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Climbing Trees

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"I can't believe you're dragging me out bowling," Bones grumbled and scowled but Jim knew he didn't actually mean it. One did not drag Leonard McCoy anywhere he didn't actually want to go, "I'm 34 not 80, for crying out loud! I can still have a good time."

Jim shook his head and smiled in what he thought probably came off as indulgently, "Well for us bowling is a good time, just be glad I'm not the kind of person to drag you to nightclubs where all they play is Andorian Electronica."

Dr. McCoy looked around the bus they were riding and huffed, "I'm not sure this is much better!"

The two of them were taking public transport because Bones would rather take a flying leap out of an airlock than ride what he had deemed Jim's death trap of a hover bike. The only reason Jim hadn't fought harder was due to the fact that the bowling alley served alcohol and he wasn't the kind to drive home after even just a single drink.

"C'mon," Jim presented the same arguments as before, "I want you to meed my other friends before the Semester starts, and you get so busy you're brain is projected all the way to he Beta Quadrant."

"Ha.Ha. You're hilarious." Bones rolled his eyes and said but stopped complaining about their destination. Dr. McCoy had been avoiding Jim other friends for their entire leave. Now the Semester was upon them and the man had no choice but to let it happen. Jim had no idea why the older man was so unwilling to meet his friends but he was sure it would be fine.

The ride was filled with the hum of conversation from the other passengers and Jim was unbelievably relieved when their stop lit up the destination banner that was cycling around the top of the bus.

McCoy practically tumbled out in his eagerness to remove himself from public transport and Jim could sympathize. They were both dressed casually, this was a night out and neither of them were willing to be out on the town and representing Star Fleet, even if they were just going bowling.

Both of them ambled down the street with several other pedestrians and Jim kept his eyes moving and noticed a few uniforms, some were Cadets but there were also Officers rushing one place to another. They had to be off duty judging by the locale, Jim personally didn't like running round the city in uniform unless he had to but everyone was different.

"Stop looking around like we're gonna get jumped," Bones hissed, "It's freaking me out."

Jim stopped his ever moving eyes and looked at Dr. McCoy who seemed genuinely upset by his actions, "Sorry, just a habit I guess."

"I'm sure acting like a paranoid idiot is great for work but on the street it makes you look like your gonna be causing trouble." Bones replied as if to soothe his feelings, but none were hurt so Jim just let it slide.

There were some habits that just didn't die, and that was one he was completely fine being looked at strangely for.

After a brief walk the duo finally reached the bowling alley and Jim couldn't help but smile as he saw the neon lights that lit it up like a Christmas tree. Bones grumbled again about how disorientingly bright the whole building was but Jim just dragged his friend into the lobby.

As they entered Jim scanned the area and found Nyota at the counter scanning her Credit chip, she was in casual clothes, but Gailia who was next to her and distractedly looking around was in her Cadet Reds.

"Look alive Cadet!" Jim called out teasingly with, what was no doubt, an extremely wide grin on his face.

Gailia jumped in surprise and turned to him, her eyes held confusion for a split second before she broke out into a bright smile of her own, "I think you'll find, Lieutenant, that I am off duty!"

The two men drew closer, and when he was in range, Jim gave Gailia a friendly hug before pulling away and saying, "That's Lieutenant Commander to you!"

"Hell no!" Gailia practically squealed and from behind him Jim heard Nyota say,

"You're kidding me?!"

Jim turned to find her finished with her business at the counter and frowning, "At this point your going to be a Captain before I can even manage a spot on a Bridge!"

They hugged and Jim pulled Bones forward, "Nyota, Gailia, this is Lieutenant Leonard McCoy M.D., I call him Bones."

He then gestured to his friends, "Bones this is Nyota Uhura whose majoring Communication and Linguistics, and Gailia Vro who is majoring in Engineering and Tactical."

McCoy shook both ladies hands and then turned to Jim with an expression that read something along the lines of 'What the hell?'.

Because Bones probably thought Jim was introducing him to a couple of men, which was unfair because Jim had only really Called them Cadet Vro and Cadet Uhura. Those kind of assumptions wouldn't do in their line of work.

So Jim just winked at his friend and turned to Nyota, "You buy some games already?"

"3 we're on lane Delta,"Nyota smiled and began walking out to the lanes, casting a look over he shoulder she said "I want nachos by the way, and a Strawberry Daiquiri."

"Any other requests?" Jim asked as they reached their lane. Nyota rushed to the scoring console only to begin tapping away at it and Gailia hummed before she replied,

"A Fuzzy Navel, a BIG one, and those tiny cow patty things-"

"Hamburger sliders." Jim cute her off, "Cow patties are something else, remember it's called beef on Earth."

"It's cow." Gailia rolled her eyes good naturally, "I don't get why every other meat product is named for it's source except cow."

"Ham and pork." Jim argued with a smile and a laugh,"And if you don't want anything else I'll be on my way."

"That should be it," Galia nodded, then she gave Jim and almost shy smile,"I'll go with you so you can carry it all."

His heart warmed at the gesture she was offering and wondered how he, Jim Kirk, ended up surrounded by so many good people.

"That won't be necessary," Bones smiled at her, his expression betraying his lack of awareness of the blunder, "I'll help Jim with the food."

Gailia looked at Jim and pressed her lips together in a way that she was either upset that he was cutting her off, or that she was trying no to laugh and call Bones 'adorable'. Regardless she nodded in assent before Jim could explain to Bones that he was being rude.

Since Gailia seemed ultimately unoffended by the incident, Jim decided he'd scold his friend later and so he said nothing as they made their way to the concession area.

Once they were out of earshot McCoy turned to Jim and hissed, "You didn't tell me your friends were a couple of women! What is this?!"

"This is us, hanging out. Relax Bones." Jim tried his best to speak soothingly, "I'm not trying to set you up or anything, we're really just here to have a good time."

"Then why are we buying their food?" Bones grumbled and Jim just laughed at that. McCoy had some pretty old fashioned notions but they were generally the harmless ones. Nothing like the people he used to work with back in riverside. Every blunder he made was out of ignorance and he was a person who was willing to change.

Jim simply pat McCoy's shoulder and replied, "Because they paid for the games, first round is on us."

The Concession Worker came over at that moment and took their order, Jim added a Cardasian Sunrise to the list for himself and Bones ordered a mint Julep and a mini pizza.

It wasn't long before the food was ready and Jim scanned his credit chip. Together they brought the food and drinks over to the small table next to Delta Lane. After placing them all safely Jim looked to the screen and found Nyota had punched all of their names in for the game.

She was 'Ny', Galia was listed as 'Gal', Jim had been labeled 'Capt. Irk' and finally Bones was just 'Dr.Bones'.

McCoy took one looked at the screen and turned to Jim, murder in his eyes, "This is your fault."

"Hey, at least your not Capt. Irk," Jim turned to Nyota, "It's honestly insulting that you'd treat a superior officer in such a way."

Nyota shook her head and just laughed, "For my next trick I'm gonna wipe the floor with you."

Then she grabbed a ball from the ball return and entered the approach. With a mighty swing she delivered the ball and got a 3-10 baby-split.

Reluctantly she turned around and narrowed her eyes at Jim as he only laughed and said, "Very impressive. I'm absolutely terrified now."

They took turns bowling and between turns took sips of their drinks.

Jim was stealing some of Nyota's nachos when Gailia joined him in the seating area, she grabbed one of her sliders and took a bite while Bones took his turn in the approach.

"Your new friend is interesting," Gailia observed after taking a sip of her drink to chase down her food, "He's a bit..."

"Bones'd never left Earth before his assignment to the Farragut," Jim replied easily, "He's a good guy though, learns pretty quick."

"Good," Gailia nodded, then with a smile and a salacious wink said, "If he needs lessons I won't mind teaching him."

Jim huffed out a laugh as Bones finished his turn and Nyota started the rotation over again. McCoy made his way to the seating area and took a slice of pizza, "What are you two gossiping about?"

"How culturally insensitive you are." Jim smiled brightly, and Bones almost choked on his pizza.

"Dammit, Jim!" McCoy looked between Jim and Gailia, before fixing his gaze on the former, "Did I do something to offend you ma'am?"

"You just told me I couldn't help Jim with the food," Gailia replied unoffended, "It happens a lot on this planet, but next time just let me get it if I offer."

With that she took Nyota's place at the approach. Nyota joined them at the Seating area and smacked Jim's hand as he reached for another one of her nachos,

"Get your own chips!"

"Yours always taste better," Jim replied easily as he quickly grabbed a chip anyways, "It's a psychological thing, I'm sure."

He took a bite and McCoy seemed to still be confused, "Why did me helping you offend her?!"

"She wasn't offended!" Jim sighed and Nyota groaned,

"This always happens." Taking a breathe Nyota fixed him with an even stare, " It's just that due to the common treatment on the Orion homeworld, when an Orion women willingly offers assistance in a task it's seen as a gesture of trust and friendship.

"So Gailia was just trying to say 'we're still friends even though you've been gone for a year' to Jim and you kinda cut her off."

McCoy looked horrified at the notion so Jim decided to drive it home, "If you were Orion, your actions would have been the equivalent of saying saying you didn't appreciate that she was friends with me."

 

With a sigh Bones pressed his thumb and forefinger to the bridge of his nose, when Gailia approached he spoke, "Listen, I'm real sorry miss, I didn't know that my actions could be seen as offensive. Where I'm from, what I did is seen as a gesture of kindness."

Gailia laughed and Jim didn't get to hear the rest as it was his turn to bowl.

It wasn't his favorite game, Jim would always prefer mental exercises like chess and Catan, but bowling was nice for when you wanted to let the mind rest. He wasn't the best and he certainly wasn't the worst. So Jim wasn't exactly surprised that he didn't pick up his spare on the second delivery.

What also wasn't surprising, was that Gailia was on the way to a Perfect game.

Jim walked over to the sitting area as Bones went to play his round and he picked up his drink for another taste when Gailia nudged him,

"You're right he's not so bad."

Nyota let hims steal a chip this time and he wondered if it was actually stealing if she allowed it, "People like him never really are."

It takes a lot to be the kind of person to change and make an attempt to understand another Race's culture and take it upon yourself to put it above your own. It's why there was such a shortage for Doctors in Starfleet.

Other Divisions could slide by as long as they left their bigotry in their quarters, a Doctor was required to live and breath of their patients. To hold even an ounce of prejudice made them useless in an organization whose human percentage was finally beginning to reach an acceptable low.

"Let's keep him." Nyota declared and really if she was saying it then it meant Bones was never going to escape them.

The rest of the evening passed in much of the same way, it was easily one of the most relaxing evenings of Jim's life.

A perfect end to his short leave.

The next morning the Semester began and Lt. Cmdr. Kirk donned his Black Uniform, then proceeded to burst into Kevin Riley's room while shouting, "Up and at em Cadet! It's 0400 and you need to be at orientation in 2 hours! "

"Dammit, Jim!" Kevin screamed and proceeded to grab a small wooden figurine off his night stand, only to throw it at his friend.

Jim easily dogged the projectile, "Light's 100%"

Kevin groaned again and rebelled by ducking under the covers.

"C'mon Kevin." Jim laughed at the younger man, "You told me to wake you up when I left and that's what I'm doing."

"I take it back," Kevin declared, "It was an awful idea."

"Well it's already been done," Jim shrugged and not only did he lack remorse, he was was more than marginally amused at the turn of events, "There's some breakfast in the hot box and some coffee still in the carafe."

Jim then pulled Kevin's covers off of him and continued to smile at the other man and he just knew it was going to drive the Cadet crazy.

With a sigh Kevin pulled himself into the sitting position, "Fine. Thanks. You're job is done. If I'm late now it's my fault."

"You said it." Jim nodded and made his way out of the room, "It's on the record now and you can't blame me if you go back to sleep and don't manage to get your Syllabus."

Kevin shouted after him a frustrated, "OK DAD!"

Jim just laughed and grabbed his satchel which contained his PADD and several pieces of equipment Pike demand he have on him during lessons. With that he was on his bike and making his way to the Academy.

As Jim made his way through the veritable sea of Cadet Reds, he felt a wave of giddiness overcome him. Many of the students who passed him in the courtyard gave him respectful nods which he returned with what just had to be an insane smile that was threatening to tear his face in half.

It was a combination of the familiarity, yet alieness of the Academy that had him feeling so strangely. Jim had never been on campus at such a busy time of day while wearing the Blacks's of an officer. The Black uniform that most Cadets viewed as those of an instructor.

Which, technically, he was.

Of course he was assisting Captain Pike, but that was only due to the fact that Jim had never formally instructed anyone. That meant this would be his crash course so that, should Starfleet have need, Jim could teach a few courses.

It was normal for an officer to cover courses while waiting for a particularly long set of repairs or a full Refit. In Pike's case, he was waiting for his brand new ship to be ready.

The very same ship Jim had worked on in Riverside.

It was really a pretty tiny Galaxy, wasn't it?

So Pike was dragging Jim into his waiting game and he had a feeling that the Captain had something else up his sleeve. One did not simply request to be the one to privately promote an officer.

It meant Pike was trying to keep Jim's rising rank quiet, it meant Pike was trying to keep him from being dragged into space at the drop of a hat to be someone's chief of tactical or something.

Because a divisional Chief he would be. Jim had been put in charge of Tactical on too many occasions during his time on the Farragut. It was simply because he was the superior choice, even over the Chief officer at the time.

But pure skill didn't get you far, Jim had proved himself on the Farragut plenty of times and on the rare occasion Jim performed well, First Officer Reychi had half teasingly called Jim 'Number Two', which drove Second Officer Tinsley nuts in the worst way because Captain Garrovick said nothing and would just smile.

It had been made clear that Jim was very much wanted on the Farragut, and it was apparently very real possibility that should Jim end up back on that ship, he would be put in charge of something, most likely tactical considering that was what he had been utilized for.

It was so likely that Pike had requested he help with the Survival Course for a whole year.

The implications of it all had Jim's skin feeling stretched too tight over his bones.

Because if Jim was being poached by Captain Pike, he didn't mind one bit.

When he swept into the classroom Pike had been assigned, Jim found only the Captain. The Opening ceremonies would be starting soon and they had a little time to convene before the room was filled with their students.

"So, you go high I go low then?" Jim smiled as he caught Captain Pike's attention. The man in question had been pouring over the display board that was positioned just beside his podium and desk.

"Lt. Cmdr. Kirk, you have excellent timing!" Pike replied easily, "We've got a few last minute changes to the roster, 3 Vulcan student have decided to undertake the Survival Course."

The news was rather surprising and Jim knew his face had to betray his incredulousness, "3 whole Vulcans? That's a surprise."

"Your's and mine." Pike sighed, "I'm gonna have to ask you to do some last minute adjustment so that we can issue them the proper infopacks. The only Off Worlder I was expecting was a quater Betazoid and even then they heavily favor their human genetics."

"Yes sir." Jim accepted the assignment and tried not to sigh. Sounded like he'd be having his first late night.

The infopacks that had been prepared had only been slightly altered from last year's course, but to be getting a Vulcan pack together would take a lot. There weren't many Vulcans in Starfleet, with Commander Spock being the first, and there were even less who took the Survival Course. Most were interested solely in science or engineering.

That meant they weren't actually required to take the Survival Course. The class was only mandatory for Security and Command Cadets.

"I'll get you in touch with Lt. Cmdr. Spock," Pike suddenly sounded sly, "He took the course when he was in the Academy and I'm sure he has plenty to say about the infopack he'd been given."

"Please tell me they gave him a custom pack," Jim closed his eyes in horror at the notion that whoever was in charge hadn't done exactly that.

"Mr. Kirk, you know I can't be lying to you while I'm on duty." Pike sounded almost amused and Jim realized he'd probably gotten an earful from Spock when it happened. Because Pike had been in charge of the Vulcan's education back then.

Oh, to be a fly on the wall when all of that went down.

Pike took out his portable Comm Link and after a few presses to the screen Jim's own buzzed.

"That should be his info," Pike said, "I'm actually thinking about pulling him in to help with overseeing the Cadets. They're the only Off Worlders with biological distinctions in this batch."

Which wasn't a surprise, Starfleet was doing better with it's percentages but it was still not that good, "I wouldn't mind, he'll be pretty useful to have even if it was just to touch bases.

"I don't know nearly enough about Vulcan biology to write an infopack at the moment and there's no way I can make one in the next 48 hours and also sleep."

Because Jim liked sleeping when he could manage it. It was a luxury he was very happy to have when he could afford it.

"Well he's require at the Opening Ceremonies. So, for now until the Cadets arrive, just start researching what you can." Pike replied in understanding. Because it was ridiculous for them to be asked to do this on such short notice.

Jim slid himself into a chair that was placed just next to Pike's desk and pulled his PADD from his bag. Turning the device on, Jim made a new file and named it 'Darwin Initiative: Vulcan Edition', then he got to work filling the file with as much information he could find. Which wasn't saying much, Vulcans were tight lipped about anything that didn't involve the writings of Surak.

Looking for any kind of information for what they could eat in times of famine and survival was pretty impossible, but Jim hadn't got where he was by giving up.

Meaning, that by the time the Opening Ceremonies had ended and the Cadets began filling the class room, Jim had roughly 4 pages of notes on the subject in question. Which wasn't a lot, but it was a definite start.

Jim watched as the Cadets in their almost hideously red uniforms slowly trickled in and cleared his PADD's screen. Pike seemed content to continue going through his own PADD while the students filed in.

They were responsible for 1 of the 5 groups this semester. Jim had gone over the rosters and was happy to see that Starfleet had kept these particular classes down to about 60 students.

The buzzer sounded, Jim felt a bout of nostalgia at eh sound of it, and Pike gently lay his PADD down on his desk before rising. Making his way around to the front, Pike began to speak,

"Greetings Cadets, I am Captain Christopher Pike and I would like to welcome you to Starfleet's Survival Course."

Silence reigned and Pike sent Jim a glance and he had to do his best not to laugh openly at the Captain's expression. The Captain folded his hands behind his back and turned back to his new students.

"This is Lt. Cmdr. Kirk, but because that's a mouthful you can just call him Mr. Kirk like I do."

A few of the humans gave breathy chuckles and Pike seemed happy with that, "This course is no joke. I have 2 months to impart as much practical knowledge as I can to you.

"Some of you are here because you are required to due to the fact that you are studying on a particular track, others have decided that a course that only lasted 1 semester would be easy padding while you researched your other options.

"None of you are prepared for the realities of this course."

Jim swallowed as silence once more engulfed the room. Absently his eyes roved over the students and he found the 3 Vulcans that Pike had spoken about earlier. All scattered through the front row. There were 2 young women and 1 young man, none of them looked any older than Kevin.

"But that's OK." Pike declared easily, almost effortlessly, "Because my job is to make sure that by the time you finish, you will be prepared for even the most dire of circumstances.

"This course may only be 1 semester, but a passing grade is required in order for you to be allowed on the roster for Survival Tactics 101 which is 2 semesters and, should you pass this course, you will automatically be taking for the rest of the Academic year."

"Both the Survival Course and Survival tactics are mandatory for you to be permitted into Advanced Command, Advanced Medical, and Advanced Security.

"Regardless of your Track, I have the power to say if you have what it takes to continue here at Starfleet Academy."

He let that sink in, and several of the students were looking at each other as if they were ready to revolt.

Good.

"But sir!" One male Cadet spoke up in distress, his skin was dark brown, but his hair seemed to be bleached blonde. Jim couldn't help but think he'd probably slept through orientation if he was interrupting like that, "I'm here for communications! I'll never be on a landing party!"

Pike replied with easy authority, "What's your name Cadet?"

"Lester Ivanov Sir." The Cadet replied unawares.

Pike nodded as if mentally taking note, "Then you shouldn't have signed up for this class then Cadet Ivanov."

Cadet Ivanov flinched at the words before Pike Continued,"Now if anyone else speaks out of turn you're going to find yourself with an extra project like he has."

After the entire class save for the 3 three Vulcans cringed back the Captain continued, "After 2 months of in depth research of survival techniques, you will be broken up into 4 groups of 12.

"Those groups will then be assigned to a Survival Dome where your knowledge will be put to the test in a practical simulation lasting up to 1 week.

"This test will be closely monitored, but make no mistake, you will be experiencing the closest thing to a desperate situation that we can legally allow."

Several students swallowed and Jim continued to observe each of them in turn.

"Now if you have any questions, I'll be giving Mr. Kirk the floor." Pike finished his speech and stepped behind his podium as Jim rose to his feet and took the center floor.

"Raise your hands and I will point to you. When you answer give your name, track, then question," Jim instructed.

Immediately several hands went up and Jim pointed to a ginger teenage girl.

"Cadet Penda Okafor, Command Track," the girl began, "Mr Kirk, if this class is so dangerous why is it only a semester long?"

"That, is an excellent question," Jim couldn't help but smile, "To put it simply, t's a crash course Cadet Okafor.

"The ultimate test to see who is capable of absorbing and integrating new information. You'll find that the older Cadets will refer to this course as 'The Darwin Initiative'.

"Life on a Starship is hard and your going to be learning new and strange things everyday, your going to need to be capable of accepting and applying that knowledge as soon as you learn it."

Okafor seemed pensive and other Cadets seemed to buzz with nerves as Jim selected the next Cadet. Which to his surprise was one of the Vulcan women.

 

"Cadet T'Rena of the house of Rovak, Engineering Track" she spoke evenly as one would expect of a Vulcan, "Mr. Kirk, I find myself in need of knowing why this course is not required of all students.

"Logically it would be best to equip all Cadets with such vital knowledge."

Jim had to stop himself from saying 'girl me too' because honestly she was absolutely right,

"You are correct T'Rena and I agree that this course would be beneficial to every Cadet. But the reality is that those who are required to take this course will be responsible for the survival of their landing parties.

"Not because they have superior knowledge, but because it is what is expected of an officer in their line of work. Still though, this class is opened to Cadets in every Track, the choice of whether or not to be prepared is in their hands."

T'Rena nodded and Jim took the next question. It was an awful truth, but it was truth nonetheless.