer madness of it all. He wasn't even sure if he had heard correctly but all of his senses affirmed that he was, indeed, awake and in the present. It was tempting to ask Dr. McCoy to examine the captain for any possible diseases that featured delirium as a primary symptom.
"You are INSANE." McCoy pronounced and Spock, while unaccustomed to hyperboles, was in full agreement with the statement.
"But it could work, I checked with Scotty and I've got the older Spock's approval on this. Sorry." Kirk added when Spock turned to him in surprise. "Look, I didn't tell you this because he made me swear not to. He trusted me with a leftover sample of red matter and told me to use it to save my crew should we ever be in extreme danger...which is now."
"Why the hell are you even helping this guy?!" McCoy demanded. "You've only just met him, he killed your mentor, and now you're going to throw him back in time-travel? Are you out of your goddamned mind?"
"You heard what Khan said. He never wanted to be like this and his crew are the only people he has left. He'll do anything to protect them, right? So why not give him an opportunity to go back and set things straight? If he can prevent his younger-self from entering that experiment, there won't be a Khan in the first place." Kirk paused. "And no Khan means that attack at headquarters never happened...so Admiral Pike would still be alive."
Spock's inscrutable dark eyes lingered on Kirk. "You cannot bring the dead back to life."
"This isn't about me getting my mentor back, it's about preventing further bloodshed and all-out war with the Klingon empire." Kirk defended a little more loudly than he intended, sensitive to the fact that he was conversing with a man who had lost his planet and mother the year priour.
"If Khan doesn't exist, it also means that Admiral Marcus will never get a chance to act on his crazy scheme and we all get to go home safe without anybody else dying. Can you honestly tell me that the possibility of that isn't worthy trying for?"
"The odds of you being able to send Khan into a precise moment in time by that method are infinitesimally small. The success rate is even less. You have no assurances that he will act accordingly to your wishes if you are indeed able to send him back to the twenty-first century."
"God, you are such a pessimist!" Kirk threw his hands in the air in exasperation. "You never approve any of my plans even when they're perfectly fine!"
"Will you listen to the man?" McCoy swiftly came to Spock's defense. "He's right, there's no way you can ensure that Khan will even do what he said he would. For all you know, he might be lying. This whole thing's horseshit."
"It's not complicated, it's simple. We take the red matter and deploy it onto the planetoid. When the black hole emerges, at the exact time that Scotty calculated for us, we launch Khan out into one of the escape pods. That moment should take him back at most two hundred and fifty years back. Any more, Scotty said it'd be too far." Kirk explained.
McCoy shook his head. "You can't make a bluff without leverage, old sport."
"We have his crew." Kirk snapped. "That's more than enough of a trump card if you ask me. He can't do anything without us having them." He regarded his teammates in rueful dismay before making his way back to the prison bay.
"We are trapped in Klingon airspace. Either Admiral Marcus will kill us or the Klingons will. We don't have a lot of options and this is the best I've come up with to make sure no one on the Enterprise gets hurt...and I'm going to take that chance whether or not you think I shouldn't. But I can't do this alone so will you help me or not?"
"Say that again."
Kirk set his jaw, annoyed at having to repeat himself but for the prisoner's benefit he did so anyway. It wasn't everyday that someone could shock an ancient super-human being.
"I can send you back."
"You help us fix our reactor and I'll take care of the rest." Kirk answered blithely without revealing any details. When he saw Khan turn away in derision, he added, "We have the means and capability to get you to go back in time."
Khan's eyes gleamed in suspicion. "You don't even have the means and capability to protect your own ship. How could you possibly give me such a guarantee?"
"You don't have a choice." Kirk countered. "Either you trust us on this or you can be content to go back to Admiral Marcus. We both know he's going to kill your crew if they fall into his hands again. Are you willing to risk that?"
"Of course not."
"Then shut up and get ready." Kirk motioned to one of the guards to release the glass barrier. "You're going to be launched into a pod. A crewmember of mine managed to derive the exact time that will get you at least to the early twenty-first century. We don't know what day you'll land but it will before this...experiment...that created you has happened yet."
"I will be the only one traveling?"
"Yes. In exchange, I want you to help us fix the ship and I will be keeping your crew with us as insurance."
"What if I refuse?"
"I don't think you will." Kirk answered simply. "I'm offering you a second chance to rewrite your history and get back everything that you lost. If you're going to turn that down, it'll just make it harder for me to believe you're the genius that you say you are."
When Khan failed to respond, Kirk nodded and turned to go.
"You leave in ten minutes."
The last hour had gone in a blur. From being whisked into the engineering where Khan was monitored under Chekov's nervous eye as he repaired the reactor core to the escorted walk for the launch pod.
Starry space surrounded him in a mesh of distant, twinkling stars and the uninhabited planetoid's disintegrating orb loomed above him. He could feel the pull of gravity as he sped closer into the warping void. Behind him was the stark grey Enterprise vessel and he knew all eyes on the command watch were on his progress.
He had witnessed the technological advancements mankind had achieved in the last three centuries and it was nothing short of miraculous. If only those in the past could see what he could see. He closed his eyes as the pod entered the black hole.
Spock's warning rang clear as Khan felt all sense of time being compressed. Once he returned and his objective was completed, the person he knew himself to be would cease to exist and the alternate reality would be shifted into another outcome.
A better outcome.
"I'm coming Molly." Khan called out into the dark. "I'm coming home."
With easy familiarity, Molly passed through the halls of St. Bartholomew Hospital to close up the laboratory. She secured the chemical substances, locked the double-glass paned doors, and turned off the lights in the pathology section. Shrugging on her coat, she said goodbye to one of the registrar's on-call then headed for the main lobby to reach the parking lot.
She never made it.
A shadowy figure appeared out of the corner of her eye. She jumped back, startled, then realising who it was, she immediately relaxed. "Sherlock, you scared me...what are you doing here?"
She frowned as she took in the full sight of him. His trademark long-coat had been traded for a similar design in leather. His hair had been cut short and combed back. The style highlighted the gaunt angles of his face and heightened the severity of his appearance. He was thinner and dressed in black, all the more making him look foreboding.
"You look different." Molly commented. "I just got off my shift. You can talk to Pamela if you need help. I'm going home now."
Instead of the quip or cold remark she was expecting, he stood there in total silence and stared at her as though he could not get enough of looking at her. There was a palpable desperation in his eyes, an unnatural contrast to his usually impassive demeanour.
"What's wrong?" Her confusion quickly turned into concern. Hesitating at first, she cautiously approached him. "Are you okay?"
To her bewilderment, a trembling hand rose to touch her face. When the palm made contact with her cheek, she felt the limb cradle it before the fingers slid into her hair, unfastening the ponytail. She stood in profound shock even when he pulled her close to him. Her nose pricked up at the scent of rain and smoke embedded in his clothes. She could feel his arms tightening around her body.
"Hey..." Molly was nonplussed. "What's going on?"
For all of the medical training and science she had devoted her life to, she couldn't explain what was happening. She had only seen Sherlock two days ago and he had completely ignored her. Didn't even say hello. Now here he was, in the middle of night, holding her so...intimately.
Molly blushed in spite of herself. Could he...?
No, wait a second, her conscience slapped her back to reality, he's probably high! He's not in love with you, he's on drugs!
The thought sent her crashing down. She forced herself to break apart from him but Khan held her fast. An act of God then occurred. His mouth met hers and had he not kept her in his arms, she would have fallen straightaway. The kiss swept through her body and she returned it easily as though her lips had expected this embrace. For one perfect, everlasting moment she got all the affection and attention from him that she had wanted in the past year.
Where was all this coming from and why now? Did it matter? She almost didn't care when she felt his lips travel down to her jaw then her throat, leaving heated impressions on her skin. The entire time, she could think of nothing else past his kisses. Fisting his hand into her hair, he roughly guided her lips back to his.
This continued on until Molly, becoming dizzy, pulled back. She gazed at him as though she were seeing him for the first time in her life.
"Molly." Khan's voice resonated with all the love he had bourne for her in the last three hundred years before it hardened. "I don't have much time. I came back here to warn and protect you. You are not safe."
"What are you talking about? What do you mean 'not safe'?"
"What year is it?"
"Are you okay? Did you...um...hit your head?" Molly fumbled for a plausible explanation. "I can call John if you need—"
"What year?" He shook her.
"2013." Molly whispered, frightened. "It's the 31st of July. 2013."
Struck by the fear in her voice, Khan loosened his hold. "Don't look at me like that. I can't have you be afraid of me, not you. Please."
"What's going on?"
"Molly." A chasm was breaking open into him as he staggered to tell her the truth and the reason why. God give him the strength, it was more than he could bear. "I am not who you think I am. I came here to rescue you but the reality is that I need your help. I need you to save me."
"You're not making sense." She shook her head. "Save you? From what?"
He looked down at her.