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World On Fire - Part 1/2

Fandom: Star Trek TOS
Pairing/Characters: Kirk, Spock, McCoy, OCs. Gen.
Rating: PG-13
Summary: When history is altered so that James Kirk died on Tarsus, only Spock remembers the way things should be. With the Federation now at war with the Klingons, he must figure out what has happened and get his captain back before all hope is lost.
Words: ~7900/13400
Warnings: Choose Not to Warn
Notes: Written for scifibigbang; art by susanmarier is here. Thanks to Hokuto for the read-through. Inspired by the Sarah Jane Adventures episode "Whatever Happened to Sarah Jane?"


2246

A young boy, barely thirteen years of age, lies bleeding on the ground. Another boy bends over him, tears streaming down his face as he presses his hands against his companion's chest. "Come on," he whispers fiercely. "Please. You have to… you can't leave me like this. We're a team."

The first boy doesn't respond. He's cold all over, and everything is becoming fuzzy round the edges. Even the pain is almost gone.
I'm dying, he thinks with a last spark of fear. This is what dying feels like. He wishes that he could see his parents again, tell them he loves them, say goodbye. He wishes he'd never come here. But most of all he wishes he wasn't dying. I'm only thirteen, he thinks desperately. It isn't fair.

He says it out loud, blood bubbling between his lips. "It isn't fair."

"No, it is not," says a voice. For a moment he thinks it's his friend, but the other boy seems frozen in place, his expression caught mid-sob. Something moves in his peripheral vision, and he turns his head to see three beings, inhumanly pale and clad in long silver robes, staring down at him.

"It is not 'fair'," one of them says. "Life seldom is. But we can make yours a little fairer, if you wish." He – she? – tilts his head. "We can save you," he says. "But it will come at a price."

The boy stares at him, wondering if he's serious.
But what do I have to lose? he thinks darkly. "I don't care," he blurts desperately. "Help me. Stop this."

The three of them continue to stare. "What would you give us in return?" the leader asks.

"Anything."

"Even your friend?"

The boy's heart seems to stutter for a moment, and fear shoots through him, clouding his mind. All he knows is that he wants is to live, and these beings can make it possible. "Yes," he whispers desperately. "Please."

The beings glance at each other, then, with a nod, the leader raises his hands.

A second later the world shifts, and suddenly he is pressing bloody hands to a wound, while his friend lies there dying. He swears he sees recognition in his friend's eyes a second before they go blank.

He looks around, but the beings – whatever they were – are gone. He looks down again at his friend's lifeless body, then gets up and starts running.

He doesn't ever look back.


* * * * *



2269

Vulcans don't celebrate birthdays. When Spock was very small, his mother used to celebrate his; she would buy him gifts and make his favourite meals, and once even baked a cake. But his father disapproved, and Spock began to realise that no other Vulcans engaged in the custom, and after that she stopped trying.

His birthday became like any other Vulcan's; an arbitrary date upon which his age increases by a year, that has little to no relevance to his everyday life. And it stays that way for more than thirty years until, three point six years into their five year mission, he enters his captain's cabin for a routine game of chess and finds himself confronted by a brightly-wrapped package and a cupcake with a candle in it.

"Happy Birthday," Kirk says, smiling.

"Vulcans do not celebrate birthdays," Spock replies, still staring at the desk with its tiny cake. He was not aware Kirk even knew when his birthday was. He has certainly never told him.

"Yes, I know," Kirk says affectionately. "But humans do." He steps forward, spreading his hands and giving Spock an almost pleading look. "I thought perhaps you'd consider humouring me, just this once?"

Spock runs through the list of reasons why he should say no; there is no logic to such a celebration, he has not celebrated his birthday for more than thirty years and sees no need to start now, if he capitulates to Kirk's request it will only encourage him to do more things like this in the future….

But saying yes will make Kirk happy, and all of Spock's logical arguments fall apart around that one fact. "Very well," he says, and Kirk's smile grows almost blinding.

"Wonderful," he says, and reaches out to touch Spock's arm. "And don't worry, I haven't planned anything elaborate. Just a quick acknowledgement, and then we can move on to chess."

He motions to Spock to sit down, then picks up a lighter and lights the candle. "Traditionally you're supposed to have one for each year," he says, as the candle begins to burn, "but I couldn't find enough candles." He grins and adds, "Besides, I was afraid I'd set off the fire suppression systems."

"One is more than sufficient," Spock assures him. "And I am expected to blow it out?" He has vague memories of his mother encouraging him in such an endeavour.

Kirk nods. "You're supposed to make a wish first, but you can skip that part if you want."

Spock considers it, but decides if he is going along with this ritual he may as well go all the way. He searches his mind for something he could wish for, and finally decides on wishing that Kirk would be more careful during landing parties. His captain has, at times, an appalling lack of concern for his own safety.

"I wish that my captain would stop throwing himself recklessly into danger," he states, then obediently blows out the candle.

Kirk frowns at him. "That wasn't exactly what I meant," he says.

Spock studies him innocently. "You asked me to make a wish."

For a moment Kirk looks as though he is going to argue, then he shakes his head and begins to laugh. "All right," he says, "I'll try to be more careful. But only if you do the same." He tilts his head, studying Spock. "I'm not the only one who 'throws himself recklessly into danger'."

"I have no idea what you mean," Spock replies, and Kirk grins.

"Of course you don't," he says, then shakes his head. "Anyway, we seem to be getting sidetracked." He picks up a small package wrapped in gold paper and hands it to Spock. "Can't have a birthday without gifts."

It is heavier than Spock expected, and he turns it over in his hands, measuring the weight of it. "You did not have to do this," he says.

"I know," Kirk says, "but it's something I was planning to give you anyway. This just seemed like a good opportunity." He nods at the package in Spock's hands. "Open it."

Carefully Spock peels off the paper and then a layer of packaging material to reveal a small glass cube. It feels warm to the touch and he examines it closely, searching for any opening or power source. He finds none.

"Where did you get it?" he asks, glancing up at Kirk.

Kirk leans forward, resting his elbows on the desk. "Remember our last mission? Tarrania? On our last day, one of the priestesses there took me aside and gave me that. She wouldn't say what it was for, just that it was a gift and I should give it to the person I trusted most." He smiles and adds gently, "That's you, if you hadn't figured it out."

Warmth blooms in Spock's chest at the words. "I am honoured," he says. "Thank you."

Kirk shrugs, still smiling. "Don't mention it." He stretches and sits back in his chair. "So, chess?"

Kirk wins the first game – what, you think I'll go easy on you just because it's your birthday? – and they are a good half-hour or so into the second when he lets out a yawn.

At the second yawn, Spock suggests finishing the game off tomorrow.

Kirk stretches his arms above his head and nods. "Maybe you're right," he says. "Bones has been complaining about my sleep schedule."

He pushes his chair back and stands. Spock does likewise, and they just stare at each other for a moment before Spock picks up his tiny cube. "Thank you for this," he says, hoping Kirk will understand he is not just referring to the gift.

From Kirk's smile, he understands perfectly. "You're welcome, Mister Spock. I'll see you for breakfast tomorrow?"

Spock nods. "Indeed." He tilts his head in acknowledgement before heading through their shared bathroom and into his own cabin, leaving Kirk alone to rest.

Once back in his own rooms, he places the cube carefully on the bedside table and allows himself a brief moment of fondness. Perhaps there are merits to celebrating one's birthday after all, if one has a friend to share it with.

* * *



Two weeks later

Spock watches with a frown as Kirk moves his bishop directly into the path of one of Spock's knights. He has grown used to Kirk's somewhat illogical method of play, but his past few moves have gone past 'illogical' and into 'not even trying'.

"Your mind does not seem to be on the game, Jim," he says.

Kirk blinks, looking slightly confused, then looks at the chessboard as if seeing it for the first time. "Oh," he says. "I'm not giving you much of a challenge tonight, am I?" He rubs his hands over his face. "I'm sorry. I don't know what's wrong with me. I just can't seem to concentrate."

Spock studies him with mild concern. "Perhaps you are fatigued," he suggests.

Kirk shakes his head. "I don't feel tired, more… restless." He frowns. "If I tell you something, do you promise to keep it to yourself?"

"Of course," Spock replies.

Kirk sits back in his chair. "I've been having these dreams," he admits. "Nightmares, really." He shudders suddenly, and Spock reaches out instinctively, laying a hand on his arm and squeezing gently.

"Tell me," he says softly.

Kirk gives him a grateful smile and sits up a little straighter. "I dream we're at war with the Klingons, and we're losing. Planets falling to them, one by one, and they're getting stronger, while we get weaker. And then they go after Earth." His smile becomes a grimace. "The Federation in chaos, billions of people dead and there's nothing I can do to stop it."

Spock's instinct is to reassure Kirk that it is only a dream, but his friend is a rational man and will already know that. Instead he asks, "When did the dreams start?"

Kirk frowns. "A few days ago." He shakes his head. "I don't know why they started now. We haven't encountered the Klingons in months."

"I find there is rarely any logic to such things," Spock says. "But if these dreams are disturbing your rest, I know of some Vulcan meditative techniques that may help."

Kirk gives him a grateful look. "Thank you, I'd appreciate it. If I go to Bones he'll just give me pills, and I don't want that."

Spock nods. His own experiences with the doctor's various medications have been less than positive. "Would you like to start now?" he asks.

Kirk nods, glancing at the chessboard. "Doesn't look like I'm going to win this, so by all means, Mister Spock." He flicks over the white king and stands, spreading his hands with a smile. "Teach me your techniques."

Spock puts on some incense and indicates Kirk to sit down on the floor. Kirk does so. Spock sits down opposite so that their knees almost touch and experiences a moment of intense affection as he looks at Kirk. He has not meditated with another person since he was a child, but far from feeling like an imposition, this feels… pleasant. There is a rightness to it that he would not have expected.

He pushes the thought aside and takes a deep breath before beginning to take his friend through some of the meditation techniques he was taught as a child.

He has to adapt them slightly to account for human physiology, but Kirk proves to be an excellent student, and quickly grasps the basics of what Spock is trying to teach him. They practice for an hour, and by the end of it Kirk seems much happier and much more relaxed than he was when they started. "Thanks, Spock," he says. "I feel much better now. I'll try out your techniques again before I go to sleep and see if they help."

He yawns suddenly, covering his mouth with his arm. Spock raises an eyebrow. "I believe the saying is 'there is no time like the present'," he says.

Kirk shakes his head. "All right, all right," he grumbles good-naturedly. "I guess I'll see you in the morning."

"Good night, Jim," Spock replies.

With a final smile, Kirk leaves. Spock extinguishes the incense and begins tidying away the chessboard. His gaze falls on the small glass cube Kirk gave him for his birthday. He still has not figured out what powers it, but every test has indicated that, whatever it is, it is benign. Spock reaches out and brushes it with his fingers. For him the value of the gift is not in what it is as much as what it represents; that, of all the people in the universe, he is the one Kirk trusts the most. It is the most precious gift Spock has ever been given, and he hopes that someday Kirk will give him the chance to repay it.

He pulls his hand away and finishes tidying up, then sits down at his computer, intending to get in a few hours of work before retiring.

* * *



At 0200, Spock retires for the night. At exactly 0252 and seven seconds, unnoticed by anyone on board, the universe shifts and the cube on Spock's desk turns solid black.

* * *



Spock wakes up the next morning with the strange sense that he has forgotten something. He cannot imagine what it might be; Vulcans have eidetic memory, and the only times Spock has forgotten anything has been when he has been ill or received a head injury, neither of which, to his knowledge, has happened recently.

He goes through his morning meditation, taking the opportunity to check his system for any anomalies, but finds nothing amiss. Afterwards he checks through his schedule for the week, his inbox, and his to-do list. Finding no anomalies there, either, he reasons that if by some strange event he has forgotten something, it cannot be that important.

He showers and dresses before making his way to the mess hall for breakfast. He orders fruit and toast, as usual, takes a seat in the far corner, as usual, and pulls out his PADD to check through the latest reports on Klingon activity.

Gradually the feeling of having forgotten something begins to fade, and by the time he rises to go to the bridge Spock has put it completely out of his mind.

Captain Ellison is already on the bridge when Spock arrives. "Good morning, Commander," he says.

"Captain," Spock returns, before making his way to his station. He does not see the point of superfluous greetings, especially ones that are demonstrably untrue. With the war the way it is, there are very few 'good' mornings nowadays.

They are currently en route to a colony on the borders of Klingon space. The colony was founded a good two light years from the neutral zone, but the Klingons have taken so much ground over the past few years that it is now in imminent danger of being overtaken.

The Enterprise's job is to protect the colony until reinforcements can arrive to assist in evacuation. Or, at least, that is the official story. What no one except the senior staff is aware off is their other purpose for being there – unknown to the Klingons, the colony is a research base for new weapons, and they are to keep those weapons out of Klingon hands by any means necessary.

Spock has tried very hard not to think about the implications of that statement.

Even at Warp Six, they will not reach the colony for another five point seven hours, but preparations keep them busy. Spock spends the time researching all the information they have on the colony and the surrounding area, running simulation after simulation in order to best create a plan of defence.

When he has run through all the simulations he can think of, he goes over them with Captain Ellison and Mister Scott, making adjustments in accord with their comments and suggestions.

"Well, gentlemen," Ellison says grimly, when they're finished. "Let's hope this works, shall we?"

Neither Spock nor Scott reply; they all know the consequences of failure. Scott goes back to his engines, and Spock and Ellison return to the bridge. They will be reaching the colony within the hour, and they should be there to greet the colonists when they arrive.

They are all on alert as they drop out of warp, wondering if the Klingons will have beaten them there. Thankfully, Spock can detect no other ships in the vicinity. It seems that for once random chance has operated in their favour. It is not a situation he is accustomed to.

"Hail the colony," Ellison orders, and a second later the leader of the colony, Doctor Stevens, appears on the viewscreen. She is around fifty standard years, dark brown hair just starting to turn grey with age.

She gives them a tired smile. "Captain Ellison, I presume. Thank you for coming."

"I only wish it were under better circumstances," Ellison returns. "May we beam down and meet with you?"

"Yes," she says, "of course. I'll send you the coordinates of our meeting hall."

"Then we'll see you in a few minutes," Ellison replies.

Doctor Stevens nods and signs off. A few seconds later, Uhura reports that the coordinates have come through.

"Send them down to the transporter room," Ellison tells her. "And call Mister Scott up to the bridge." Standing, he turns to Spock. "Mister Spock, you're with me."

They beam down and, as promised, arrive in the meeting hall to be greeted by Doctor Stevens and several of her staff. "Gentlemen, welcome," she says, then gestures them to follow her. "If you'll come with me, we can talk privately in my office."

Spock and Ellison exchange glances before following. Once they reach Stevens's office, she locks the door and turns to them with a grim look on her face. "Let's cut the bullshit," she says. "I know the stakes here, and all I can say is whatever plan you boys have thought up to keep the Klingons from taking this planet better be pretty damn fantastic, because I also know what I'll have to do if it fails."

Ellison takes a long, slow breath and nods. "Mister Spock?"

Spock steps forward and begins laying out the plan they have concocted, occasionally referring to diagrams and pictures on his PADD. Stevens listens, then makes a few suggestions of her own. When they are all satisfied, she sighs and shakes her head. "We'd better hope this works," she says.

She goes off to organise her staff, and Spock and Ellison beam back to the Enterprise to make their own arrangements.
"Do you ever wonder if it's all worth it?" Ellison asks, as he pulls out his communicator to call for beam up. "I joined Starfleet to help people, not… this."

It is a question Spock has asked himself many times, but it is not one he expected Ellison to voice. The captain has always seemed accepting of the militaristic turn Starfleet has taken, and it is a position he and Spock have clashed on in the past. "We do what we must," he says.

"Yes," Ellison replies. "We must all do our duty."

There is a tone to his voice that Spock can't identify, and he is oddly relieved when Ellison flips open his communicator, signalling that their brief conversation is over.

* * *



Back on the ship, Spock begins organising beam up and accommodation for as many of the colony members as the Enterprise can hold. Mister Scott and his staff are helping to rig up a force field over that part of the planet, but Spock is uncertain it will stand up to the might of the Klingons, and pushes hard to find places for as many people as possible.

He finds his mind wandering back to Ellison's words as he works, wondering what he could have meant by them. Spock and Ellison have developed an effective working relationship over the years, but they are not close, and Spock is used to finding human thought processes confusing and illogical. But somehow this seems different, almost as though he is missing something. He is reminded of the feeling from this morning, of having forgotten something, and is disturbed. He does not like not knowing things.

Still, time is of the essence, so with an effort he pushes the thought aside and applies all his concentration to his work. He can puzzle over his captain's behaviour later, if there is time.

(He doesn't quite succeed in convincing himself he meant when.)

* * *



It is two hours past the official end of Spock's shift when he finally gets off duty. Things have gone as well as could be expected – they've beamed up as many non-vital personnel as they can, and the force field is in place to protect those left behind. They are as prepared as they'll ever be, and there is still no sign of the Klingons.

Spock makes his way back to his quarters, intending to shower and then meditate for a while. He has needed to meditate more and more recently as the war with the Klingons causes him to do things that go against his beliefs as a Vulcan.

More than once he has considered leaving Starfleet, but imagining his father's reaction if he were to return home always stops him. He has little to keep him in Starfleet, but he has even less to look forward to if he goes back to Vulcan.

Spock sits down at his desk to remove his boots, but he has barely unfastened the first when his attention is caught by something on the desk. It is a small cube, perhaps two centimetres in diameter, and it is solid black.

Spock stares at it, frowning. It seems oddly familiar, and yet he is certain he has never seen it before. He has no memory of acquiring it, and no way of explaining how it has ended up in his quarters. Still frowning, he reaches out and picks it up.

And freezes as he is overtaken by memories.

-The new captain materialises on the transporter platform with a smile. He seems impossibly young, and Spock wishes, once more, that Captain Pike had not decided to step down, that Number One had not left for command of the Exeter. He is at heart a creature of habit, and does not relish having to become accustomed to a whole new captain, especially one who is a stranger to him. Still, he pushes down his reservations and steps forward. "Welcome aboard, Captain."-

-He is playing chess against the computer when the new captain appears beside him. "Mind if I play?" Spock is too surprised to turn him down. Kirk does not win, but he comes closer than almost anyone Spock has ever played. When he immediately challenges Spock to a rematch, Spock is intrigued enough to agree-

-The captain is grieving the loss of his friend. Spock does not fully understand the emotion, having never had a friend of his own, but he knows Lieutenant Commander Mitchell was important to Kirk, and he has a sudden urge to try and ease Kirk's pain. "I… felt for him too," he says, in response to Kirk's amendment to Mitchell's record, and is rewarded with a warm smile. Perhaps he might have a friend after all-

-He is hiding in his quarters – he would like to call it meditating, or reviewing events, but in truth it is hiding – unwilling to deal with the loss of control caused by the Psi-2000 virus. Rationally, Spock knows that he is not responsible for his actions, any more than Sulu, or Chapel, or Riley, but it does not make the memories less unpleasant. The door buzzes and he attempts to ignore it, but it buzzes again. Answering it reveals Kirk, asking if he would like a game of chess. It isn't until halfway through the game that Spock realises this is Kirk's way of trying to reassure him, and the realisation helps in a way meditation and logic could not-

-Spock's blood is burning, a green haze forming in front of his eyes. The woman that was meant to be his has rejected him, has picked another to fight against him. His body screams at him to kill the interloper and claim what is rightfully his, but the challenger is friend, brother, and his mind rebels. He fights with everything in him to resist the call of his biology; believing, even in the grips of the fever, that saving his life at the cost of his friend's is a cost too high to bear-

-He is pulling at the bars, trying to get out, get to Kirk. His friend is in danger and he is trapped, helpless. Doctor McCoy chatters in the background but Spock ignores him until the doctor presses him against the wall and forces him to listen. The rant hits home, effortlessly exposing and targeting Spock's weak points, until… "You wouldn't know what to do with a warm decent feeling." And something in Spock alights, because on that, at least, the doctor could not be more wrong-

-The Tholians are building a giant web of energy around the ship to entrap the Enterprise, and Spock cannot stop them, cannot reason with them. Logic tells him to take the ship and leave, before they are trapped for good, but Kirk is lost in the interphase and the idea of leaving him behind is unthinkable. McCoy scolds him for being insufficiently emotional and Spock has to fight not to respond that emotion is precisely the problem. No matter what happens he
will save Kirk, logic or no logic-

-"What does your telepathic mind tell you now?" The woman in front of him bears little resemblance to Captain Kirk, but Spock reaches out and finds a mind so familiar, warm and welcoming, that it cannot belong to anyone else-


Spock comes out of the memories and drops the cube as if it has burned him. He feels ill. Kirk. How could he have forgotten Kirk? Somehow the universe has changed, taking with it the best friend Spock has ever had, and he did not even realise it.

The last memory comes back to him. You are closer to the captain than anyone in the universe. If that is true, how could he have forgotten him so completely?

Spock's gaze drops to the cube, and he notices it has turned clear. He wonders if this is why the Tarranian priestess gave Kirk the cube, why she told him to give it to someone he trusts. Well, whatever the reason, he is grateful. Something is deeply wrong here, and he intends to fix it.

Forgetting about his shower, he turns on the computer and begins to research.

He starts with the Starfleet database, but a search for "James Kirk" brings up only one result, a man who retired from service in 2196. Possibly an ancestor, but certainly not the man he is familiar with.

Expanding the search to "Kirk" brings up thirty-two results, among them "George Kirk" and "Winona Kirk (née Davis)"; Kirk's parents. But, try as he might, Spock cannot find any record of Kirk himself.

Moving away from the Starfleet database, he expands the search to the entirety of the Galactic Web. "James Kirk" brings up several million results, and he frowns before attempting to whittle them down. "James Tiberius Kirk" does better, giving him a birth announcement in a Riverside paper. Curious, Spock clicks over to the paper and searches for any other references.

The very first headline gives him his answers, the stark words standing out against the screen; Thirteen-year-old killed in colony tragedy.

Spock clicks through and reads the short article, swallowing hard as he reaches the end. Kirk has never told him the details of what he survived on Tarsus, but it appears that, in this reality, he was not as lucky.

A horrible wrongness spreads through Spock. Kirk cannot be dead. It is unthinkable. He would… he would know if Kirk were dead.

That thought centres him. He would know. Closing his eyes, he reaches for the golden thread in his mind, the one that shouldn't exist but neither he or Kirk ever wanted to get rid of. To his immense relief, it is still there, albeit blocked somehow.

Spock opens his eyes. Kirk is still alive. Somewhere. And if Kirk is still alive there is hope that things can be put back the way they were.

He shuts the computer off and considers his plans. If he's going to find out how to fix this, the first thing he's going to need is help.

He picks up the cube and heads out of his quarters towards sickbay.

Sickbay is almost deserted when he arrives, everyone busy resting up while they still can. Spock makes his way through to McCoy's office and taps carefully on the door.

"Yeah, what?" is the grumpy reply.

"It is Spock," Spock replies. "I wish to speak with you."

The door slides open to reveal McCoy sitting at his desk, working. He does not look happy.

"What do you want?" he asks tersely.

Spock steps inside, letting the door close behind him, and clasps his hands behind his back. "I wish to ascertain whether you have any memory of a man called James Kirk," he says.

Part of him hopes to be called an idiot and told that of course I know who Jim is, are you crazy? But it doesn't happen. Instead, McCoy frowns. "Doesn't ring a bell," he says. "Why, should I?"

"Yes," Spock says bluntly. "Doctor," he continues, before McCoy can respond, "would you perhaps do me the favour of holding this for a moment?" He holds out the cube.

McCoy stares at it with suspicion. "Why, what is it?"

"Nothing that will harm you, I assure you."

McCoy gives him a dubious look, but takes the cube. Spock watches him carefully, but nothing happens.

"Why're you looking at me like that?" McCoy asks. "What is this thing anyway?" He turns the cube over in his hand, examining it.

"It is not important," Spock says, firmly suppressing any sense of disappointment. "You are certain you do not know anyone called James Kirk?"

"No," McCoy says. "Why? Who is he?"

He has put the cube down on his desk, and Spock picks it up, weighing it in his hand for a moment. "A friend," he says.

McCoy snorts. "You don't have any friends." Spock is used to McCoy's jibes and pointed comments by now, but the doctor's obvious bitter dismissal is still surprising to him. Evidently Kirk's absence has had an effect here as well.

"No," Spock says softly. "It appears I do not." He steps forward, steeling himself. "Doctor," he says slowly, "what would you say if I told you the universe had been altered? That the world is not the way it should be?"

McCoy stares at him. "I'd ask whether you've been getting into Scotty's hooch. What the hell d'you mean the world isn't the way it should be?"

Spock tilts his head. "I mean what I said, Doctor. I believe the universe to have been altered, possibly by persons or beings unknown. In the world I am aware of, there is no war with the Klingons, and James Kirk is captain of the Enterprise."

"That's ridiculous," McCoy tells him. "Jacob Ellison is the captain, and has been for the past four years. Before that it was Chris Pike, and before that Robert April. I don't know who this Kirk guy is, but he's never been captain."

"That is because in this universe he died at the age of thirteen," Spock says. "I believe this to be, if not the point of divergence, then at least a consequence of whatever was."

McCoy studies Spock with the wary look of one confronting a wild animal that may attack at any moment. "I'd accuse you of playing some kind of joke on me, but far as I know Vulcans don't play jokes. But I hope for both our sakes you're not serious, because the last thing this ship needs right now is its second in command apparently having some kind of breakdown."

"I am not having a breakdown," Spock tells him. "I would be willing to back up my claims, if you would allow me." He raises a hand.

McCoy recoils, his reaction as intense as if Spock had whipped out a phaser and threatened to shoot him. "Don't you dare!" he all but snarls. "Keep your damn Vulcan voodoo away from me or I swear you'll regret it."

Spock lowers his hand. "I intended only to share my memories with you, Doctor, so that you may see for yourself."

McCoy stands, hands braced on the table, and glares at Spock. "No," he says. "Not a chance. And I'm done humouring you. You have ten seconds to get out of my office before I have you committed."

Spock stands there, unsure how to react. "Doctor-"

McCoy cuts him off. "Ten," he begins in a clipped tone. "Nine. Eight."

Realising the choice has been made for him, and with no wish to be confined to sickbay, Spock leaves. It appears he will have to handle this situation alone.

* * *



Back in his room, Spock paces back and forth, trying to figure out what to do next. The world is wrong. The world is wrong, and Kirk is missing, and he is the only person who is aware of it, which means he is the only person who has any chance of fixing it.

Finally he realises that getting worked up will accomplish nothing, and his best option at present is to meditate and attempt to bring himself back to a calmer state of mind.

He lights some incense and lays out his mediation mat, then sinks down to the floor, closing his eyes and breathing deeply. He concentrates on shutting out all outside distractions, focusing inwards until everything fades away and he is left with nothing but his own tangled thoughts.

He starts by identifying and cataloguing his emotions. Fear, for both Kirk and himself; frustration that McCoy would not believe him; anger at himself for failing to adequately make his point; intense curiosity at what could have possibly caused the universe to change so completely. All of these are brought out, examined, and filed carefully away.

When he is calm again, all emotions safely under control, he allows himself to prod carefully at the link to Kirk. Still there, still silent.

Or so he thought. Just then he feels a disturbance in the link, followed by a very faint, Spock?

Spock's eyes jerk open in shock. That felt like Kirk. Heart pounding, he focuses all of his energy on the link and sends back, Jim?

The response is slightly stronger this time. Spock!

Spock firmly suppressed the joy that threatens to overwhelm him. It is vital that he keep a clear mind. Jim, he sends back, where are you?

I don't know. But it's dark, and I can't move. It feels like the time I got trapped in Tholian space. The thought is accompanied by a surge of emotion, but Spock is not surprised. It was a deeply stressful and unpleasant time for both of them. I'm so glad you can hear me. I've been so alone.

What is the last thing you remember?

Going to bed, in my quarters. I don't know how long ago that was. How long have I been gone?

I am not certain
, Spock admits. It has been two point one hours since I noticed your absence, but I estimate it could have happened any time between our chess game last night and 0715 this morning.

I take it you don't know who could have taken me?


It is only then that it occurs to Spock that Kirk likely does not know the full scope of the situation. No, Jim, and I am afraid the situation is more complicated than you realise. I cannot explain it, but somehow I am the only one who remembers you. Even the computer banks state that you died as a child.

You're saying I don't exist?! The words are accompanied by such a wave of shock and disbelief that Spock has to draw back in order not to become overwhelmed.

Not exactly. If you did not exist we would not be having this conversation. I am saying the universe has altered, and as yet I am unsure how to put things right. A memory comes back to Spock. Do you remember the incident with the Guardian of Forever? I believe a similar situation resulted from my failure to save myself.

There is silence in response, and for one, heart-stopping moment, Spock worries that the connection has been lost. But then, almost wryly, Maybe, but I can assure you there are no people from my childhood bearing a striking resemblance to either of us.

A conclusion that Spock has already come to. From the little Kirk has told him about Tarsus, it seems like his survival was due to nothing more than his own ingenuity and stubbornness. He is certain Kirk would have mentioned any unusual adult assistance.

So if no one remembers me, who do they think is the captain? You?

No. The captain is a man called Jacob Ellison.


Kirk's reaction to his words is unprecedented. Jacob Ellison? You're certain? How old is he? The questions come thick and fast, confusing Spock with their intensity.

Around thirty-five, I believe, he sends back. Why?

Kirk's mind-voice is almost frantic. It's him. It has to be him. He's the key. He- Kirk cuts himself off suddenly, fear surging through the link. Something's coming. I can feel it. Help me, Spock. I-

The link cuts off mid word, setting Spock's heart pounding. Jim? Jim! he sends back, as strongly as he can manage, but the connection has gone silent. Not broken – and Spock is endlessly grateful for that mercy – but blocked in some way that he can't break through.

Shakily, he uncurls himself and goes to sit back in front of his computer, still listening intently for any sign of Kirk. There is none. It appears his only option now is to try and act on the few pieces of information Kirk was able to pass on before something stopped him.

He turns on the computer and begins looking for information on Captain Ellison.

As before, he begins with the Starfleet database. But unlike before, his search immediately bears fruit. Jacob Ellison has a long record, filled with medals, and commendations, and the distinction of being the youngest captain in Starfleet history. It appears he has taken over Kirk's life in more ways than one.

Spock starts at the beginning and reads through the entire file, looking for anything that might help him uncover the truth.

Some time later he closes the file, forcing down a wave of frustration. Apart from his record bearing a disturbing resemblance to Kirk's, there is nothing about Ellison that would confirm Kirk's belief that he is the key.

Spock sits back in his chair, thinking. Kirk's reaction implies that he knew Ellison. Perhaps researching that connection would give him the information he needs.

Renewed, Spock dives back into the archives, and it isn't long before he finds a connection. Ellison's mother, a Commodore Roberta Ellison, once served as Chief Navigator on the USS Endeavour. The captain of which was one George Kirk. According to the information Spock has found, George and Roberta were friends, and it is not out of the realm of possibility that their sons were similarly acquainted.

A little more digging shows that he was correct, and turns up a picture of a young James Kirk and a young Ellison with their arms around each other. But it also appears that there are no pictures or descriptions of the two families together past Kirk's death.

Following what Kirk would refer to as a "hunch", he brings up the list of survivors of the Tarsus IV massacre and searches for Ellison's name. Sure enough, he gets a match. Evidently the strain of one of their sons surviving and one not was too much for the friendship between the two families. Spock wonders briefly if that was the case in his own reality.

Spock pauses briefly, considering, then brings up a different list, one he has consulted before, during the situation with Anton Karidian. Last time there were nine names, including James Kirk. This time there are still nine, and Spock feels no surprise at the revelation that the ninth name, instead of James Kirk, is Jacob Ellison.

Spock sits back in his chair and thinks over what he has learned. Fact: The James Kirk of this reality is dead, having died on Tarsus at the age of thirteen. Fact: The Jacob Ellison of this reality was also on Tarsus and has taken Kirk's place as one of the nine people who had the dubious privilege of seeing Kodos in person and living to talk about it. Inference: The change that created this timeline occurred on Tarsus and involved Ellison surviving instead of Kirk.

Frowning, Spock continues. Fact: The path of Ellison's career bears a startling resemblance to that of Kirk's. Fact: Kirk is somewhere unknown and being menaced by a being or beings, also unknown. Inference: This situation was not an accident.

In which case there is a good chance that Ellison is aware of the situation, and possibly responsible for it. Conclusion: He must confront Ellison.

Decision made, Spock turns off the computer and stands. As he once told Kirk, there is no time like the present.

"Captain" Ellison is not in his quarters, but it doesn't take long for Spock to track him down to the observation deck.

Spock hesitates for a second at the door before going in, struck by a memory. One of the first conversations he and Kirk ever had took place here, the result of a chance meeting. Up until then Spock had been dubious about the admiralty's choice of commander, but the look on Kirk's face as he looked out at the stars and talked about the beauty and wonder of the universe touched something deep inside Spock and made him want to get to know the other man better. It is not a decision he has ever regretted.

Spock suppresses a sigh and pushes the memory away. He is here for a reason; to find out Ellison's role in all of this, and use that information to get Kirk back. If he is going to save his friend, he cannot allow sentimentality to interfere. Bracing himself, he steps forward and enters the room.

Ellison is staring out at the stars, his hands clasped behind his back. He turns as Spock approaches. "Ah," he says. "Spock. You know, I was just thinking about you."

Spock raises an eyebrow. "Indeed?" He wonders if perhaps Ellison has been monitoring him. If so, the element of surprise will have been lost.

But all Ellison says is, "Yes, I have some ideas for the colony I'd like to run by you."

Spock stares at him, but his expression doesn't change from mild interest. Aside from the stress lines on his forehead, which could be caused by the importance and volatility of their mission, there is no sign he is hiding anything, let alone the disappearance of a celebrated Starfleet captain and associated massive changes in the timeline.

A lesser man might begin to doubt himself, but Spock has made a decision and intends to see it through. "What do you know of James Kirk?" he asks abruptly.

Ellison's expression flickers. It's barely noticeable – a fraction of a second at most – and if Spock hadn't been watching carefully he would have missed it. As it is, he catches enough to avoid being fooled by the look of blank confusion that crosses Ellison's face. "Nothing," he says with a shrug. "Why? Who was he?"

Spock fixes him with a look. "I believe you know very well who he was," he says. "He was, and is, the captain of this ship, a position you have usurped."

Ellison gives a short laugh. "Listen, Spock, I think you should go see McCoy. You're obviously not feeling well."

"I am fine," Spock tells him. "More so than you will be if you proceed in feigning ignorance." He stares at Ellison. "You were on Tarsus IV," he says, and holds up a hand as Ellison starts to respond. "James Kirk was also there. According to the records, he died on Tarsus."

"A lot of people died on Tarsus," Ellison replies bitterly.

"Yes," Spock agrees. "But James Kirk was not meant to be one of them."

Ellison's eyes flash with anger. "Oh?" he asks sharply. "And who are you to say who was meant to die? What makes this James Kirk more deserving of life than anyone else?"

"Nothing," Spock replies. "I do not seek to determine who is more deserving. I seek only to restore the timeline, and I believe that you are the key."

Ellison snorts. "Me? That's ridiculous. Everything you're saying is insane."

"I do not think so," Spock says. He takes a step forward, lowering his voice intently. "I understand why you are reluctant to admit to it," he says, allowing a note of compassion to enter his voice. "From what I have inferred, were the universe the way it should be, you would be dead, and if that is the case, I have sympathy for you. But surely you must understand that your life is not worth the many lives that have and will be lost because of James Kirk's absence."

He turns to the stars, studying them almost absently. "You spoke of protecting the colony," he says. "Were the universe the way it should be, there would be no need to protect the colony from the Klingons, as we would not be at war with them."

He glances at Ellison and adds, "This is not the way things should be, and I believe you know that. Please, help me to put things right."

Once again, something flickers in Ellison's eyes, but then his expression hardens. "I'll say this one more time," he says, "I don't know what you're talking about. And if you don't stop talking nonsense I'll have you locked up."

"That is unfortunate," Spock tells him. "I had hoped I could convince you to work with me. It would make everything so much simpler." He gives Ellison a hard look and adds, "But make no mistake; with or without your help, I will set things back the way they were."

With that, he turns and strides out of the room, mind already at work on a new plan. He meant what he said to Ellison; he will fix this mess and get Kirk back, even if it is the last thing he ever does.

He just has to figure out how.

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