Chapter 1: Charon
What it means to be captain. (100 words)
The Ensign is nervous. It shows in his sweaty brow and shivering frame. His eyes dart to and fro. "Steady," I order. He nods. The three Klingon warriors spot our group of seven officers. They open fire. Their disruptor blasts are claps of thunder and flashes of lightning in the stillness. Spock fires twice. One Klingon is down and another wounded. I fire twice. Spock's wounded Klingon falls and the remaining warrior narrowly escapes my second blast. He knows he has lost. He charges and fires his weapon once before Spock downs him. The Ensign drops to the ground. Dead.
Chapter 2: Proteus
Truth Time with Kirk and Uhura. (400 words)
"Why do you do this?" she asks. I hate the look in her eyes. It's the look that says she thinks I'm smarter than this, and she wonders why that's not enough to make me stop chasing pain and disorder and mayhem in dark, anonymous places. I laugh jeeringly. Then, I cough. Blood hits the dirty pavement beneath me. She sighs deeply and heaves me up. I'm barely standing and leaning too heavily against her. She doesn't let the strain show in her face. "I'm taking you back to your dorm, Jim." I want to tell her not to bother, but all I can get out is a badly-mangled slur that even her advanced studies in Xenolinguistics would have a hard time helping her to discern.
I loss some time between the club's slimy back alley and the door of my dorm. Uhura fishes around in my pockets for my keycard, and I find enough cognizance to leer suggestively at her even if I can't form the words of the smarmy pick-up line that goes with the look just now. She rolls her eyes, and shoves the keycard into the slot. The door opens and she half-drags me inside. The moment I feel the edge of my bed pressing against the backs of my knees, I let go of Uhura altogether and gravity does the rest. The room spins alarmingly and there's a moment I'm sure I've fallen to the floor, but everything settles eventually. For the most part.
I'm sure she's going to leave now that her moral obligation is fulfilled, but she doesn't. She stays and sits beside me on the bed. For the briefest second, her hand hovers over the largest bruise on my face, thankfully not touching it. "Why?" she asks again.
I clear my throat a little, testing out my vocal chords. There's a slim chance I can make myself intelligible if I speak slowly enough. "You're born and then you die. Everything in between is just so many meaningless moments in time."
I immediately regret my words. The other look was better than the simple sadness, too much like pity, in her gaze now. She leans down and puts her mouth on mine. It's not really a kiss. Just a touch and she moves away. I stare blankly in my admittedly alcohol-muddled confusion. She shakes her head as if somehow disappointed. Then, she leaves.
Chapter 3: Thalassa
A song of the sea. (100 words)
Ancient mariners thought that their sea was boundless. They thought that her secrets were unfathomable; that her reach extended even beyond the scope of imagining. They thought that to sail to the end of her would be to sail to the end of the world. Well, my sea IS boundless. Her secrets ARE unfathomable. Her reach DOES extend beyond the scope of imagination. To sail to the end of her would be to sail to the end of REALITY. What manner of sea could begin to dwarf my own as thoroughly as she has dwarfed the ancient mariners' fabled waters?
Chapter 4: Janus
There are exactly two days out of every year on which my first officer requests personal leave. (200 words)
There are exactly two days out of every year on which my first officer requests personal leave. The first time he made the requests, I found myself surprised. I had already set the days aside for him. He thanked me and departed, and I was left wondering exactly when it was I had learned to discern the acute despair that forever lingers in the dark depths of his carefully impenetrable stare.
The first leave day is an acknowledgment of death. On this day he can be found standing like a statue in empty transporter rooms; hands clasped respectfully behind his back, head slightly bowed in humility or guilt or just simple sadness.
The second leave day is a remembrance of life. On this day he stalks tirelessly among the plants and flora of the arboretum or sits in solitary corners and plays a seemingly endless and hauntingly beautiful melody on his lyre.
I keep watch over him on these anniversaries of life and death. Uhura and I both do. We stand together, protective sentinels, keeping just beyond his notice --or so we think-- and watch him for...I'm not sure what. Obviously not for emotional breakdowns. Still....we keep watch.
Chapter 5: Hyperion
He's stopped calling me 'Dad'. (100 words)
I smile and tell him that I'll be back before he knows it. I know it's not enough. Every time I say them, the words mean less and less. But the words are all I have for him. He's stopped looking at me like I'm some mythical hero descended from on high to rescue him. He's stopped asking if he can come with me. He's stopped calling me 'Dad'. He probably doesn't even notice the way he stumbles around saying the word until finally letting his sentences trail off without it. He probably doesn't notice. And I don't mention it.
Chapter 6: Rhea
"What kind of father would you be anyway, Jimmy," she whispers, arms wrapped protectively around her swollen belly. (300 words)
"What kind of father would you be anyway, Jimmy," she whispers, arms wrapped protectively around her swollen belly. The words sound both hateful and pitiful in the overdramatic timbre of her Southern twang. "All you ever cared about is this goddamned ship," she continues; definitely more hateful than pitiful this time. Her eyes shift to the window where we can both see a glowing curve of deep blue atmosphere set against a backdrop of open space. Earth. She's going there, I think. They are going there. And they aren't coming back.
"Stay," I blurt out on impulse alone. "Marry me. We can figure this thing out together. Whatever it takes."
She doesn't look at me. She just shakes her head sadly, gaze locked on the planet beyond the glass with obvious longing. "I'm done with space, Jimmy. I've never loved it like you do. I like solid ground beneath my feet and blue sky overhead." Her mouth curves sardonically. "Guess I'm just a silly little country girl that way."
"What can I say to make you stay?" I try again. Because I have to. Because the thought of being separated from that little life inside her makes everything I have ever accomplished seem like nothing.
"You can say you'll give up this ship. That you'll accept that promotion to Admiral and come back to Earth with me. We could make a life for ourselves." I clench my jaw tightly and say nothing. She smiles a bitter, knowing smile, and dismisses our entire conversation with just a look. "Goodbye, Jimmy," she says. "I hope she keeps you warm at night." She leaves me standing alone in the semi-darkness of my quarters with nothing but the hum of engines and a view of the Earth and the stars to keep me company.
Chapter 7: Calypso
"She's one of the rare few who get another chance out there," Pike tells me. He has that patient look in his eyes that tells me he already knows what my decision will be. (300 words)
The shipyard is packed. With the skeletons of ships yet in their infancy and, too, with the hulking masses of those put to pasture. Even still, I spot her immediately. In the span of turf between the other two; the one designated for something else, something special. "She's one of the rare few who get another chance out there," Pike tells me. He has that patient look in his eyes that tells me he already knows what my decision will be. "She's being completely refitted. Top to bottom. You'll barely recognize her when they're done."
I laugh dryly. "Why are you doing this to me again?"
"Maybe because you've turned down Admiral more times than either you OR I can count and I'm finally starting to get the hint that you'd rather not be regulated to a desk," suggests Pike with a chuckle of his own. "Maybe because I like you. Did you ever think of that?"
My eyes stray to her. She is waiting as patiently as Pike, it seems. Standing on a dance floor, holding out a hand for me to take... "Fine," I say at last. It feels like I have already said it a dozen times before the word even leaves my mouth. "When can I start re-assembling my crew?"
"I've already contacted most of your former senior staff," Pike says, smug as all get out. "McCoy's the one who suggested I bring you here."
"Of course he was," I reply. I turn to her again. She's still waiting for me. I can't shake the notion that she will ALWAYS be waiting, hand held out for me to take the lead. Helpless to stop myself, I do what I will always do; what I feel bound to do. I reach out and accept her offered hand.
Chapter 8: Prometheus
On the first anniversary of the Vulcan Tragedy, Enterprise's crew gathers to commemorate the colonization of New Vulcan. (400 words)
I am all for commerating one year of successful colonization on New Vulcan. And I am more than honored to be among those chosen to represent Starfleet at said occasion. But the function has been about two hours too long, and it started about two hours ago. It is not until the third speech in a row about the logic of perseverance that I notice a significant absence on my team. My first officer, of all people, has somehow escaped this evening of mass torture. I quietly excuse myself, siting my weak Human bladder as a cheeky excuse when the Vulcan ambassador on my left gives me a holier-than-thou moue.
It does not take long to find Spock. Just down the corridor is a massive Arabian-style balcony overlooking V'e'tsis, the capitol city of Namautau, the largest of New Vulcan's colonies. The place is beautiful...and green. Not a desert in sight. I approach the balcony, but stop up short when I realize that Spock is not alone. He is trading curt words with someone. I almost leave them to it, but my ship's name being spoken stops me in my tracks.
"The Enterprise's mission can continue on without you. It is more logical that you should be here, carrying on the legacy of your ancestors." It's then that I realize that the other speaker can be none other than Spock's father, Sarek.
"One half of my ancestry lies with Humanity," Spock smoothly retorts. Leaving off the 'Thanks to you' that I might have added in his place.
"And half of it lies with me," Sarek replies. I don't realize that the man is storming off in a muted Vulcan huff until he appears in front of me out of the blue, looking not at all surprised to see me obviously eavesdropping in the hallway. He nods to me, but says nothing as he walks away and disappears around the corner.
When it becomes clear that Spock will not be going after his father, I go out onto the balcony with him. He, too, seems unsurprised by my presence. He merely shifts his dark serious gaze to meet mine and tilts his head once. "Captain."
I nod as well and we both turn to study the green rolling hills of New Vulcan. "Hey, Spock?" I say, after a fashion. "Thanks for coming back and being my first officer."
Chapter 9: Pandora
Kirk's eighth birthday. (100 words)
She smiles. The sunlight behind her turns her hair into shifting strands of gold. "Go on! Blow out your candles, Jim!"
I do as she says until the eight flickering flames on my cake are extinguished.
"What did you wish for?" Her sunny glowing image asks from the computer screen.
I know what my wish is. I wish I was there in the sun with her instead of here during the worse rain storm in years with Sam, sick from a cold, and Frank, sick from the bottle.
"Sam says wishes don't come true if you say them out loud."
Chapter 10: Helene
Kirk's in a predicament, and AS ALWAYS it's McCoy's job to bail him out. (200 words)
"What the Hell did Kajal get you into this time?"
I think about the picture I most make, sitting in my underwear on a dirty street curb on Route 66 with a shiny-new tramp stamp of a Martian drinking a Piña Colada on my back side. "Bones, I'm really not in the mood for another 'I told so' about Lita."
"Too damn bad," Bones scowls. He tosses me a rolled-up pair of clothes with something like disappointment in his eyes. "I said from the start she was bad news. Your taste in women is becoming more questionable by the day."
"My taste in men is even worse," I remark off-handedly. When Bones flashes me a hurt look, I know I've inadvertently stepped in it. I turn a serious eye on him as we make our way to his car. "Bones," I quietly say before we get in. He pauses with his hand on the handle to give me a dark, surly look. "Why'd you turn me down that night?"
He doesn't speak for so long I think he's not going to answer me. Then, in a low gruff tone, "You're a heartbreaker, Jim. You always will be. Now, get in."
Chapter 11: Leda
An awkward morning after. (200 words)
She's sitting on the edge of the bed when I wake up. The light peeking in through the cracks in the closed curtains casts wavering shadows which obscure her expression.
I want to ask what she's thinking, but I don't want to remind her that I'm the guy she went home with last night. I don't want to see the regret that will likely fill her eyes when she recalls the bar and the drunken conversation about the prick that dumped her and what came after...
"I know you're awake, Jim," she says without looking at me. She never really looks at me, I realize.
"Just wondering how long it will take you to say this was all a mistake."
"I'm sorry." She finally faces me. "This can't happen again. It won't," she adds.
My smile is sharp enough to cut as I retreat behind it; as she lets it define who she needs me to be so that this all becomes less complicated. "Fine," I play along. "But, you have to at least tell me your first name, considering--"
"Not gonna happen," she cuts me off and, just like that, we're back to the safety of square one.
Chapter 12: Pan
The perils of being in love with your best friend. (200 words)
It's not the first time I catch that look in his eyes; the one that makes me feel like he's a recovering alcoholic and I'm his drink of choice; the one that leaves my skin tingling like he's been running his hands over me instead just his eyes; the one that stops me in my tracks every time. No, it's not the first time I've seen that look. But, it IS the first time I've acted on it; the first time I've forced him to acknowledge it.
And it's not easy like it's been with so many others. There's nothing simple about leaning over to meet him lip to lip, chest to chest, teeth to teeth. Nothing simple about the strength with which he pulls me impossibly closer the second I open my mouth to let him in, heat to searing heat. Nothing simple about the way he surges away from me only seconds later with an angry spark in his eyes almost like betrayal.
"Bones," I begin, but I find I don't know what to say to that look. He doesn't give me the chance, anyway. The front door slams shut behind him before another word passes my lips.
Chapter 13: Deimos
Inching back to normalcy. (100 words)
It's a week before he talks to me again. We spent every day in between gliding around one another like a dance where the partners are never supposed to meet. Acknowledging each other's presence by way of avoidance. Communication inverted.
Then, one day he looks at me. Actually looks. Just a glance over the PADD he's been scowling down at for most the morning.
And everything in me tenses; ready for anything he might want to get off his chest about the kiss, the reason he stormed out, anything!
"You know that new flagship?" He asks conversationally. "The Enterprise? It's completed."
Chapter 14: Atlas
Captains are faced with many tough decisions. (100 words)
The twin planets are glowing spherical lights against the surrounding black. Both are home to billions of sentient beings. Both are slaves to the whim of an incorporeal, omnipresent madman.
The vision of him that he wishes me to see winks from the viewscreen. His eyes glitter with wild delight as he awaits my answer.
The choice is simple to him. Either one planet or the other. He will only spare one. Those are the rules of the galactic game that only he is playing.
"Well, Captain," he prompts, mercurial mood switching from gleeful to impatient. "What is your decision?"
Chapter 15: Metis
Of fathers and figures. (100 words)
"What was he like?" I ask, barely paying attention as I slide a rook into position.
The old vulcan raises a brow at me as he considers his next move. "James T. Kirk?"
"No," I say, watching Mr. Spock's hands instead of meeting his eyes. "My father. You said you knew him."
"We were aquaintances," he agrees. "What do you wish to know?"
"I guess I want to know what kind of man he was."
"He was intelligent, resourceful and, on occasion, almost logical," says Mr. Spock, casually going in for the kill. Checkmate. "He was very much like you."
Chapter 16: Selene
The one thing just beyond Jim Kirk's reach. (100 words)
For me, love is a phantasm just beyond my field of vision that vanishes when I try to get a better look. It's Spock's hand brushing Uhura's as they pass, otherwise professionally, in the hallways. It's that look in Bones' eyes that he tries not to let me see anymore. It's the hope in my son's face that vanishes with the words "not this time." It's the old story of a man who once gave his life so that me and my mother and countess others could live. It's my mom waving goodbye with both a smile and a tear.
Chapter 17: Amalthea
How otherwise unremarkable encounters change our lives without our being the wiser. (200 words)
I can barely see in the hazy, smoky darkness of the bowling alley. And, alright, more than a little of my visual impairment can be put down to the large quantity of alcohol singing through my veins. I gave up counting of the number of drinks on my tab roughly three drinks ago. The place is like the broken down skeleton of what it used to be. The walls are centuries old dark wood paneling and the floors are sometimes sticky, sometimes slick under foot, but 'Witchy Woman' is drifting nostalgically out of the ancient sound system so it all fits together to make the overall mood of the place more important than its grit and grim and wear and tear.
And my mind draws an effortless constrast between the dark alley and the woman I've just met. Justine. She's the inverse of the place; all new and unjaded. Watching her as she rolls her bright red ball down the sleek wooden lane is a study in exhuberance. And I can think of nothing beyond the fact that her lipstick perfectly matches the ball as it collides with the nine pins.
She whirls around in victory. Our eyes meet.
Chapter 18: Phobos
How a father's legacy changed his two sons. (200 words)
The banquet hall is empty now. The event banner, once pinned to the wall, hangs off-kilter, but I can still read the gist. 25 Year Memorial Dinner for the U.S.S. Kelvin; a banquet for the survivors and their families. Sam's still at our table, staring out the frosted windows. He has a look on his face as bitter as the complimentary drink in his firm grip and he doesn't spare me a glance when I join him.
"Mom left," I tell him, wanting to take the drink from his hand but knowing what will happen if I try. "She went out the back entrance. She didn't want to brave the sea of well-wishers this time."
Sam takes a drink and then grimaces. "They all call Dad a hero. For what he did that day." He seems to finally see me there beside him, and the realization doesn't look like a pleasant one. "You know, they call you a hero, too."
I can't find the words to reply to that. He shakes his head as if warning me not to try.
"The truth is," he says. "Heroes are just people either too arrogant or too stupid to be afraid anymore."
Chapter 19: Adrasteia
Time waits for no man. Not even Captain Kirk. (100 words)
A year has passed since I last saw my son. The fact doesn't click until I arrive to find that the pint-sized boy of nine I left behind has grown a good foot in the intertim. We greet one another not like father and son, but like two anemsiacs just regaining memories of how to communicate with other people. The time isn't measured in digits, but in the distance that has somehow sprung up between us like overgrown weeds.
"Hey, Jake," I say, taking the first step to close that distance even while knowing I'll leave again before I do.
Chapter 20: Ananke
Fate theory. (100 words)
I really can't remember which part of Pike's recruitment pitch did its work. I can't recall the instant some combination of his words struck together to ignite the spark in my belly which drove me to show up at that shipyard the next morning. Bones would say it doesn't matter; that whatever HAS to happen DOES happen so that the universe falls neatly into place and order can once again conquer chaos. But, sometimes I think it's even more simple than that. Sometimes I think my fate was decided by one simple fact: I never COULD turn down a dare.