“Are you out of your mind?” Bones said less-than-helpfully, as he and Jim walked the well-trodden path from Medbay to the bridge. “That sounds even more ridiculous than the night out in Riverside, and you know how well that ended, don’t you?”
“Don’t remind me,” Jim said. Contrary to his chief medical officer’s belief, Jim had vivid memories of the ill-fated sojourn to his homeland by the crew of the Enterprise and its current passengers. In an effort to usher in a peaceful future after their stormy past, he’d invited his officers and those commanding Khan’s crew to have a few friendly drinks in his local bar – a place that held so many memories for him, both good and bad. The night had started well, although there had been a few angry exchanges between the keen local billiards and darts champions and their guests, including several demands for money to be returned once they discovered they’d never stood a chance at winning. And everyone but Jim agreed that the night had been a success (he’d ended up sniffling into his beer – being comforted by Spock, of all people – whilst drunkenly waxing rhapsodic about his initiation into Starfleet and how he really missed “the good old days”).
Maybe Khan had felt the same way, though he’d hardly showed it that night or any other time. But that’s why Jim was determined that the Botany Bay’s crew should have a chance to celebrate their own “time”. Hadn’t it been hard enough for them being hurled into this century, already scorned for the actions of their leader, even if he had either been pardoned or paid for the majority of the crimes of which he was accused? (The casualties had been minimal – after all, it was hard to miss a gigantic ship careening out of the sky towards the city, and most people had escaped serious injury.) But there was still plenty of death and destruction to atone for, and this the Augments had agreed to do by accepting their original sentence of banishment. They would leave behind their world, the only one they’d ever known (unfamiliar though this era was), and would be ferried to a new world. And it was Jim’s job to get them there.
But that didn’t mean the “sentence” had to be a sombre one. No one had said Khan’s crew had to be put back into cryosleep, or even be kept separate from the Enterprise crew during the journey. Indeed, many of them had insisted on working alongside the ship’s crew: learning, teaching, and enjoying mingling with the new faces, which made sense, seeing as how most of them had only met briefly on a drunken night-out in a ramshackle dive in Nowheresville, Iowa. (Or so Bones had called it at the time. Jim wasted no time in reminding Bones that that was where they had met. Bones had fobbed him off by saying the only thing he remembered was some nausea-inducing shuttle flight.)
Unfortunately, Jim’s ideas for these cultural exchanges tended to be the sort of ill-conceived (or at least tipsily-conceived) notion that his friends had come to expect of him.
There had been the “Trivial Pursuit Night,” where Jim had been proud that he’d been able to secure a 21st Century Edition (the earliest he could find). The game had ended prematurely when Otto and Cupcake nearly came to blows over a Sports and Leisure question about the number of actors who’d portrayed “M” in Bond films. Which led not only to a week spent solely watching all 250 Bond films, but also to another lengthy discussion about Harry Potter, followed by two days and nights spent waiting for the Augments to read all the books and watch all the films so they could argue about that.
And despite Spock reminding Jim that calling Nyota “Hermione” would end badly – Bones had healed the resulting black eye with an emphatic I told you so – Jim found himself enjoying the walk down memory lane as much as his passengers seemed to enjoy learning about it for the first time.
He was even coming to understand what his uncle saw in the restoration of old cars; why just learn about combustion engines when you could repair one of the most beautiful automobiles of its time? Only to have your obnoxious nephew drive it over a cliff… Jim may have felt a little guilty about that now. But only a little.
Harry Potter and James Bond proved only the beginning of the discoveries and rediscoveries shared amongst the two crews. If anything, these exchanges, heated debates, and bonding over the most ridiculous of things went a long way to demonstrate that human was human, despite era, gender, rank, or (perhaps most importantly) genetic make-up.
“That is not what Tolkien intended,” muttered Rodrigues during the credits of one of the interminable Hobbit/Lord of the Rings sagas. (Jim had lost track of where they’d reached in the stories. Having lived a life that often felt similar to that of the protagonists in many of the epics, he too had felt a bit let down by the quality of story-telling, not to mention the over-reliance on archaic special-effects which film-makers seemed to insist on cramming into every moment of their films during that era.)
The Augment sitting next to Rodrigues in the Enterprise’s small cinema un-flatteringly spat a piece of popcorn back into the container she held. “And you, of course, know this how?”
“Are you blind?” Rodrigues growled. Beside him, Ling rolled her perfect eyes. “They’ve added too much, taken out too much, and everyone looks too…pretty. Hell, even the damned dragon wouldn’t scare anyone.”
“I, on the other hand, liked it very much,” a voice said behind them.
“Sorry, Khan, didn’t realise you’d enjoy something where the characters didn’t burst into song every five minutes,” Rodrigues snorted.
What the hell…? Jim glanced at Khan, who smirked good-naturedly at his crewman and replied, “Nothing wrong with that, you know.”
“Leave him alone, Rodrigues," Ling said. "It’s your poor taste we’re discussing here, not his.”
“Hey!” both Khan and Rodrigues cried in mock-offense. Ling smiled at her victory.
Kirk’s curiosity wasn’t satisfied by these cryptic remarks, but Khan remained silent while the other two went back to bickering about CGI and hairy feet.
That had been two weeks ago. Tonight's entertainment was “1980s Cocktail Hour.” Bones had given his opinion that this wasn’t such a great idea (only in rather blunter language), but Jim thought their guests might enjoy it as much as his own crew. After all, he’d subjected the Augments to the 23rd century Iowa bar scene, it was only fair that the Enterprise crew get a taste of Long Island Iced Tea, wine coolers, and Zima. And as the Iowa outing had shown, sooner or later every human – even the enhanced ones – eventually succumbed to the effects of alcohol.
Mötly Crüe and A Flock of Seagulls blared from the Enterprise’s recreation deck, forcing people to raise their voices in order to be heard, but a sudden bellow made Jim think Khan had taken things a little too far.
“They what?!” Khan roared, and for a moment Jim thought the glass in his hand would shatter from the vibrations alone.
“Uh…they made several different musical versions of The Wizard of Oz,” Jim squeaked.
Khan seized the Captain's upper arms in a vice-like grip and stared at him with eyes blazing. This is it, Jim thought. I’m going to be ripped to pieces by a crazed augmented frozen man all because of a stupid girl in a blue gingham dress and her little dog, too. This is not how I want to die. Maybe I can at least finish my drink first...
But his wish was thwarted. The drink sailed out of his hand as he was roughly pulled towards the Augment and embraced until his bones began to rattle. “Excellent!” Khan crowed in his ear. “That’s my all-time favourite!”
“Okaayyyy,” Jim mumbled hesitantly. Still trapped in Khan’s arms, he looked warily around the room for support while patting Khan on the back in a wary I-think-you-may-be-just-a-bit-(more)-crazy fashion.
“A little early for that kind of thing, isn’t it?” Joachin remarked, heading towards the replicators.
Jim felt his face redden. “All I did was mention The Wizard of Oz.”
“Oh, god.” Kati raised a hand to her forehead in a mock-swoon. “He’ll never shut up now.”
“Don’t listen to them,” Khan said. He released the captain, and Jim noticed a twinkle in those pale eyes when he stepped back. “I love that show; movies, musicals, spin-offs, anything.”
Returning from the replicator, Joachin held out a fresh drink to Jim, who accepted it gratefully. “Yup, a real friend of Dorothy,” he deadpanned.
“Kirk, did I not just tell you to ignore them?” Khan growled.
Jim’s blood pressure inched up a notch and he took a step backwards, but Joachin seemed unaffected. “Don't worry – if he kills you, it's all just part of the circle of life.”
“For god’s sake, Jo, don’t get him started on The Lion King!" Kati muttered.
“You’re all fired,” Khan said to his opinionated crew but Jim could tell the man wasn't serious.
Jim looked back and forth between the Augments. “What am I missing?” he asked.
“Don’t you know?" Joachin said in surprise. "Thought he’d have bored you with this long ago.”
“Strangely enough, I didn't have much inclination to discuss musical theatre when we first met,” Jim said. Khan, he noticed, didn’t even have the good grace to look sheepish. He just smiled. A genuine smile, not a smirk. That astounded Jim almost more than the revelation of Khan’s questionable taste in the arts.
“Do you not like music or theatre, Kirk?” Khan asked. The excited look in his eyes suggested that Jim had better choose his next words carefully.
“I’ve been known to enjoy…er….Shakespeare…” Jim said, playing for time.
“Don’t let him fool you,” Bones said, sidling up and not-so-discreetly looking Kati up and down. (He’d no doubt argue that his near-leering was professional interest.) “Jim was only at the play because he was after that little Juliet.”
“She wasn’t Juliet, she was Lady Macbeth!” Jim corrected, before realising he’d put his foot in it. “I mean, I wasn’t just watching Shakespeare because of a girl.” Which was mostly true. Eventually.
“Kirk, I’m very disappointed,” Khan said.
Khan’s burley bodyguard snorted loudly. “Says the man who made me sit through Grease, how many times…? And don’t tell me you were interested in the cars.”
“Shut up, Joachin,” Khan said archly. His face had coloured slightly.
Kati, ever the diplomat (and much to Bones’ delight), took the doctor’s arm. “Doctor, allow me to change the subject and ask how one should care for a tribble. I seem to have acquired one or two of them.” Bones spared a glance at Kati’s superior, who pretended he hadn’t heard them, then shook his head and followed her as she moved away.
Jim found himself strangely at a loss for words. “So…your crew don’t share your love of musicals?” he finally managed, still wary of eliciting some new unwelcome response.
“No, sadly." Khan frowned. "In fact, as you can see, my interest only serves to generate much amusement among them. Despite my efforts to educate them on the beauty of a well-sung recitative.”
“Philistines,” Jim said, hoping to lighten the mood.
To his relief, Khan smiled. “Perhaps there are some among your crew who do appreciate them?”
Jim had no doubt that was case, although off the top of his head he couldn’t think of anyone who’d ever expressed that sentiment. Of course, aside from Scotty’s love of technical journals, Spock’s fondness for chess, and Sulu’s twin passions of botany and fencing, Jim didn't know anyone’s hobbies in much detail. His own had always been history, about which he’d now acquired 73 new sources of information. And he really wanted to keep them happy if possible, not least because when they were unhappy, bad things seemed to happen.
“I’m sure if we offered to screen a few of your favourites, you’d find there were plenty of people who would join you to watch,” Jim said.
Sulu turned to the captain, “Captain, we have a problem: the replicators have stopped working.”
“What!?” Scotty had overheard and his voice was aghast. Jim wondered if the engineer’s panic was fear of his reputation as a miracle-worker being in danger or horror at being unable to replicate more drinks. A moment later the engineer was pressing buttons in an apparently random pattern with increasing desperation, but the replicator stubbornly refused to co-orperate. “Cap’n, I dinna ken what’s happened," he said finally. "It’s like they’re fused.”
Jim leaned in to study the malfunctioning contraption – how he hated to rely on these things sometimes – but was none the wiser for his cursory inspection. His interest in engines leaned more towards the propulsion side of things than the chicken-soup-dispensing sort.
“You’ll not be telling me we’re out of drinks now, will ye, laddy?” Khan’s crewman McPherson’s brogue got decidedly stronger as he leaned in to have a look.
“Not if I can help it!” Scotty countered.
He stepped aside and watched as McPherson tried to grasp the edge of the panel and pull it open, but succeeded only in tearing several fingernails. “Bollocks.”
Jim heard a low sigh behind him and Khan shouldered past them. “I shall do it.” He flexed his fingers then tried to pry the plate loose. After several moments he gave up, frowning in annoyance. “Damn, this worked before.”
“You’re not going around breaking off bits of my ship, are you?” Jim asked, filling his voice with false outrage.
Remarkably, Khan blushed slightly. “I may have...opened the door to the brig awhile back…”
“What?! When you were supposed to be locked up?” Jim was shocked. And not a little confused. Why had he chosen to stay in it then? The noisy chatter of conversation around him reminded him why. Of course, Khan’s crew. He’d never jeopardise their safety, even if it meant his own incarceration, however temporary.
“Excuse me, Captain, but if I could just draw your attention back to the lack of drinks…” McPherson politely interjected. Clearly, that crisis took precedence over any crisis of conscience Jim and Khan had suffered in the past.
“Obviously we’ll need to have a look at the…” Scotty lapsed into engineering technobabble and Jim mostly stopped listening.
McCoy, who with Kati had strolled back, added his two cents into the conversation lamenting the dearth of alcohol. As he rarely touched spirits, Spock was not so concerned about the drinks dilemma. “You might utilise this time to watch another film. Did you not say there were many your crew had yet to see?”
Khan nodded thoughtfully. The crewmen standing nearby erupted into chatter about which genre they would explore next – clearly they had not agreed upon this earlier, perhaps not even three-hundred years earlier, if the present lively debate was anything to go by.
“Everything's just remakes, I don’t think we actually missed that much,” Kati complained.
McCoy grumbled, “Well, how many blasted Superman movies were there in the end?”
“Too many. And Batman,” Uhura added. “There must have been a hundred between them. Never enough Wonder Woman.”
Jim was listening with half-an-ear, his attention divided between the conversation about crap cinema and the extreme lengths the engineers were contemplating going to in order to squeeze more alcohol out of the replicators. Jim thought he heard Scotty say “explosive bolts.” Desperate times evidently called for desperate measures. Although a controlled explosion on board ship was never a good idea (and probably against any number of regulations), Jim knew better than suggest to Scotty he simply divvy up the old and valuable bottle of whisky Jim knew he had stashed in his quarters. Last time he’d mentioned sharing it, Scotty had threatened to sell all their dilithium crystals on eBay.
“The Planet of the Apes series was also remade,” Chekov observed.
Otto was aghast. “But those were classics! I never could decide who were the bad guys and who were the good guys.”
“Riiiiight,” McCoy muttered under his breath, and Kati elbowed him good-naturedly. Unfortunately, the gesture nearly sent the doctor reeling into the wall.
“They also remade Robocop,” Cupcake said.
Trust him to mention something security-related, Jim thought.
Khan grimaced. “Abominable film. ”
“Oh come on, the original was brilliant,” Sulu argued.
Rodrigues shrugged his shoulders. “I’m sure many better films came out the same year. Nineteen eighty-seven, if I remember.”
“Remind me never to play Trivial Pursuit with you again,” McCoy muttered, standing a safer distance from Kati and rubbing at his bruised ribs.
“For example?” Jim asked. He glanced forlornly at his empty glass and then at Scotty and McPherson. They seemed to be very busy. Maybe they’d have those replicators working sooner rather than later.
“According to the database, three hundred and one films were released in 1987,” Spock intoned, head bowed, eyes on the screen of a PADD he’d acquired somewhere. "Predator?" Spock suggested.
“Too scary.” Everyone looked at Ling as though she’d grown a second head.
Spock glanced down at his PADD again. “The Princess Bride?”
"Inconceivable!" Otto shouted.
“Oh, I loved that!” Khan’s pale eyes lit up.
“What a surprise,” Joachin said with a smirk
Khan gave his crewmate a most exasperated look. “Joachin, I’m sure you must have something better to do right now.”
“Nope, nothing other than sitting here waiting for another Screaming Orgasm..."
At this, Chekov spat out his hors d'oeuvres all over the floor, and Jim reflected that he really needed to better familiarise his crew with 20th century culture before attempting one of these get-togethers again.
"...and annoying you. Luckily, I can do both at the same time.”
The walls vibrated with the blast and smoke filled the recreation room. As the air filters embedded in the walls began clearing the clouds of dust, it became obvious that the recalcitrant replicator was more than just recalcitrant now. It was…busted.
“De'il take it, ye bawheid, how much explosives did ye use!?” Jim squinted through the last of the smoke and saw Scotty, red-faced, hand raised, wearing an expression that might have been either sober exasperation or drunken amusement. “Ye were only suppoosed to blow the bloody doors off!”
More proof that there were significant differences between the 1990s and the 23rd century: explosives had become a lot more sophisticated.
“Och, weel, you ken something new every day,” McPherson said airily, and he winked.
Scotty slapped him on the shoulder.
“Dammit man, where we will get the drinks now?”
“Oh, I’ll nip over to Rec Room Five and rustle up a few bevvies for us,” McPherson said amiably.
“I’ll gi’ you a hand,” Scotty said and the doors swooshed closed behind them.
Silence reigned briefly.
“You do realise we won’t see them again,” Bones groused after a few quiet minutes.
Jim sighed. McCoy was probably right; he’d most likely be peeling his chief engineer off the floor later. Oh well, there was always Chekov, though when he looked over at the ensign he had second thoughts. The young genius was currently entertaining Sulu and Kati with a display of how many cocktail cherries he could cram into his mouth at one time.
Hadn’t Khan trained as an engineer? Jim was sure he’d read that somewhere, and the man did have first-hand knowledge of designing star ships. He could think of worse people to ask to help out round the place until they reached their destination.
Jim looked again forlornly at his empty glass, idly wondering how much it would bother the staff to pipe show tunes into Engineering.