Even when Spock was breaking Kirk’s neck, part of Kirk still couldn’t believe what had happened.
It was stupid (and fatal) of him to think that, but Spock was the nearest thing to his friend. In the Empire, everyone looked out for himself and he had long thought he never knew what trust was, but through good and bad time, Spock was always by his side.
Until Spock was not anymore.
In Kirk’s blurred vision, Spock’s eyes lost their usual impassive look and there was something like…
Then the pain ended his world.
...Or at least it should have.
When Kirk opened his eyes again, his heart raced like a Klingon warship on fire. No way he could survive the neck breaking, so if he was still alive…
Is he paralyzed?
He thought Spock would have the decency (or practicality) enough to end him for good.
He wiggled his fingers and toes and they did what he wanted, so he stood up to hit the com. He was unsure why he survived, but Spock would pay---
Until his fingers pass through the button.
What the ------
Calm down. For all I know, Spock might have made me hallucinate everything, Kirk thought. The Vulcan’s mental ability was impressive so it was within his ability to put Kirk in an endless nightmare.
He tried the door. It hurt like hell, but his whole body phased through the door.
If it’s an illusion, Spock must have a more wicked sense of humour than I expected.
He passed through the corridor with numerous crew members marching towards their destination, but no one saluted him nor paid any attention to the fact that Kirk was walking on the corridor in his blood stained uniform. It was as if he were invisible.
Hallucination, Kirk told himself. Illusion.
He felt a strong pull to the bridge, which was his destination anyway, so he hastened his steps.
He clenched his jaws when Spock was in his chair signing reports delivered by his yeowoman.
He sneaked behind a crewman to grab his phaser, but his fingers went through the phaser. Grinding his teeth, he held his hand tight in a fist to punch Spock.
His fists couldn’t touch Spock, blocked by an invisible barrier between them.
During the whole shift he tried to mash the buttons on the panels (and got an electric shock when his hand went right to the circuit), shove Uhura and Sulu’s back (and found it disgusting have his hands in their flesh and blood), and pulled the pad from Spock (it was eerie to shove his fingers right through the pad.)
No one acknowledged or was even aware of his existence. He passed through everything he touched or walked into (It was weird to stood right inside his chair), with the only exception to be Spock, the only solid presence in his surrounding.
Doubt crawled up to Kirk. If it was really an illusion, what was the point of doing it?
If it was real, then…
As Kirk struggled to make sense of his current demise, Spock made a shipwide announcement. “As Captain Kirk is no longer able to exercise his command authority, by the regulation I am the new captain of the Enterprise in effect.”
How dare you! Kirk exploded in his anger. He went for Spock again…
And blocked as the last time.
Several of his crews widened their eyes at the announcement, but Sulu’s grin stretched to the limit. Then it was business as usual.
You’re disposed, forgotten, abandoned, a hateful voice whispered to Kirk.
I’ll get the Enterprise back, Kirk thought. I’ll never accept a no-win scenario.
Kirk felt the strange pull as Spock left the bridge. He resisted it at first, wanting to find a way to take over the bridge, but he soon exhausted himself in his resistance. Besides, if he wanted to get his revenge, Spock should be his first target.
He followed Spock to his labs, noticing Spock’s strained shoulders and a back tenser than usual.
Good, you should have suffered, traitor, Kirk thought.
Everything went wrong between them when the imposter from another universe came to his ship. During the time he was trapped in the brig of another Enterprise by the beardless Spock, the imposter wrecked his command with the Halkans, spared the damned Chekov so that everyone wanted a hand to assassinate the captain.
But worst, the imposter turned Spock against him.
Kirk should have seen the warning sign from afar: he saw how the imposter tempted Spock to treason with fake hope and promise when Kirk reviewed the visual log in the transporter room, but he was naive enough to think Spock saw through the sweetened poison.
The utopia the imposter promised would only turn into a nightmare, as their world was one for deceit and murder.
But Spock still took the bait, or it was simply an excuse for Spock to secure a command, despite his pretty words. Either way Kirk paid the price for his stupidity.
No use dwelling on the past, Kirk thought. I’ll survive it as usual.
He followed Spock through his day of work, watching how Spock effectively robbed his command away with no one to challenge him. Why should they? Everyone considered a threat to Spock’s takeover was eliminated with Spock’s usual efficiency. It was just another day for ISS Enterprise.
Just like nobody remembered Pike after he stabbed his knife through Pike’s back.
Pike was a broody paranoid fool, who thought everyone and everything was out to get him. While it was par for the course for every Fleet Officer with a bit of brain, Pike went too far and decided that it was a bright idea to execute his crew in mass for any imaginary offence. While lives were worth slightly more than dirt in the Empire, it was impossible to captain an empty starship, so Kirk felt nothing ending his life. The Empire actually considered it a favour to cover up the embarrassing news of the flagship captain going mad before it was leaked to the general public.
When he gained the captaincy, Spock was already the First Officer and Science officer of the Enterprise, a formidable fortress in his own. They sized up each other for awhile, until they both decided it was better to have the other as an ally instead of an enemy. Their partnership had been profitable…. and fulfilling, until Spock decided that Kirk was only a road block to get rid of.
Kirk should have known this day would come. He knew he would die alone.
Trying to shrug away this useless melancholy, Kirk followed Spock to his quarter. Kirk was disoriented for several moments by the overwhelming redness of the room and the Vulcan war gods that menaced every visitors as usual, which Kirk supposed was the purpose behind the decor.
Instead of working at the numerous pads stacked methodically on the desk, Spock stared at a distant point of the wall, which Kirk recognized as the direction of his own quarter.
Former quarter, a small voice said. A disposed captain has no place in this world.
Spock turned his head and looked at Kirk’s general direction. For a moment Kirk withheld his breath, thinking that Spock had noticed him, but Spock only returned to his work, seemingly ignorant of Kirk’s presence.
Kirk felt a weight in his chest, but he was unable to find out why.
Several days had passed, and Kirk thought that he would go mad.
The illusion was so real that Kirk would have accepted it as the reality, but how could it be? He passed through everything and everyone but Spock, and no longer needed to eat, drink or attend to his biological need since waking up from the puddle of blood.
Following Spock, Kirk sneaked into the sickbay on their way. Bones was drinking even more than usual and his eyes were red-rimmed, probably a result of the Romulan ale he was devouring.
If he kept being so careless, M’benga would slit his throat in his sleep and took his place. Kirk couldn’t watch for his drunk back anymore now, so Bones had better straightened up.
When he followed Spock into the ship’s mortuary, his heartbeat and breath paced up as if danger awaited him.
What’s waiting there? Kirk wondered. Why’s Spock here?
Spock unlocked and entered the small room at the end. Kirk felt lightheaded as his pulse had raced up even more. What’s-----
It was his body, looking back at him.
Comparing to the last time Kirk had watched himself in his mirror, this body would never win any contest. The pale pallor for once was ugly, not to mention the broken neck.
No, it’s impossible! It must be a fake!
Spock bent over the body, closed his eyes while gently putting a hand on the meld point of the body.
It must be real, a distant voice said. Even in an induced illusion Spock will never portray himself as overtly emotional.
Kirk went numb watching Spock arranged for the body to be ejected out of the ship.
He had wrestled with death like a wild dog for his whole life, but now death claimed triumph over him.
Why? Kirk wondered.
Kirk believed in no deities nor demons, as people were already enough for evilness and disaster, but if he had ever imagined what death would be like, he would imagine it as scattering of particles. Total annihilation.
Better than being trapped in this invisible hell, stuck with only himself for eternal company.
Stop the self-pity, Kirk thought. Some beings might have played this cruel trick of him, but no way Kirk would have given up just because.
Kirk clawed through his mind for any knowledge about ghost and spirits. The only thing he remembered was that ghosts were supposed to linger for unfinished business. While he loved his powerful temptress the Enterprise and wished the most dreadful death on Spock, what could he do about these as an intangible ghost?
Spock got thinner and harsher, keeping his distance from anyone but his Vulcan operatives. He secretly convened with Vulcan and other conspirators, but his manner was all business.
Kirk had thought Spock was impassive, but now Spock’s face was a perfect lined mask, and he never touched even the computer for a game of chess.
Is this the real Spock, who no longer needs to entertain his now dead captain?, Kirk thought, feeling bile in his throat.
I wished I could at least eat something. What I won’t give for some chicken sandwiches. This ghost business’s boring.
Surprisingly, Spock made sure that Bones still remained alive and sound several month after his death even though Spock had never seen eyes to eyes with him. Maybe it’s to reward his collaboration, Kirk thought.
As the strange pull kept him within a five metre radius to Spock, Kirk watched Spock doing his job, working on his crazy treason plan (and sprouting the sweet poisoned words of his imposters as if Spock had believed every word), meditating and finishing other mundane tasks. He quickly became an unwilling expert of Spock and could finish Spock's sentences.
You have watched him long before that, a voice reminded Kirk. But still too late to see that he’s out for you.
(Kirk followed Spock into shower once out of curiosity, which helped dispel many fake rumours concerning Vulcan biology. For example, while Spock was well hung, it was far from the length of a human baby’s limb.)
Spock had never moved into Kirk’s chamber, which was kept almost the same as the last day Kirk was still alive sans the blood. Despite going over Spock’s possible rationale numerous time, Kirk still had no idea why. If Spock were another person, Kirk might suggest sentiment as a cause, but Spock was way more pragmatic and logical to keep this as some kind of memorial of the captain he had disposed of.
One time Spock walked into Kirk’s room and sat on his usual chair, staring at the chessboard where the pieces were still arranged in the position of their unfinished game, his fingers brushing Kirk’s king, his eyes so dark that Kirk turned away, feeling that he had intruded in some way.
“I have told you that you can’t trust Finney. Turn out I’m right after all,” Kirk commented while crossing his arms and leaning over Spock’s shoulders.
Spock continued to read his pad and did not respond, as Kirk proved that he couldn't hear, see or sense him in anyway. Otherwise Spock would have never sat calmly in a meeting with the Vulcan Council with Kirk on his lap. (It was a brilliant experiment, so Kirk was proud of his own ingenuity.) However, if Kirk remained silent in his ghostly presence, he would have driven crazy long ago. Might as well act out however he wanted.
With the time passed, Spock turned colder and distant, and sometimes Kirk wondered if he had really seen his not-quite-smile and teasing glances, or if these were merely from his imagination. Sometimes he found it hard to remember his past. It was scary that one day he would have lost all his memory and lingered here aimlessly forever.
However, every time Spock fondled the chessboard they used on the Enterprise, Kirk remembered.
Spock was the Emperor now, carrying out the reform he deemed necessary for the supposed good of the empire. Kirk bit hard into his fist the day his Enterprise was decommissioned to be turned into a training and teaching vessel as some symbolic action, but in a way he was strangely at peace for that. If neither Spock nor him was at the helm of the Enterprise in its glorious battles anymore, he'd rather his ship to rest, because Kirk would have wished for the same rest for himself.
Kirk still thought Spock’s reforms were useless, seeing Spock’s blind spots that no one else could see, but at least Spock was honest when he said he killed Kirk not for his command, but for some misguided notion of goodness.
When the attacks came upon the Empire, Kirk thought he should have been proud that he was right at the end. Instead he hated his uselessness when Spock exhausted himself to save the Empire from its inevitable demise.
The night before Spock’s execution Spock looked as immaculate as ever in his prisoner’s rag. Kirk stayed by his side, wishing that he could reach out for Spock, but the barrier between them remain impenetrable.
Then he heard Spock’s whisper, “Captain… Jim…”
Kirk’s heart broke at Spock’s breathy sounds. He stretched his hand to Spock’s, knocking against the barrier so many times that his hand felt red hot in its pain.
Why do we come to this?
Kirk was by Spock’s side throughout the execution, seeing and hearing nothing but Spock who remained dignified to his death. He forced his eyes to focus on Spock at his last breath.
It remained for the history and people to judge Spock’s well-intentioned but disastrous policies, but he shouldn't have remained alone.
“Farewell, Mr. Spock,” Kirk whispered.
“Captain?” Spock reached for his shoulders in a hug, with a smile Kirk had forgotten its shape until now.
“Spock!” How can he see me?
“It must be a hallucination. I can’t be seeing..” Spock seemed to struggle composing himself.
KIrk patted his shoulder. “Considering that you’re now dead, I doubt that you can hallucinate anymore.”
A beam of light appeared before them.
“I have been stuck by your side as always,” Kirk said. “But if the tall tales are right, we’re ready to move on together.”
Kirk caught him in a hug. They had so much to say, so many old wounds to be resolved between them, but they had an eternity before them. Looking into Spock’s bright eyes, Kirk felt as energetic as he were in the first year of command, ready to explore and conquer the universe, only with the hindsight of experience.
“Let’s conquer our next world and reform it to our ideal together. I trust that practice makes perfect. Are you ready to follow, Your Highness?”
“I have been, and always shall be yours,” Spock said slowly.
Kirk’s eyes wetted and tried to blink the moisture away. This ghost business’s bad for my poker face.
“Come on,” Kirk said, marching into the light, with Spock following him one perfect step behind. As they stood together, Kirk knew they would build a better empire, and in time figure out a way to retake the mortal one. With them together, Kirk felt unbeatable.