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Next Best Destiny

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Keep it together, Jimmy. First days are always tricky. You can do this, don’t screw it up. He’s a man like anyone else. Or, Vulcan, I suppose...

“Is this one of the new officers in the Science Division then, Commander Williams?”

“Yes, Captain Spock. This is Lieutenant Kirk. He took top honors in last year’s graduating class at the Academy.”

Oh no, he’s looking at me, and it’s my first day and – JINKIES!!

“Does he speak, Miss Williams?”

“He did for his interview, sir, and quite eloquently. Captain Pike has nothing but good things to say, as well.”

Say something, say anything, saysomethingsaysomethingsaysomething.

“So, you’re a Vulcan, then. Sir.”

ARRRGGHH!

“An astute observation, Lieutenant. Carry on.”

I want to die.

----

“Kirk!”

“Y-yes sir, Commander Prabhavati sir!” Jim jumped to his feet and scrambled over to stand in front of his new boss, who was not only the head of the astrophysics department, but the Chief Sciences Officer.

The man did a double-take and looked him over. “You pronounced my name correctly,” he said.

“Yes sir?”

A ghost of a welcoming smile appeared on Prabhavati’s lips and he looked at Jim more appraisingly. Jim wondered if he ought to salute, but an adherence to strict regulation wasn’t Prabhavati’s style, at least not from what Jim’s heard.

“I usually prefer to interview my new staff first, Doctor Kirk, but I’ve heard good things, and Commander Williams was eager to snap you up when you graduated.”

Jim felt his face redden – he was still not used to people calling him ‘doctor’ even three years after being awarded his doctorate. “That’s good to hear, sir.” He pushed his glasses up his nose – it was hot and he was starting to sweat.

“Why don’t you find a station in the lab and help me sift through the latest sensor readings? Nothing too stressful for your first day, eh Doctor Kirk?”

“Yes, sir. And um, it’s just Jim, Commander.”

Prabhavati nodded. “And it’s ‘Doctor,’ Jim.”

----

“So how’d your first day go, kiddo?” Bones reached across his desk to hand Jim a glass filled with two fingers of something brown and then made a show of pulling it back. “Wait, are you even old enough to drink?”

“Hardy-har-har, Bones, you know I am. Though I’m not so sure I want that anyway – what the heck is it?”

“Real Kentucky Bourbon, you Visigoth.”

Jim made a face at his oldest friend – the two had met Jim's freshman year in college – Jim was 14 and Bones, who was 20, made sure no one hassled him. “You got any beer?”

Bones raised his eyebrows in surprise. “You drink beer now?”

“Yes!” Jim said defensively.

Bones produced a brown bottle from somewhere and handed it to Jim, who struggled to screw off the cap until Bones sighed and threw an opener at him he pulled from a drawer. When he sipped it, Jim managed not to wince at the bitterness – he was really more of a white zinfandel kinda guy.

“So spill it,” Bones demanded, taking a swig at the bourbon. “How was the first day?”

“Mostly OK. I got to meet the Captain when I arrived – he was addressing all the new officers.”

“What’d you think?”

What does Jim think? He thought Captain Spock was brilliant, inscrutable, intimidating, and every kind of hot. He shrugged instead. “I dunno yet – couldn’t get a read off him.” And I was so tongue-tied I couldn’t speak, he didn’t say. “What do you think of him?”

“Well, he’s a Vulcan, and if you can get past that, he’s a good man.”

“What do you mean?”

“You know, the lack of emotion, it can be hard to understand for a lot of people. He can be hard to figure. And he misses nothing, let me tell you. He’s smarter than 99% of the people on this ship, which can be hard. And he is hard on people – he strives for excellence in everything, and expects no less from his people. We sometimes argue about that – not everyone has the intellectual capacity of a Vulcan, and he forgets that a lot of the time.”

Jim’s face paled as he imagined anyone arguing with the Captain. He took another swig at the beer, and this time he did make a face.

----

Jim tried to balance his PADD on his dinner tray and turned around, searching the officer’s mess for a free table. He sighed when he saw there was nothing completely unoccupied, but he spied a face he sort of recognized. “You’re Pavel, right?” he said, approaching the young Russian who had been in his field combat class his second year at the Academy.

“You are Jim!” the younger man said enthusiastically in heavily accented English as he recognized Jim, bouncing up and down in his chair. “Is good to see you – welcome.”

Jim grinned back at him. “Can I sit here?”

“Da, da, da. Yes!” Pavel pushed his own tray to the side to make room. “Jim Kirk,” – he pronounced it “cork” – “this is Hikaru Sulu, the ship’s helmsman. Karu, this is Jim, he was a year behind me at the Academy.”

“Nice to meet you,” a Japanese man about Jim’s age greeted him. “You one of the newbies that arrived today?”

Jim pushed his glasses up his nose and nodded, then grabbed his roll and began to butter it. “Yes – I’m in Sciences,” he offered, but then glanced down at his blue uniform and realized that was pretty obvious. “Well, duh,” he joked, gesturing. “You work on the bridge, huh?”

“Well, duh,” Sulu said, but it was not unkind at all, and Jim laughed at the gentle ribbing – of course the helmsman and navigator worked on the bridge.

“What’s it like? Pretty exciting?”

Sulu shrugged. “Sometimes. Mostly it’s looking over your instrument panel and making sure you don’t screw anything up. Captain’s kind of a stickler.”

Jim swallowed. “So I hear.”

“The Captain is good man,” Pavel insisted. “Tough but fair. Some people just don’t understand him.”

“And some people have a tiny case of hero worship,” Sulu countered. He hooked a thumb in Pavel’s direction. “This one got caught up in a bar fight on shore duty a few months back, and the Captain fought off four Klingons to save his bacon.”

Jim whistled low. “Sounds pretty tough.”

“Never get on the bad side of a Vulcan.”

Jim kept his mouth shut. The more he heard about Captain Spock, the more he wanted to learn, and the less he wanted to ever really speak to him.

----

The next morning, Jim was logging more sensor readings when Prabhavati called, “Jim, will you come here and help me with these?”

Jim glanced over and saw him pulling an anti-grav cart piled high with PADDs of all makes and models. “Yes Doctor Prabhavati,” Jim answered, bounding over with all the enthusiasm of a bored young man in search of something else to do.

“These are all of our departmental PADDs, and most of them are older models in need decommissioning them. The department is upgrading to the newer models, you see, but we will need the data downloaded before anyone can sync up the new ones. I know this is a task that is well beneath your talents, but all of the lab assistants are engaged today, and as you haven’t yet started a research project…”

“I would be happy to do the work, sir, you can count on me.”

“Good man. I’ll check in with you later, then.”

The job took most of the day, with a quick 20-minute break for lunch, but Jim got it done pretty handily, earning him praise from Prabhavati for doing it in half the time he thought it would take, and a promise that he can leave shift early when he was finished. All Jim had to do now was load them into the large recycler down the hall; the parts and materials they are comprised of will be stripped and reduced to their components, then reused by the ship’s replicators to create tools and, hell, lunch trays and whatever else the ship needs. Jim was fascinated by the tech and had always wanted to take one apart.

He wheeled the anti-grav cart to the door and realized before he got there that it was too wide to fit through. He parked it to the side and decided to just carry them – one or two trips ought to do it. He began to stack them, alternating them head-to-tail because their bases were designed to be wider and it was awkward. They slid against each other, smooth plastic and transparent aluminum not exactly conducive to this, but he was determined to see this through. It was silly, really, but he’d do this in as few trips as possible.

The first trip went relatively smoothly, though the top of the stack he was carrying began to wobble just as he got to the large recycler room. There was a table there that he set them down on, then left to get the rest. The second set was slightly larger, but he was determined to finish this in just the two trips – he’d be able to leave his shift a whole hour early and he was looking forward to heading down to the med bay and pestering Bones.

He lifted the pile of PADDs from the bottom and took a step toward the door. Recalling what happened with the first trip, he supported the base of the pile with one hand and wrapped his other arm around the top so it wouldn’t fall over. He walked maybe three meters when the flaw in his plan became evident – the middle of the stack was beginning to bow out, the frictionless materials of the PADDs sliding against each other. He picked up his pace – if this was all going to hell, at least he’d be closer to the recycler room.

He was nearly to the bend in the corridor when he tripped – on what, he didn’t know and it didn’t matter; he rarely actually tripped over anything, really, just his own, big feet. “Holy heck specks!” he cried as he hit the floor, the PADDS clattering loudly.

A yeoman down the hall turned and gave him a curious look, but that’s not the worst thing that could happen. No, the worst thing that could happen was currently standing over his prone form.

“Why, Lieutenant Kirk, whatever has happened?” Captain Spock said to him in a dry voice, his blank Vulcan expression trained upon Jim.

“C-Captain!” Jim gasped, turning over to look up at him.

“I will never understand the propensity among the younger staff to accumulate so many PADDs,” Spock commented.

“Uhh…’

“The newer models are perfectly capable of storing vast amounts of data on a single unit, and whatever is not immediately available can be placed on the ship’s databanks,” He held out the one he carried, as if to illustrate. “Is this some dramatic means to appear busier than one truly is?”

Jim blinked up at the captain, and noticed that his glasses were askew. He reached up with both hands to right them.

“I was…”

Captain Spock cocked his head to the side. “Are you quite all right, Lieutenant? Have you hit your head?”

“N-no sir.” Realizing he’d been lying on the floor this entire time, Jim hauled himself up and began to gather the scattered PADDs, thankful he was looking down because his cheeks and his ears were burning.

“Are these all yours?”

Jim shook his head; when he glanced up at Spock, he appeared to be perturbed. All Jim could think about werw four Klingons laid up in a hospital somewhere.

“Carry on, then.”

Spock continued on his way into the Science Labs, leaving Jim on his knees, muttering to himself, “Now I know he thinks I’m a big goober.”

----

Two days later, Jim practically jumped out of his skin when a very loud, very shrill noise woke him from a sound sleep. “Great googly moogly, what the heck was that?!”

“Your terminal,” his roommate Hendorff growled at him. Jim was not surprised to see that the other man was already awake and dressed – the security guys have a different schedule than everyone else, having to report for training two full hours before their shift began. “Maybe you should adjust the volume on the incoming messages notification.”

Jim sat up and reached for his glasses, tucked as usual beneath his pillow when he sleeps. The terminal made the noise again and he winced – the sound was worse than nails on transparent aluminum. He stumbled over to his desk and sat down; the incoming message flashed first with the Starfleet emblem, meaning it was an official communiqué – who the heck could be calling him of all people? He pressed the accept button.

“Lieutenant Kirk.”

“Captain Kirk,” he said, blinking in astonishment at the face of his mother. “I thought you were on a mission in the Andromeda system?”

“I am – doesn’t mean I can’t take the time to check in on my baby boy!”

Jim winced again and cut his eyes over at Hendorff, who was grinning at him with open amusement.

“How was your first week?” Winona continued.

“It was fine – worked in the sensor lab for a while, crunching data.”

“What? That’s lab tech work, do they know they’ve got a certified genius working for them?”

Mo-om!

She grinned at him. “Sorry, I couldn’t resist. I am so, so proud of you.”

“Yeah, you’ve mentioned.” He glanced down.

“What’s bothering you?”

“Nothing. I’m, uh, I’m not really alone here.”

“Ah ha! They stuck you with a roommate?” She called out a greeting, “Hello, roommate!”

Hendorff looked up from pulling his boot on and called out, “Hello, ma’am!”

She smiled at Jim and saw something in his face – he never could hide anything from her. She tutted at him understandingly, “I know your first tour in space can be a bit overwhelming, but what do I always say?”

“’Space exploration is stretches of extreme boredom punctuated by the occasional bout of pure terror,’” he quoted back to her.

“So have fun while the boredom lasts.”

He nodded, looked down at his hands. He’d talk more, but the roommate being in the room, combined with the fact his mother just called him on a line reserved for official ‘fleet communications was a little weird.

“I’d better go. Be safe.” He looked up and gave her a real smile, then disengaged the call.

“I didn’t peg you for a Mama’s boy, Kirk” Hendorff teased. “No, that’s not right – I totally did.”

“Shut up…” Jim scowled at him, struggling for a witty rejoinder, but all he came up with was, “…Cupcake!”

Hendorff opened his mouth to retort, but then just laughed good-naturedly. “Cupcake? What the – why Cupcake?”

“Well, I mean, you eat a lot of them.”

Hendorff stood up and patted his belly. “I’m a growing boy. Now come on, get a move on or you’ll be late for breakfast.”

----

That afternoon, Jim was working in the lab again when Doctor Prabhavati messaged him from the bridge, where he was on duty, to bring him the PADD that sat on the edge of his desk. Jim messaged back that he’ll be there immediately and jumped to his feet, heading to the science head’s office almost at a run, so eager was he to take a break from analyzing long range sensor data. He imagined this was something a yeoman ought to be doing, but again, it sure beat what he’d doing the last week.

When the doors of the turbo lift opened and he got his first glimpse of the white expanse of the bridge, he was almost blinded by its brilliance. The walls, the floors, heck, even the darn ceiling practically glowed with a bright, white light. Everywhere he looked, officers manned their stations looking 100% engaged and important and on it. Beyond them all, a planet hung in the middle of the viewscreen, green-brown and unreal, like something on a holovid.

This. This was why he joined Starfleet despite the half dozen other job offers he’d gotten after finishing his doctorate; this was where the true mission of Starfleet became reality, in exploring the uncharted, in finding new life and new planets.

This was where he was meant to be.

He couldn’t help the long, drawn-out “Goooosh” that escaped from his mouth.

“Take a picture, it’ll last longer,” a young Lieutenant in a red uniform said as she walked past, her long ponytail swinging across her shoulders.

“Oh, um. Oh.”

“You lost?”

Jim looked around the bridge and spotted Doctor Prabhavati seated at the Science station, engrossed in something he was looking at through the viewfinder. “No, um, there’s the man I’m here to see.”

She nodded and crossed over to a station nearby, inserting a comms unit into her ear and flicking a few switches on her console.

Jim headed over to Doctor Prabhavati. “Your PADD, sir,” he said almost before he was standing next to him; he held the item out in his hand.

Prabhavati glanced up at him. “Oh, it’s not for me, it’s for the Captain. We need his signature on all of the reports in the Inbox there.”

Jim swallowed. “Th-the Captain?”

“Yeees,” Prabhavati said slowly. “Who else is supposed to approve my reports?”

Jim was an intelligent guy, he really was; this should not be a problem. He glanced over to the command chair to see Commander Williams seated there, supervising the goings on with one eye while she read a report on a PADD she holds with the other. He also noticed that Pavel was occupying the navigator’s chair, and Hikaru was at the helm. Hikaru glanced in his direction and nodded hello.

“He’s in his Ready Room – just through that door.” Prabhavati said, hooking a thumb towards a door on the opposite side of the bridge.

“Yes sir,” Jim said, his throat so tight suddenly he can barely get the word out. Turning, he walked slowly across the bridge, the PADD held in front of himself like a shield. He ignored his heart hammering in his chest and swallowed.

You can do this, he thought, it’s simple enough. So he’s the Captain, and he’s a Vulcan, and he thinks you’re an idiot. Get over it.

He got to the door of the Captain’s Ready Room – it was even labeled that, on a small titanium plate bolted to the wall – and paused momentarily. You’re a professional, and so is he. You just get the reports signed and you get out of there. Say nothing.

“Yeah,” he said aloud. “Say nothing.”

There was a control panel beneath the label plate with a few buttons on it. He pressed the call button, the one that would announce his presence to the person inside, so he had a few seconds still before he had to face Captain Spock, and...

Suddenly, the door slid open with an almost inaudible whoosh of air that ruffled Jim’s hair. Crap!

“Ah, reports from the Science Division, I presume?” Captain Spock said from behind his desk, looking up at Jim.

Jim stared, really seeing the captain for the first time since he arrived. His skin was pale and clear, a perfect counterpoint to his dark hair and delicately slanted eyebrows. He was slender, but his shoulders were wide and, Jim presumed based on tales of beaten and battered Klingons, powerful. His elbows rested on the desk, and Jim could see his biceps straining the sleeve of his gold tunic. And his eyes – they were a deep, deep brown, and shine with a fierce intelligence and –Jim hesitated to call it this, but still – humanity.

“Wh-what?” Jim stammered.

“Those are the reports from Sciences?” Spock prompted again.

“Yes, sir.”

They stared at each other for long seconds.

“Will you bring them to me?”

Jim wished the deck beneath him would open up and swallow him, but he forced his feet to move anyway. He placed the PADD on the edge of the desk and watched as Captain Spock picked it up and began to sign reports with a stylus he produced from somewhere. Jim noticed the captain was left handed and wondered if that was common on Vulcan, resolving to look up handedness statistics later on when –

“We are about to embark on an Away mission on the planet we are currently orbiting,” Captain Spock said, bringing Jim out of his reverie, “and when I asked Doctor Prabhavati to recommend a second person from Sciences to accompany us, he named you without hesitation.”

“He did? Sir?”

The Captain inclined his head, then returned to scanning and signing off on the reports. “I have been exposed to positive comments in regards to your talents, Mister Kirk,” he said, then looked up and fixed Jim with a piercing stare. “Do not disappoint me.”

Jim swallowed, hard, but one word still managed to slip past his lips, “Zoinks!”