So this should probably come with an angst warning. We're going to start a few days before STID kicks off and follow the movie all the way through. I won't be just spitting the film out verbatim and will only expand on things to bring them in line with the events of Transitions, which you probably could do with reading if anything is going to make much sense. Also, I was deluding myself when I said this was a one shot. It isn' the plus hand, since we know how STID plays out, there won't be all that many evil cliffies.
To touch on a couple of points that were raised after the final chapter of Transitions:
Will Jim find out about Bones' medical tracker? Yes. But I had the option of playing it for laughs or using it to create some tension, so naturally I'm going for the meaner option. It won't be resolved in this story but it will in the next (which is long and plotty and really, really mean to everyone and I'm not a little sorry).
So, the Risan stripper incident… I know! I promised that in the last fic. It actually was in there, but the tone seemed all wrong so I pulled it out. I'll find a way to work it in somewhere else though!
Will Sam be back? Will Kodos? Are you really going to kill Pike?! Yes. Just yes.
A note on this part: The Science. Lets just assume that by the time STID is happening, cold fusion isn't just theoretical science. That much we can get. That said, if what they call cold fusion is what we call cold fusion then Spock basically just set off a big bomb in the middle of a volcano which is really going to do absolutely nadda. I am going to try and make sense of it, but don't expect miracles.
Right! Let the suffering begin! Did I say suffering, because I meant story…
Sometimes by losing a battle, you find a way to win the war.
For all that watching Bones and Spock snark and bitch and generally hate on each other usually made Jim's day – week sometimes, if he was really bored – he'd lost his patience with them two metaphors and a large dose of Vulcan sass earlier.
Actually, that wasn't true. Jim's patience had been dangerously thin the entire mission. Bones and Spock just happened to be the ones trying it the most.
Wondering if he should maybe just leave the bridge and let them have at it while he dosed himself up with a pot of Rand's addictive coffee, Jim caught Uhura's gaze from across the room. Her sense of humor seemed as challenged as his own and they shared a brief, irritated glance. He appreciated the development there. A month ago, her irritation would have been aimed at him instead.
Hell, a month ago Jim would have been right in there with them. The effort required to step in was just a little bit more than he had to spare though, and summoning up more energy took him time.
That was his current MO. Swinging between manic activity and lethargic dispassion. He was, according to Bones, flirting pretty heavily with depression – light foreplay, was how the doctor had described it. Clothing had been shed. Protection was being reached for.
Jim didn't think he was depressed. He didn't feel depressed, anyway. Depressed people didn't want to do anything or even get out of bed, right?
Jim would have to actually spend time in his bed first. Which he didn't. And hadn't. Not since leaving Risa. Bones would kill him if he knew, but Jim managed to rest far better catching the odd catnap here and there – usually in Engineering, with the purr of his ship's engines lulling him unconscious. Scotty turned a blind eye and while Spock clearly wanted to cite some regulation or other about Jim power napping in a Jefferies Tube, Jim's work efficiency level was still powering along at a solid ninety seven point four percent. Second highest in the crew, but then he wasn't going to compete against Spock. Jim had noticed that when Uhura spent more of her time with Spock, the Vulcan's levels dropped to ninety nine percent – and Jim took an inordinate amount pleasure in pointing that out to him.
Come to think of it, Jim's attempts to motivate himself seemed to revolve entirely around winding Spock up these days, especially since Bones had only begrudgingly signed off on Jim returning to duty a few days earlier and he wasn't about to push his luck by provoking him.
Spock, however, seemed to have none of the same concerns. "You are talking, Doctor, about the death of an entire species. It is not simply the lives of the planet's inhabitants that will be lost to us, but their cultural fingerprint, their future contribution to the universe and the knowledge they might one day impart." Spock said as heatedly as he ever could. Trust a Vulcan, this one especially, to make 'I'm not okay with millions of people dying' sound like he was objecting to their extinction purely because of the scientific loss.
"I'm talking, Spock," McCoy fumed, just as angry and far more visible with it, "about you jumping into an active Volcano."
"Technically," Spock said icily, "that was the captain's idea."
"Whoah!" That brought Jim out of his funk. "In no way did I condone any volcano jumping – though I'll admit it does sound kinda fun." He tagged the last part on purely to see Bones twitch.
"No, you just suggested that we drop a cold fusion devise in to one. Which, no offense Jim, but when exactly did you become an expert on thermonuclear fission?" Bones asked, clearly exasperated and hating everyone for encouraging the idea.
Jim leaned back in his chair and smirked. "Couple of days ago." He lied, "right after Chekov told us the planet we're here to survey is about to destroy itself." In truth Jim had only had to catch up on the last few month's worth of developments in the field. Physics was sort of a favorite of his. Along with math and engineering, he found comfort in the languages they spoke.
"The captain might not have a formal education in the subject," Spock said prissily, ignoring Jim's pout, "but his hypothesis is quite accurate. A cold fusion devise would render the volcano inert, thus stopping a chain of geological aftermaths that would ultimate destroy the planet."
Jim beamed at his First. Damn right his hypothesis was accurate. Lack of formal education his ass. The School of Hard Knocks trumped the VSA any day of the week.
Bones didn't seem convinced and he paced from Spock's side of the bridge to Jim's. "So you're telling me you want to drop a giant technological ice cube into a volcano to freeze it before it erupts?"
"Okay, just because it is called 'cold fusion' doesn't mean it's going to 'freeze' anything. You know that's not how science works, right?" Jim frowned at his friend.
McCoy shot him a seriously unimpressed glare. "I'm a doctor not a volcanologist."
Jim rolled his eyes. Cue Chekov –
"Actually Doktor, ze term cold fusion is merely used because it is colder than nuclear fission," Jim snorted. Not like that was hard. Chekov actually frowned at him and Jim forced himself to behave. "Cold fusion is the fusing of two atoms to create wast amounts of energy."
"So wait, you're telling me we're going to make a hot volcano even hotter? How the hell does that make any sense?"
"You ever play with hot ice as a kid?" Jim asked, seeing Bones' eyes glaze over at Chekov's attempts at an explanation. To be fair, Bones wasn't the only person on the bridge who was in the dark about their plans and Jim had no problem at all explaining their thought process.
"Sure." Bones nodded. "We used to do it in school. In chemistry." He stressed, knowing far more about chemicals and their uses than Jim could probably ever hope to.
"Right." Jim nodded, pleased they had a starting point. "So basically that is an exothermic chemical reaction between sodium bicarbonate and acetic acid that, through the application of heat, transforms two liquids into a solid. That's what we're going to try and force the volcano to do. Not cool down, but solidify."
"But won't the pressure still cause an eruption?"
"It is a possibility." Spock agreed, making Bones blink in surprise. "There are several considerations to be made, not least of which is ensuring the device is calibrated to the exact specifications of the volcano in order to enact a complete transformation before the resulting pressure can cause any tectonic damage to the plant's surface."
"Then there's the whole getting the thing in the volcano." Jim sighed. "Which apparently isn't as easy as it might seem."
"Can't you just beam it down?" Bones asked. "How exactly did we go from big ice cube to 'lets jump in a volcano'?"
Jim opened his mouth but Chekov was already there with the answer. "Ze planet's atmosphere is unlike anything I have ewer encountered. Ionic radiation makes beaming from outside it all but impossible."
"So we have to go down there." Bones concluded grimly.
Jim nodded. "We have to go down there."
"And how do you plan on doing that without anyone seeing the giant spaceship we're flying around in?"
Jim grinned, surprised how much better he felt now he'd dragged himself back into the action. "Funny you should ask –"
"You've gotta be joking!"
Quite as expected, his chief engineer wasn't all that thrilled with Jim's plan. "Not really."
"No bloody way!" Jim ducked under an overhead pipe and followed Scotty as he stormed down into the depths of his department. "You cannae be serious Captain!"
"Oh I'm serious." Jim said calmly, gingerly inching his way after his rampaging Chief. Most of the injuries he'd sustained in the past few weeks had healed completely, but the chest wound would occasionally twinge with pain if he twisted the wrong way. He wasn't in any danger of tearing it open – again – but Bones needed to give him another few sessions with the regen unit to finally erase the remainder of the damage. "As serious as volcano that's about to destroy an entire civilization, actually."
"Captain, do you know where we are?" Scotty suddenly spun on his heels and Jim almost banged right into him.
"We're in the engineering department." Jim said. Humoring Scotty was only fair considering what he was asking.
"Aye. But what kind of engineering department?"
"The kind that makes my ship work?" Jim asked, missing Scotty's point.
Scotty threw his arms in the air in frustration and nearly banged his head off a conductor casing. "Ack, no! We're in the engineering department on a starship. No a bloody submarine!"
Ah, so that was the problem. Well this was why Jim had come to ask in person. It wasn't as if he didn't understand the dangers of exposing the hull of the ship to the oxidizing hazards of a planet whose ocean was composed mainly of sodium, chlorine, oxygen and hydrogen. There was a reason Starfleet had them surveying Nibiru and it wasn't for the anthropological delights of the local population. It had a great deal of potential for colonization. "Yes, but it is possible." He pushed, having checked himself.
"Theoretically yes." Scott said. "But that is nay reason to do it! Theoretically I can clone myself, marry said clone and reproduce via a bloody test tube! Doesne mean I should!"
It took Jim far too long to shake off that mental image. "Wow, I did not need that in my head."
Scotty made a 'well duh' expression before scurrying back off once more into his engines, occasionally pausing to yell at bemused looking crew members who really should be used to Jim climbing all over their equipment in pursuit of their Chief by now.
"Come on, Scotty!" Jim cajoled. "Think of it as an adventure."
"An adventure is having pickles on me sandwiches instead of tomatoes. What you're talking about is crazy."
"Yeah, but isn't that why you wanted to be on this ship?" Jim pointed out, wondering when exactly they had decided to put a handrail there and if he should be worried. "Because she is a little bit crazy."
"Oh, she might be. You on the other hand are completely off ya trolly."
Jim growled and pinched the bridge of his nose to try and ward off the headache that was creeping up on him. Did other captains have to put up with this much complaining? "Scotty, can you do it?"
Scott must have finally realized that Jim wasn't really asking any more. "Aye, I can do it." He said mulishly.
Jim reached out and clapped a hand on his shoulder. "Thanks Scotty." He met his chief's gaze and hoped his appreciation was evident. Scott was a lot like Bones in some ways – he liked a good rant, especially when he didn't immediately see the justification for something. "Now, er, how long do you think it'll take you and Spock to put together a suit that can withstand temperatures of around three thousand degrees?"
He ducked before Scotty could throw a tricorder at him and wondered why exactly he'd considered this job a milk run when all his crew had done so far was curse, scowl and throw things at him.
"Jim!" Despite Jim pointedly not trying to avoid his CMO, he had nonetheless done a damn fine job of not running into McCoy in almost two days. On a ship this size, and with a doctor this stubborn, that was something of an accomplishment.
Jim looked down at his plate of bolognaise and sighed. This was what he got for actually being good and taking a break like Bones was always insisting he did.
Summoning up his best smile, Jim found it didn't quite reach his eyes when he raised his head and spotted Bones sat at a table on the far side of the galley. There wasn't really any way out without being obvious that he was avoiding his friend, so Jim sucked it up and headed over. He dropped his tray down on the table and slid into a chair. "Hey Bones. How's it hangin'?"
"Really, what's the best you got?" Bones raised an eyebrow in judgment. Then he started to study the contents of Jim's tray. Aside from the spaghetti, he had a banana and a glass of milk, and glared at the doctor, daring him to find fault. "More greens." Bones grunted, because he was Bones and had to say something. It wouldn't be a day that ended in y if he wasn't hassling Jim about his eating habits.
Still, Jim had heard worse. So much worse.
Jim grunted in acknowledgement of the doctor's suggestion and dug into his pasta with gusto. It had been a long, trying day and he just wanted five minutes peace and quite to eat, digest and figure out how to get Spock to actually talk to him without getting himself strangled.
"So," But of course, Bones wasn't about to let anything rest, not when he had an audience held captive by the watchful eyes of the entire crew. "I heard Spock's the one going to be playing chicken with an active volcano. You want to tell me what that is really about or should I just guess?"
"He pulled the Science Officer card and backed it up with a side of 'I'm Vulcan I can take the heat better than you fragile little humans." Jim scoffed. "Which is bullshit by the way, because I visited Vulcan and at no point did I encounter anyone skinny dipping in rivers of magma."
"You need to talk to him, Jim." McCoy said seriously, like Jim didn't know that already. The problem was he and Spock didn't really talk like normal people. They waged war with words and occasionally found a common ground that didn't require bloodshed. Jim wasn't stupid enough not to recognize the fact that Spock was exactly what he needed in an XO – namely someone who challenged him to think better, harder, faster – but by god, was it ever exhausting. The only times he and Spock had ever had anything that closely resembled a calm and rational conversation since officially becoming Captain had been when Jim was bleeding everywhere. If he got any more desperate he'd quite possibly have to resort to opening a vein just to make headway. Of course, that would be like robbing Peter to pay Paul, as Bones would actually kill him if he got so much as a splinter.
"And say what exactly? 'By the way, don't think I haven't noticed your alarmingly depressing motivations for committing suicide by larva, and yes, I get that this must be a pretty damn unpleasant reminder of the fact that your whole planet exploded a year ago…do you want to talk about it?"
"It's a start." McCoy stubbornly refused to acknowledge Jim's sarcasm.
"I'm hardly qualified to talk about reckless behavior, Bones. I was the one who came up with the plan in the first place, and I would be the one doing it if Spock wasn't such a sneaky bastard." And really, jumping into an active volcano wouldn't be the craziest thing Jim had ever done. Top three, maybe.
McCoy scowled. "Yes, because that's a great idea. I cleared you for duty on the grounds that you don't behave like you usually do."
"Well how am I supposed to behave?" Jim asked.
"Like you care! If not about your own health then at least about mine! How many times have I had to patch you up in the last few months, huh?" Bones looked pained and that instantly made Jim feel guilty. Guilt wasn't an emotion he handled well.
"Last time I checked that was your job." He said frostily. Jim had learned years ago that his temper was its most dangerous when his self loathing was at its highest. He very rarely lost his temper because when he did he lost sight of the bigger picture. He locked onto a single target and nothing could penetrate until he calmed down.
Unfortunately McCoy had far less qualms about giving in to his own. Unlike Jim's it flared hot and burned out quickly. Jim found it interesting that of himself, Spock and McCoy, it was his temper that was the coldest. "Last time I checked delegation was yours." McCoy fired back just as snidely.
Jim took a breath and counted to ten. Twice. He had all the ammunition in the world to respond to that remark in a way that could destroy their friendship. He had to force himself not to use it. Instead he said, "I'll never ask my crew to do something I wouldn't be willing to do myself."
"Just because you're willing doesn't mean you should do it!" McCoy growled. "For the love of god, Jim, you nearly died."
"Well I didn't." Jim said childishly. He refused to think of the cold, dark place Sam had thrown him into and how it had nearly killed him twice now. He was refusing to think about a lot of things – namely how he was going to look Admiral Archer in the face and tell him about Hoshi-san, how Christine Chapel had been so traumatized by what Sam had done to her that she'd transferred off his ship, of how, for the first time in a long time, even the lightest, most innocent touch made his skin crawl.
"And next time it might." Bones fired back. "I'm not a damn miracle worker, Jim! One of these days you're going to hurt yourself too badly for me to fix."
"I thought we were talking about Spock's suicidal tendencies, not mine." Bones actually flinched. Jim was going to need to buy some seriously expensive whiskey if he carried on being such an asshole.
"I can multitask."
"Yeah, well, I can't. So I should get going and actually make sure shit gets done." Jim shoved his tray away, no longer interested in the pasta and cringing internally when he saw the expression on Bones' face. James Kirk, you are a cruel son of a bitch. "I'll see you around."
Spock kicked him out of the labs after only a ten minutes and only half of the annoying questions he had at his disposal. People had apparently forgotten that he was the captain and he could go where he liked on his own ship. Except for the labs, because Spock was busy, and Engineering because Scotty might give in to the urge to strangle him, and Medical because, well, Bones.
With his list of options limited, Jim went to the rec rooms and ran for an hour. Then he grabbed a shower, changed, and made his way to the observation deck. With the stars all around him, Jim took a seat and opened his PADD. With nothing to occupy his mind but the mission ahead, Jim felt the walls closing in on him and the mountain in his head start to crumble. Time to refocus. He flicked through lists of options, many of which were blacked out as complete.
Horticulture. He could learn about Horticulture. Who knew when that might be useful?
With an hour left to kill before his shift, Jim opened the data file and began to read.
The ion radiation that made beaming the device down from outside the atmosphere of Nibiru also played merry hell on their navigational equipment. After hours of attempting to recalibrate and compensate, Jim watched in mild fascination as Sulu threw his arms in the air, cursed under his breath and loudly declared that he'd just "Fly the damn ship by sight."
"Now Sulu, let's not be rude to our girl." Jim scolded.
Sulu had the good grace to look sheepish at his uncharacteristic display of frustration. "Sorry Captain."
Jim waved off the apology, not really annoyed. "You comfortable doing that?"
Sulu looked at him incredulously. "Sir, last month you had me piloting our way through an asteroid belt in the middle of a firefight with Orion pirates and you didn't once stop to ask if I was okay with the sheer number of times I almost crashed us."
"Yes, well, now I'm asking." Jim shrugged. In truth, when the shit hit the fan, he fully expected the same type of excellence from his crew that they needed from him. If Sulu hadn't been capable of pulling off the truly spectacular maneuvering he'd managed then Jim would have replaced him months ago, budding friendship be damned.
"Yes sir." Sulu said flatly. "I'm completely okay with navigating our starship into atmospheric orbit then dunking her in the ocean, displacing nine million tones of water in the process. Without being seen by the locals who live less than a kilometer away."
Jim was starting to think he needed to be more careful when selecting his crew because the one he had was comprised entirely of snarky, sarcastic, admittedly brilliant but occasionally outright bitchy assholes. "Excellent. Carry on then."
"Captain." Jim all but cringed at the sound of Uhura's voice. Given the mood this mission had everyone in he could only imagine how she'd voice her thoughts. He was surprised when she simply carried on neutrally, a half smile tugging at her lips. "We received a message from Admiral Barnett reminding us that we need to be back on earth by month's end for the fundraiser." Spock wasn't on the bridge, but that didn't stop her vagueness and Jim cursed himself for having forgotten all about it.
She was of course referring to the Starfleet run fundraiser for the Vulcan refugees. Though they had now founded a new colony on a planet not too far from Vulcan's former location, resources were in constant demand.
Last year the Admiralty had gone all out in their efforts and as a newly minted Captain Jim had been required to attend. Knowing that he'd be the center of attention both from civilians and brass, Jim had schmoozed his ass off and pulled in a slightly mindboggling number of donations. Spock had been stunned, Pike had been proud and Bones had found the whole thing utterly hilarious, right down to the lipstick on Jim's collar that he swore blind did not belong to the Andorian Ambassador.
Hell, Jim had wooed pretty women for far less noble causes.
Still, he wasn't sure he was in the mood to play nice with anyone, let alone politicians. The thought was immediately followed by a wave of disgust at himself. Priorities, Kirk, he scolded himself.
"Right then," He turned to the front of the bridge. "Chekov, you have the conn. I'm going to see how Spock's doing with his shiny superhero suit. Let's get this thing moving: mini canapés wait for no man!"