Captain James T. Kirk’s ‘oh, yes, I would love to participate in your freaky alien ritual’ smile didn’t even shift as he looked to his right side. “Lieutenant?”
Uhura smiled with the faintest edge of a grimace and moved to speak quickly with the Isharian court liaison that had been assigned to them. This treaty was too important to yield. A source of dilithium, the mineral always in need, and a trade contested by both the Klingon and Romulan empires. Empires that would be happy to move in and offer better terms should the Enterprise fail.
Jim nodded at the Isharian Empress. “One moment, Your Majesty, as I consult with my people.”
The Communications officer reported back to the Captain with something like relief in her eyes. “The staff itself doesn’t read your mind. The value of knowing oneself is cultural, more of a symbol of trust between representative sovereigns.”
The distaste was clear on her tongue as she spoke the final word. With a quick flick of her eyes up and down Kirk’s form, Uhura made it clear what she thought of the Captain being treated as any such thing.
He just smiled brightly at her, professional in words but humor dancing in his eyes. “Thank you, Lieutenant.” Then, to his left, “Mr. Spock?”
“I am detecting a slight electromagnetic feedback from the Empress,” was delivered in a soft Vulcan monotone designed not to carry far. “However, whether this is from the item she is offering or some other property is unclear.”
Jim nodded. “Bones?”
“Don’t even try it. You already know you’re going to touch the damn thing and I’ll patch you up if necessary.”
Kirk’s smile was more genuine as he turned back to the Empress. She was smiling slightly, the severity of her previous expression having gentled.
“Your people do well to place your safety at such a priority. The honor of a lord is carried in the hearts of his subjects.”
“As Captain of the Enterprise, I am pleased to seal our agreement with your planet, Empress.”
She held the staff in her hand towards him, the blue crystal glinting in the light. “Place your hands upon the Caerlann so that you may know thyself and be known.”
Jim stepped forward, hands raising to cup the end of the staff in his palms. He wasn’t expecting much, alien rituals tended to run towards either the foolishly simple or explicitly deadly. Hold a rock for a moment and then smile wasn’t the hardest thing he’d done in the name of the Federation by far.
But as his hands touched the crystal, it began to glow from within. His eyes were caught by the light, mesmerized, as a curl of gold flowed through the crystal and then it dimmed.
Stepping back, he took a sharp breath and a shudder ran through his full body. A quick motion stilled the shift of the Enterprise crew and their instinctual response to their Captain’s ability to find trouble.
Looking up, Kirk’s posture indefinably straightened. The Empress stared at him for a moment, before speaking with a hesitance she had not previously displayed. “You honor us. The Federation treaty is accepted and all of Ishar shall know your name.”
She bowed, suddenly, dropping her head. The courtiers surrounding showed a faint degree of surprise before copying the movement. Jim echoed it more smoothly than could have been reasonably expected, his crew following in response with less grace.
Uhura was the first to speak when they left the transporter platform, rolling her eyes. “One nice calm mission and the next ten will have us running for our lives.”
Kirk took a moment to pop a look of sarcasm her way, for an instant seeing soft curls piled on her head and the faint glint of a circlet before he could blink the vision away. “You know you love it… You’d be bored anywhere else.”
Her snort as she left was both agreement and disdain.
It made Jim smile, an honest soft expression, before giving the order over his shoulder. “Mr. Spock, lay in course to Starbase 14. I’ll be on the bridge shortly.”
He strode through the halls of the Enterprise, feeling the pride in his ship and a melancholy ache that somehow took his steps to the main Observation Room. In the silence of an area unused during alpha shift, he stared out at the stars. Transparent aluminum, the vastness of space, and his faint reflection that for just a moment was slightly different.
“But Arthur’s grave is nowhere seen, whence antiquity of fables still claims that he will return,” he murmured softly into the still room.
The voice startled him for an instant, his gaze focusing on the man who’d entered unnoticed. Briefly, he saw the eyes as blue, deep black hair still yet messier and the blunted ears of a human smiling at him with amused respect and leashed power. But when he turned it was definitely his First Officer. Vulcan, reserved, professional and as necessary to him as breathing.
“Are you ill, Captain?”
Jim smiled. “Just… reminiscing. The course is laid in?”
Spock’s eyebrow twitched in a way that Kirk recognized as a frown. “As you ordered.”
Starting towards the door, Jim opened his mouth to say something, then thought the better of it. He reached out, touching Spock on the shoulder for a brief moment, before continuing on. His hand twitched at his side, not finding what it expected to rest upon, then fisted for an instant before relaxing.
As he crossed into the hall and started toward the bridge, the measured pace of his most trusted behind him, Jim grinned fiercely. “Do you believe in magic, Mr. Spock?”
Spock’s gaze as they boarded the turbolift held a hint of suspicion and curiosity. “I believe it was a Terran author who stated that any sufficiently advanced technology was, as such, indistinguishable from magic. Therefore, it is only logical that said conclusion lies with one’s perception.”
They arrived on the bridge as he completed the vague statement, but Jim was still grinning with a boundless enthusiasm for life. “Eminently logical, Mr. Spock.”
“Thank you, Captain.”
Jim took his chair, looking over his people, and felt in his gut that he was meant to be here. He had been needed, beyond all definitions of the word, and what had already been accomplished could only be the beginning.