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Weighing the Differences

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Captain James Tiberius Kirk woke to the lights of phasers flashing over him. Truthfully that on its own wasn't as unusual as he would like. Still given the fact that the last thing that he remembered was knocking back one last shot with Bones while Scotty covered the tab, there was certainly a disconnect.

A hand grabbed his shoulder and he glanced up to see what looked like a particularly pathetic version of a Starfleet uniform, and not just any uniform, a rather an old version to boot. Um, seriously? If someone was trying a weird mind screw to get information out of him, they could have planned it a bit better.

He blinked furiously, wanting to get up and move out of the way of phaser fire, but his world was spinning and his head was pounding. It might have been from the alcohol, or whatever had caused him to end up here rather than at a bar with half his senior staff, but the dizziness was bad enough that it took all of his not inconsiderable will to not throw up as the guy in the weird uniform dragged him towards the dubious safety of a storage container. He did manage to stagger a bit to his feet once they finally got him behind cover, helping to get himself out of the way of the people fighting whoever it was they were fighting.

Ugh… He was still going to be sick.

What was going on here?

Suddenly a new man darted from behind another set of the crates that were being used for cover by these pseudo-Starfleet guys and Jim finally understood what Spock meant when he talked about the Ambassador. It was almost like looking at a walking photograph. Something that only looked a bit like you to yourself, but something that other people would instantly recognize as you.

His eyes were different… Hazel. His hair a little darker and his jawline was just a bit less square, his mouth was a bit less large too (which, screw you Bones and everyone else and your stupid pity and pats on the head, his mouth was weird).

He was a bit more built, more muscled all over, especially in the shoulders.

But it was him, James Tiberius Kirk.

Well... crap…

Jim almost stopped fighting the urge to throw up.

“Can you breathe? How are you feeling?” His other self let out in a whoosh as he ducked behind their crates and Jim wanted to punch him on pure principle.

He didn’t look that different from his other self, there is no way that this Jim didn’t realize…

But maybe, just maybe it wasn’t another him? Or maybe someone wanted to make him think it was an alternate version of himself?

Or maybe he was just hallucinating…. Someone had slipped him something even though he could swear he had been careful. That idea was still, unfortunately, entirely possible.

It would certainly account for why his head was fighting between swimming and pounding even though he hadn’t had that much to drink.

The other him grabbed his face to do something, and the quick motion tipped the balance of the battle he was fighting against his less than stable head and stomach, and Jim knocked the man’s hands away to lean over and promptly throw up.

Bones would never let him live that down.

He felt hands move swiftly over his head, and Jim vaguely recognized the pattern as manually checking for any bumps or contusions. The hands maneuvered his head up again, and the other him checked his eyes, measuring pupil dilation probably, and then he did the finger back and forth of evilness thing and Jim had to swallow the overwhelming urge to hurl again.

“You’re tracking alright, and I’m not feeling anything obvious. Can you hold tight for just a little bit? We’re almost done with these guys and then we can figure out where you’re from and how you got here, okay?”

Jim shoved him away and leaned back against the crate. Putting his hand against his forehead to try to put pressure on the throbbing even though he knew it wouldn’t help.

“Where am I?” he managed to croak out. And man did his voice sound horrible.

“You’re at the Sierra Spaceport. We were hunting down some pirates dumb enough to raid a Starfleet Facility, and during all this one of their devices got activated. Next thing, you appeared in the middle of our firefight in a flash of light.”

“Really?” he asked, a little pissy. If this wasn’t some massive hallucination that Bones would be making fun of him for ages over (he was not going to think about balloon hands… nope) that had to be one of the dumbest ways to end up in an alternate reality ever. Well, okay, maybe not… But it certainly lacked creativity.

“Yup, but don’t worry, just stick by me and you’ll be okay, I promise.”

“Really?” That was like, one of the worst lines ever… Sooo cheesy.

“Really. I’m Lt. Commander James Tiberius Kirk of Starfleet, and you are?” Yeah, that level of cheesy, do-gooder niceness was too annoying to be faked.

Jim stared at this other, different version of him. This was a version that the Ambassador called “T’hy’la” - that the Vulcan cared so much for and had so much faith in that it bled over to Jim. That was apparently, honestly, a nice guy, even if his people set off experimental technology in firefights.

He wanted to rip his face off and gouge his eyeballs with their perfect hazel irises out.

Jim closed his eyes and rested his head against the crate.

XxXxX

Jim sighed as the civilian next to him proceeded to have some sort of mental breakdown. He patted him on the back and resigned himself to staying crouched next to the poor guy with Ryan and Dominguez covering them rather than moving back to the front of the firefight. The blonde looked completely out of it, and Jim wasn’t sure if that was from whatever transport method the experimental device had used, or the alcohol that he could smell from where the man had vomited.

From the sounds of things, the Constitution’s Security Officers were finishing up with the last of the pirate stragglers, so it wouldn’t be long before Jim could get this guy safely to the medics. They also need to figure out which of the facilities scientists had been working on whatever device was triggered so that they get them here to help just in case. It wouldn’t do to have them miss something in their medical check on the man before sending him home because it whatever had happened was too new or experimental for normal scans to pick up the anomalies.

What a perfect complication to an already crappy mission. This one had been a nightmare from the get go. They’d had to deal with the facility’s outdated security, six false leads, and the panicking head researcher constantly on their case even though there hadn’t really been anything too high priority in their labs.

Which, as far as he was aware really hadn’t held any type of transporter research, so he’d have to go back over his own notes as well to find out what he missed.

Lieutenant Colins quickly slid next to him and the civilian behind cover.

“Commander, we captured one of the raiders who claims there’s a bomb.”

“Brillia-”

“You have got to be kidding me,” the civilian hissed, leaning his head to the side to glare at them both. “This is NOT. HAPPENING.” Before Jim could really do much, the guy had somehow slipped around them and was darting in the direction that Colins had come from.

“Hey!” Jim called out darting after him, barely managing to dodge a stray phaser bolt, Colins right after him. By the time that he caught up to the civilian, the kid had already gotten to where several security guards stood anxiously around another man who seemed pretty close to panicking.

“A bomb. Really?” the golden blonde snapped with a rather impressive glare made all the more worrying for the way it turned his pale blue eyes to icy shards.

“We need to get out of here! It’s going to go any second!”

“Where is it?” Jim asked. “And if that’s true, why haven’t your comrades transported out?”

“We tried! Some interference from when he showed up jacked that up!” The pirate looked wildly at the civilian who scowled.

Spurred on by a niggling doubt, Jim pulled out his communicator out and flipped it open. “Kirk to Constitution. Can you lock onto our signals to beam us out?”

There were a few beats before the answer came. “Negative, Commander. We’re getting some type of interference.”

“Where’s the bomb?” the civilian hissed. “I’m going to make a logical guess and say that you knew about it because you placed it, and you’re worried enough about distance to know that the radius is pretty large.”

“It’s supposed to take out the entire hangar area! For a clean getaway, man!”

Jim froze. “There are over 20 civilian ships docked here!”

“Like that matters! We gotta leav-” the man was cut off by the blonde gripping him about the throat and throwing him to the ground before Jim or any of the security guards could really do anything.

“If that bomb goes off, you’re going with it. Where is it and which one of you nutcases set it?”

“We ca-” Jim started.

“Danny set it, but we bought the thing! None of us know how to unset it!”

“Where. Is. It?”

“We nee-” Jim barely managed to block the rather vicious kick that the civilian aimed at the pirate’s head.

“You cannot harm a prisoner!” He practically shouted, trying to figure out why he wasn’t just stunning the possibly crazy person to stop him getting in the way of trying to solve this problem.

The civilian, who merely glanced at him dismissively, turned back to the pirate who was whimpering and scrambling away as much as the security guards and his bound limbs would let him. There was a particularly vicious look on his face that had Jim wanting to step back a bit. “Where is it?” The man snapped again and the pirate shuddered and pointed at a crate with caution and warning stamps over to the side.

The man shoved Jim off of him before he could really say anything and after a lightning fast considering glance at both sides of the firefight, darted through the fray towards the bomb.

There were shouts from both sides, but in a rather unique display of dexterity the guy managed to make it to the crate without getting shot. He was running his hands over the edges, checking for something, and right when Jim was getting ready to yell at him about being an idiot and trip wires, the man paused in a spot, pulled a knife out of his boot and made quick work of whatever he had checked, swinging the lid of the crate open, keeping the knife pressed against the area he had identified.

“Commander? Are we stunning the crazy guy?” Colins ground out keeping pace with Jim as they made their way towards the civilian. Unlike said civilian, they managed to take a slightly roundabout, smarter way that included actual cover.

Jim felt some amount of vindication that it wasn’t just him. “Not yet, but let’s keep that option handy.” Colins growled something that Jim was happy to not catch.

As soon as the lid had been fully opened the bomb rose on an automatic platform. It had a design that Jim couldn’t place, but even though he wasn’t an expert, he could tell that this wasn’t a usual bomb. A series of wires and tubes connected four clear cylinders containing differently colored liquids, all fitted into a series of exposed circuit boards next to other cased-in components along a metal base that had a sealed box at the center.

The civilian looked it over for the few moments, muttering a bit under his breath, brushing wires here and there and running his fingers along the casing to what had to be the ignition explosives in the sealed box.

“I can disarm it! We have a minute and 57 seconds! I need a sealant, another knife, a tritrite battery with a full charge, and a base liquid, now!” The guy yelled in Jim’s direction, a level of confidence there that he trusted more on instinct than anything else.

Maybe it should have been less surprising than it was, but a shout came from the pirates’ side, “I’ve got a gamer with a full charge!” And it skidded along the ground under the barricade that they’d built. Apparently, that was the signal for the rest of the pirates to cease fire.

At least they were smart enough to not want to get blown up. Maybe they finally realized this was their only shot? Good. Actually, that might explain why they’d put up the fight they had. Wanting to get away from an upcoming explosion could do strange things to people.

Jim glanced around, trying to find the rest of the list, spotting a pallet of chewy candies from Earth that if he melted with his phaser would most likely be particularly gummy and probably work as a sealant…

Meanwhile, in a display of top notch training and teamwork, Dominguez quickly ran towards Jim, handing him a knife from his own boot (Jim made a note to find out if that was within regulation and how to get special consideration if it wasn’t) while another two were making quick work of disassembling a water cooler to get at the barrel of liquid. Thank Heaven that speed of access and energy constraints kept outer rim stations on non-replicated water in common areas. While water could lean towards either an acid or a base depending on the substance it was measured against (or the particulates found in it), it was probably the safest bet, especially given that they didn’t know how much they would need.

Jim finished prying open the casing for the candies and he and Colins quickly started ripping open packages and dumping them into a metal container that two more security officers had dragged over. It was a rather gangly mess as all four of them moved towards the bomb in a weird scramble of carrying and dumping packages. The guy was using both hands now, having disconnected the trip wire at some point. He stripped wires and adjusted circuit boards with a calm, professional efficiency, and Jim had rarely been more grateful for his gut instinct to trust that other people knew their skillsets.

Jim triggered the setting on his phaser that would get it to a temperature that would melt the candies but not burn them and fired, praying that he would be done by the time that the guy needed it. He couldn’t help but glance at the timer, which in true annoying fashion, was glowing red and ticking down.

He eyed the man, who had broken open another layer of casing and was wrist deep in the innards. “When I say so, jam the sealant into that hole,” he pointed at a tube and Jim nodded, getting ready by stripping off his shirt to use as a glove so that he could handle the hot goo without burning himself, “and then dump the water here!” the man indicated somewhere that Jim couldn’t see, but the officers with the tub of water gave a grunt of understanding.

The guy barely looked up as he triggered something with one of the knives, leaving it embedded in the machinery before he quickly stabbed the other into the battery, biting back a hiss as the acid got on his fingers even as it poured onto a circuit board, causing a round of sparks. Jim instinctively started reaching for the guy’s hands in horror as he saw them literally bubble from the acid burns only to have the man ignore them with a grim efficiency and yank the first knife out to cut another set of wires.

“Now!” He yelled at Jim, who quickly scooped up as much of the gooey substance as he could with his padded hands and started shoving the quickly hardening gunk into the tube. The smaller portion solidified fairly quickly and just in case Jim grabbed the tube with his hands, covering it as much as he could as a backup and shouted at the guards who dumped the water where it was supposed to go.

The timer hit zero, and Jim instinctively recoiled. Luckily there wasn’t an explosion, although there were several parts of the bomb that made some screeching and grinding noises, causing even more flinches from Jim and the others. The civilian (if he was a civilian given the way he’d handled the bomb) had already staggered to his feet and over towards a beam that had the markings for a medical kit. Dominguez had anticipated this and raced ahead to pull out the compounds that would neutralize the acid on the man’s hands and minimize the spread of the burns.

Jim grinned resolutely. Good. They’d need to get him to sickbay quick, get those looked at before nerve damage became permanent, and make sure that whatever had caused him to be sick earlier was taken care of, whether it be intoxication or aftereffects from the transport. He tentatively moved his hands away from the tube in the bomb and eyed the congealed mess of candies still in the tin, debating adding more just to be sure, but decided it was holding for now.

He pushed himself to his feet, calling out to the pirates. “The bomb is disabled. We have you surrounded. Are you going to come quietly, or are we going to have to draw this out?” Muttering came from behind the barricade before several hands slowly appeared in the air over it, weapons hanging loose or clattering to the ground.

“Good,” Jim sighed. He had not been looking forward to a firefight near a live, even if disarmed, explosive. “Colins, get them processed and in the brig. Maxwell, take some men and sweep the area for any leftovers. Ryan, contact the Captain and the Base Commander and give them a heads up, and get a bomb disposal specialist to look over the remains.”

“Sir!” They all chorused and Jim moved towards their mysterious savior, slightly reassured by his hissing as Dominguez covered his hands in a mix of powders and creams. If he could still feel pain that meant the nerves weren’t too badly damaged. And they may have been a little old fashioned, but Jim was still equally pleased to note that he recognized some of the substances as being about as high quality as one could get without moving to full on dermal regenerators and other technologies that would probably be a bit too expensive to keep in the docks for a long range, civilian station like this.

“That was some quick work,” he stated with a grin. “How’d you know to do that?”

The man eyed him with a glare, “Why do I have the feeling that you’re asking if I should be in cuffs with the rest of them?”

“Paranoia, maybe? Or are people really out to get you?” Jim couldn’t help but ask, his smile widening a bit and the man sighed, dropping his head back against the beam he was leaning on. Jim was only half joking though. It was a concern that the man knew how to diffuse something like that. Most civilians, heck, most members of Starfleet, Officers or enlisted, wouldn’t be able to do what he had just done. It was actually fairly standard to just beam possible threats into space unless beaming wasn’t an option because the transportation would set it off or something. “Are you with Starfleet? Or a planetary defense force? Were you in the middle of transporting somewhere when your beam was redirected here?”

The man gave a strained laugh, closing his eyes, and for a moment Jim really did get nervous. Then the guy met his eyes, “I am pretty certain that I don’t belong to any organization that you can get the records to unless you count your own.”

Jim pulled back, confused. “What?”

“I was not in the middle of transporting, and heck I doubt that whatever brought me here could still be classified as a transporter, considering that I am pretty sure that I am in a different reality.” Before Jim could really say anything, the man gave a little wave. “Name’s James Tiberius Kirk, I’d shake your hand, but you know, burns and all.”

“What?” Jim gaped, and he was peripherally aware of the Dominguez choking a little to the side.

“Aww….” The other guy winked a bright blue eye at him. “The last time someone looked at me like that, I showed off what my tongue can do to a cherry stem, doll face.”

Jim’s jaw snapped shut on reflex and he glared at him. “It’s Lt. Commander Kirk, not doll face, and impersonating a Starfleet Officer isn’t a funny joke.”

“I agree, getting shifted into an alternate timestream by use of what is most likely faulty, poorly designed technology isn’t funny at all unless you’re using funny or joke as an adjective to weird, bizarre, anomaly.... That sort of funny. Factor in that the device most likely utilizes ion based technology which caused the interference to your own transporters and could be causing various issues with other, unshielded systems on a civilian space station, and that my hands really hurt so this isn’t a dream… I am in an alternate reality. And I am, James Tiberius Kirk.”

The guy raked an icy gaze over him in a way that was just this side of condescending. “Unless you have a better idea about how I ended up in a completely different location that is now suffused with ion particles and other various distortions, on what appears to be the opposite side of Federation Space surrounded by a firefight that includes someone claiming to be me?”

Jim bit his tongue a bit on the retort he wanted to snap at that, this was rather odd to say the least, but he was pretty much willing to take him at his word for now unless the evidence proved him wrong. “Okay, Mr. Kir-”

“Oh, and if we’re going to be pissy at titles and being accusatory about supposedly impersonating officers, Lt. Commander Kirk, you can call me Captain Kirk. Or Doctor if you really want, but I prefer Captain.”

Jim blinked. “WHAT?”

Chapter Text

Captain John Sheridan calmly glanced through something on his pad, and the entire senior staff waited for him to give a nod to go on to the next topic. Sheridan was far from the worst Commanding Officer that James Kirk had ever had to deal with, but he ascribed to the “walk softly and carry a big stick” management style.

The experience of serving as his temporary XO while his normal one, Lieutenant Corwin, was on paternity leave had been a positive one though, and had proven very useful in more ways than padding his resume with command experience. Not all ships ran with an XO, who was basically a secondary first officer, but the U.S.S. Constitution was the only Babylon Class Starship in the fleet. The mammoth ship served primarily as a diplomatic carrier that could house up to ten full delegations on top of the four permanent ones on staff and also doubled as a defecto moving repair station given that it was 3 times as large as most other ships and could carry enough equipment to repair up to four other ships at any given time.

It was definitely worth being temporarily reassigned from teaching a few advanced courses over the summer semester at the Academy. His Uncle Robert had been right that Jim would learn plenty about how to effectively and confidently manage a crew, which would help when Jim got his own Starship in a few years.

Jim didn’t want to pin everything on the thought that it was the foregone conclusion the way that his Father and Robert treated it as, but he was hopeful, and slightly positive, about the fact that it would occur. He’d been aiming for the position of Starfleet Captain as long as he could remember, and he liked to think that all his hard work towards it was paying off. If he utilized his connections through his parents and godparents to get opportunities like this one, well, he was confident enough that he worked his ass off and was good enough that the opportunities kept coming, and he could actually see the difference he was making.

“Now, our last, though certainly most interesting issue,” Sheridan said, looking up at the group. “Our mysterious visitor, claiming to be a ‘version of Lt. Commander James Tiberius Kirk from an alternate reality that was brought here be a faulty, illegal experimental device.’ Have we been able to verify this?”

Commander Michael Garibaldi, the Chief of Security, leaned forward with a serious expression on his face. “We managed to hunt down the scientists that were working on this thing, and it’s pretty out there. Some type of phase technology that was definitely against regs and the lead scientist crapped kittens when he found out. After a few hours of technobabble and mumbo jumbo, they think that given the right set of circumstances and some re-adjustments to how they think physics work, it could be a legit theory.”

“That’s something we can corroborate,” Dr. Stephen Franklin piped in. The man was leaned back in his chair, about as casual as you could get in the high backed contraptions around the table that was used for the officer’s briefings. Considering the man basically did double duty as CMO and CSO, Kirk had no idea how the guy maintained his overall calm, but was highly envious of it. “We ran some genetic comparisons, and aside from a few anomalies that can be explained by environmental factors that he presented, he is an exact match for the Lt. Commander.”

Jim kept as still as possible under the quick glances and asides thrown at him by the rest of the Command Staff. He was already a bit of an outsider to this close nit command staff, and this just made it feel worse.

“From the notes that Garibaldi was able to get his hands on, the device would have needed to complete a preliminary scan of the subject prior to beginning it’s phase sequence. We’re still working on the exact next steps, as the design and programming are a mess to say the least, but that might have been enough to act as an initial pattern for the device to use as a guide when it was initiating its process.”

“So it used our Lt. Commander as a search term, basically? And then went looking for matches and somehow pulled one from a different reality?” Captain Sheridan asked, a slight air of skepticism around him as he raised an eyebrow.  

“From what we can tell, yes,” Franklin replied.

Sheridan leaned back in his chair, a serious, considering look on his face for a few moments. “What do the scientists that were working on this say?”

“They’ve stopped answering questions at this point and are demanding lawyers,” Garibaldi replied, scowling. “Since they’re civilian contractors and were technically working on this on their own time and with materials they procured on their own, we’re having to work with the JAGs to decide how much of a right we have to force answers.”

The Captain nodded, “keep me apprised. I want them working with Stephen and his team as soon as possible to help sort out how this happened exactly.” He turned to Dr. Franklin, “I’d also like projections on how likely we are to be able to reverse this as soon as possible.”

“Sir,” they both agreed.

Sheridan pinned Jim with a steely look. “Commander Kirk, while I understand that you two are different individuals, given the time you’ve spent with him and your unique perspective, how likely is it that this man is in the position that he claims he is?” He glanced at his notes again, “a Starfleet Captain and a holder of multiple Doctorates?”  

Jim hedged a little, “without knowing more about the world he is coming from, I can’t say for sure on his claims of being a Starfleet Captain, since they might have different promotion policies than we do, but I can say with certainty that if I had gone the civilian science route rather than Starfleet I could easily have a doctorate or two by now.  Combined with the practical example of his knowledge of engineering and chemistry, it wouldn’t be out of bounds to assume that he has at least one himself.” He tapped his finger on the table once, mainly as a bit of a stalling tactic as he thought over how to phrase this, then met the Captain’s eyes. “I haven’t interacted with him since he’s been getting the once over by medical, but he seems to maintain a pretty strict focus on titles, and draws as distinct line between Starfleet and civilian. It could be that he assumes we would be more inclined to assist if he was a member of Starfleet as well.”

“This supports what we’ve seen from his assessments as well,” Dr. Franklin chimed in. “He has a fairly direct us vs. them mentality, and has given some indications that we think might lean towards him having a narcissistic personality or other manipulative behavior patterns. There may be some abandonment and authority issues mixed in, however we haven’t been able to nail down a solid profile yet as he is a master at switching topics and deflecting. I’ve insisted on daily meetings with Dr. Chiaki until we’re sure he’s adjusting well.”

Jim bit back a wince. The ship’s counselor was perfectly nice, but he knew that he for one would’ve hated the idea of being sent to her against his will. Yearly reviews and sign offs were one thing, but daily meetings…

Before he could chime in stating that was probably a bad idea, the Captain continued with a thoughtful look on his face. “I understand that he wants to assist in our research into this incident. In light of this are we sure that the information that he can provide us is accurate or helpful?”

Franklin sighed. “We’ve only had the chance to go over a few of the readings from the device, but I can say from our preliminary findings, he nailed things on the head. We’ll know more once we have a chance to work with him further.”

“Without us being able to confirm his background and how handy he is with explosives, I am a little concerned with letting him loose on the ship until Dr. Chiaki has a few sessions with him and we get a better handle on him. Kirk, keep an eye on him. Franklin, see if you can distract him with having him work out explanations of his theories on what happened or his understandings of alternate realities, we might be able to get his help without potentially endangering the crew that way,” the Captain ordered lightly. “Everyone keep up the good work. Dismissed.”

XxXxX

If Captain James T. Kirk was anything it was adaptable. And he already had practice at dealing with crap from alternative realities. Still, finding himself actually in one was slightly new, and considering he had been dressed for a night of hitting bars with Bones and Scotty he could kind of see their reactions when he’d claimed to be anything other than a drunken waste of space.

It didn't make it any less annoying that they didn't believe him when he brought up that he was a Starfleet Officer on top of his Doctorates though. Jim could take the higher ground, however, and wouldn't hold their attitudes against them since he was still trying to feel things out here.

That didn’t mean he wouldn’t find a way to get them back for their refusal to let him help with trying to get himself home.

And even that particularly vindictive urge was only the result of hacking their computers from the terminal in his room. Their security could only be described as pathetic, seriously there had been better safeguards around stuff back at the Academy. Then again that could have just been Spock and Gaila and all the other people that he wasn’t sure had access to this specific system. He had ultimately found that they were handling the matrices of dimensional plains all wrong, were behind his universe on their understanding of void mechanics, and were still struggling to even figure out how the ion field had happened in the first place.

Jim could only put up with so much.

Hence why he slipped a meeting into the schedules of the people assigned to work on the device that brought him here.

Jim had spent a good few hours tweaking the documents and computer models he had thrown together to try and demonstrate some of the ideas he’d be introducing. He would have to start off with a bang if he was going to keep their attention and be able to get involved on a more consistent basis. He hadn’t quite hacked some of the hard accesses yet (though it was only a matter of time) which meant he couldn’t do applied demos, so his arguments would need to be particularly on target.

He really did not like the pads in this universe, however. They were big and bulky with little screens and made drinking coffee, walking, and working almost impossible to do together. Plus the people in this world didn’t know how to move out of the way of distracted people and kept running into him as he stalked towards the conference room he’d booked. In his world people know to dodge him, Chekov, McCoy, or anyone else that had their brains engaged in something more important than dodging  obstacles on their way from point A to B.

“Mr. Kirk,” came an amused voice from in front of him, and Jim glanced up to see Lieutenant Commander James Tiberius Perfect Kirk standing in the middle of the hallway. “Sorry, Dr. Kirk.”

Jim sighed. “What can I assist you with, Commander Kirk?”

“Lt. Ialker wanted me to sit in on the meeting you have with him and Dr. Haskins this morning, and I was wondering if there was anything that I can do to help you prep for the presentation?”

Jim pasted on his press smile and his other self blinked. “No, but thank you for the offer.”

There was only so much that he can put up with, and dealing with this guy was definitely straining his patience.

“Are you sure? It looks like you’re still working through a few things and the meeting is in 20 minutes.”

“18 minutes and 42 seconds, to be exact. And I’m good, even with the different pad style throwing me for a loop. They’re not really balanced for walking and working.”

Commander Kirk nodded with a grin, “they can take some getting used to. Word has that they’ve developed some new casings that should halve the size without losing the multi-environment protection.”

Jim forced his press smile to stay on his face even though he really, really wanted to smirk. “Really? Cool.” His universe was already at the point that allowed them to bring tablets and most standard technology into space without any loss in quality over 5 years ago.

“Yeah, I’d be happy to forward some of what I have on that research if it interests you?”

Jim let out a small “hmm” as he turned his attention back to the pad with his models and took a slow sip of coffee. “Maybe later. I’m down to 17 minutes and 13 seconds now.”

Commander Kirk laughed, “that is very precise. I am sure saying 17 minutes is fine.”

Jim finally lost the fight against a smirk as he quoted one of his first officers favorite phrases, “fine has variable definitions and is therefore unacceptable.”

The look that crossed the Commander’s face was probably the one that had crossed Jim’s when Spock had first pulled that on him. It was kind of fun from the other end.

“That…” Commander Kirk blinked, and swallowed, “makes sense, I suppose.”

Jim couldn’t help but laugh a little as he focused all his attention on the pad, tuning out the Commander. It was a little rude, but Jim wasn’t exactly feeling charitable towards the guy right now.

He made the occasional ‘hmming’ noise just so that the man wouldn’t realize how little he was paying attention (he was catching about every fifth or sixth word), but it was enough that he didn’t mind missing it, as it sounded like presentation tips and crap about this realities mis-understandings of physics. Meh.

He eventually reached the conference room and leaned against the wall to keep working. 9 minutes and 19 seconds. Everything was ready, he was sure of it.

He downed the last of his coffee and looked around until he spotted a spot that he thought was for dirty dishes? He wasn’t sure, pretty much everywhere in his Starfleet used replicated materials, so they pretty much had to just toss dirty dishes into the slots and they’d be taken care of. This one used a rather odd combo of all replicator and actual hard dishes, and don’t even get him started on the color scheme for it all…

Not that that mattered to anyone but him in this universe, he thought with an eye roll as he moved over to the station and double checked the (frankly inadequate) labeling. Yup, dishes. He quickly tossed his cup and then went back to lean against the wall, still ignoring Lieutenant Commander James Tiberius Perfect Kirk who would not take the hint and just leave him alone, “don’t you have something better to do?” He couldn’t help but ask.

“Not for another 42 minutes,” the other replied with a grin, and Jim bit back a scowl. Yay. At least the man had mostly stopped talking at this point. They remained there in an awkward silence until the rest of the scientists showed up, Jim gave his counterpart a tight smile before he followed them in.

What a fabulous way to start things off.

XxXxX

Jim cringed a little as he watched Captain Sheridan read over the report from the scientists that had been involved in the earlier meeting with his counterpart from another dimension. The man looked at him over the rim of his glasses when he was done, and all Jim could do was sigh.

“At least security intervened before there were any punches thrown?” He tried.

“Keep a better eye on him,” the man ground out.

“Yes, sir.”

XxXxX

Jim leaned back in the overstuffed chair, his elbows propped up on the arms so that he could borrow one of Spock’s favorite poses and steeple his fingers in front of his face. Across the room from him the Constitution’s counselor just looked at him questioningly with a bland smile on her face.

They’d been silent for about 20 minutes now after over 30 minutes of dancing around nothing, and neither were ready to break the standoff. This was towards the tail end of their 6th session, and it was their 2nd since his disastrous meeting with the science team working on getting him home. Frankly the idea that those morons were in charge of that…

His jaw clenched.

How was this the reality he was stuck in?

The Ambassador had always talked about his home reality in such a glowing light, how their people would go to the Galaxy Wall and past it to help someone with little question. Jim had taken it with a little bit of a grain of salt as he figured even if the guy was half Vulcan, he was old and looked at his past with nostalgia glasses.

But this was just painful.

Finally the almost non-existent beep that indicated the time was over went off and Jim dropped his hands to smile. “Well, same time same place I’m sure?” Jim asked rhetorically as he stood.

“Actually I cleared my next appointment in case we went over, if you’d like to go on,” Dr. Chiaki stated with a subdued smile.

Jim’s grin took on a bit of a press edge as he met her oh so calm smile.

“I am, frustrated, at what appears to be the science teams of this universe locking me out of investigations that I have a vested interest in, without even offering updates beyond ‘we’re working on it.’ Based on what I have seen of the scientific community here, I have some reservations that have yet to be addressed on how much they are actually working at it, or even how much of the scenario they understand. I mean really, they aren’t even willing to entertain the thought that you can create self sustaining micro black holes with a limited event horizon and a short burn out. I have people that I care about that I will get back, Doctor. One way or the other, and with or without your crews help.”

Her eyes narrowed.

“Right,” Jim scowled. “Good talk.” With that he promptly spun on his heel and walked out.

XxXxX

“Captain,” Dr. Chiaki nodded her head as she sat in the chair in front of his desk. Commander Garibaldi was leaned against the wall in between the Captain’s office and his private quarters, while Dr. Franklin was seated in the other chair.

“What is it Doctor?” Captain Sheridan asked, to the point as always.

The Doctor re-ran her notes through her head really quickly, these situations were always a tricky balance of patient confidentiality and security, and started. “While I do not believe he is an immediate threat, Dr. Kirk is exhibiting several behaviors that concern me enough that I am required to report them to you.”

Captain Sheridan sighed, “we were afraid that might happen. What can you tell us?”

“Dr. Kirk is expressing high levels of frustration at what he perceives as the incompetence of our science teams, and has indicated a willingness to, in essence go over our heads to do what he perceives he needs to in order to ‘get home.’ This includes what I believe to be breaching our network security as he has demonstrated a knowledge of several facts on our discussions of him that he should not have, along with what I can at best assume is knowledge of the internal workings of our science departments and their projections into the viability of his proposals and additional research into the event that brought him here.”

Garibaldi blinked, “you’re kidding.”

“No.”

The Captain leaned forward, placing his elbows on the desk and looking at her over his crossed hands. “And you’re sure?”

“Yes, Captain. He’s quite upset at how things are progressing and from what I can gather of his personality, he has the tendency to lash out foolishly when frustrated.” She bit her lip, looking down a little before meeting Sheridan’s eyes. This was only the third time that she had ever needed to breach Doctor/Patient confidentiality, and she was determined to ensure that she phrased this appropriately. “There was a turn of phrase he used that was right out of my notes. Additionally, Dr. Franklin provided the research timelines to me so I could use them to help set his expectations realistically about making it home, but he already knew them exactly when the latest calculations had been finished just that morning and hadn’t been officially submitted.”

Captain Sheridan looked like he wanted to say something, but before he could go on, Dr. Franklin leaned forward to add, “several members of my science science team have indicated that meetings with Dr. Kirk keep popping up on their calendars, showing they had accepted the invites but they don’t recall doing it. Once is one thing, but it’s happening consistently, and half my scientists might be a little odd, but they’re not that forgetful.”

It was quiet for a few moments as Captain Sheridan thought things through, before he finally responded. “Let’s be quick and careful about this. Ultimately, we don’t know 100%, and he is in a very tough spot right now. Additionally, if he is good enough to hack our computers, I don’t want to set him off before we have a chance to determine the extent of the damage. Garibaldi, please have our InfoSec and NetSec teams start combing to see if they can find any evidence of tampering, and if they find it, see if we can identify what systems have been compromised and what he’s done. Also have him tailed discreetly whenever he leaves quarters, use Commander Kirk if needed.”

“Sir,” Garibaldi nodded.

The Captain turned a gimlet eye on her and Dr. Franklin. “You two, keep an eye on things. Don’t tip him off or cut him out of things yet, but if you see or hear anything else, report it to Garibaldi.”

Before they could acknowledge his command, the Captain’s intercom went off and his Yeoman called out, “Captain, Ambassadors G’Kar and Mollari are here for their meeting about the refugee resettlements for the Norvam Colony.” There was loud yelling and a crashing noise in the background.

He scowled, “it never ends.”

Chapter Text

Ever since he had realized these idiots were too dense to actually use him to do any of the theoretical or practical work on the device that had brought him to this world, Jim had tried to amuse himself by actually writing out the proofs for his answers to their questions. After that just annoyed him more, he would imagine what Spock or Scotty or Chekov would say when they saw what these people twisted in relation to this little nightmare to cheer himself up.

He also rather enjoyed the side project that he had come up with digging through various newsfeeds and history texts to create a flowchart of the differences in their worlds. He had the branch point for his universe and most of the direct fallout memorized (read the destruction of the Kelvin), which combined with his personal history and what general knowledge he had of Starfleet history plus what digging he'd done to supplement crew background checks gave him enough working material to try to line up the dominos.

He was failing quite a bit.

Still it was fun to try.

The most entertaining thing to play around with was the technology though.  It consisted of a strange mix of outdated and advanced theories and hardware.

He could clearly see where the advancements from the salvaged Narada pieces had influenced ship design from replicators to phasers to materials. His Enterprise was over 10 years newer, production having been delayed due to the restructuring and altered priorities for Starfleet after the shock of losing the Kelvin in safe, Federation controlled space.

It was also almost three times bigger, doubled the crew and was definitely a step above technology wise.

Even factoring in the different scales for calculating warp speed, his Lady blew anything he could find for this universe away.

Altogether, if he had to sit around doing nothing for most of this visit it wouldn't be completely wasted as the artificial jump in their technology had caused some… forced engineering to put it mildly. This was giving him the opportunity to have some fun hypothesizing about the intermediary steps they had missed now that he was seeing where they would have been if the Narada hadn’t blown apart everything they knew.

Starfleet, heck even just the geniuses on his crew would love to see what he’d be able to bring back.

Who was he kidding.

He was bored.

And frustrated.

And really, he was doing them a favor by being a relatively non-hostile party identifying their security gaps.

It was almost white hat of him.

He’d also make sure to leave notes on how to follow someone more subtly.

XxXxX

Kirk was playing chess against the computer and reading something as he snacked on fries (he’d love to know how the kid managed to get those out of the galley crew).

It was the same as most other times he left his quarters and didn’t go to the gym or the observation deck.

Really, he thought, it was kind of boring.

If it wasn’t for the way the brat moved and would side eye various crew members he passed with those too blue eyes of his, all smiles and charm and oh-look-at-me prettiness, Lt. Allan would almost think that the amount of time they’d but into babysitting the brat was a waste.

Especially as they still couldn’t figure out how he was doing what he did.

Franklin was still reporting that the kid knew things about their systems and investigations that he shouldn’t, even if the computer nerds hadn’t been able to figure out how.

Dr. Chiaki got a pinched forehead any time his name was brought up, which considering he’d seen her stand her face all sorts of monsters across an interview table without flinching…

Well.

There was no denying the too slick version of Kirk from another world could read people and get what he wanted (seriously, Zack had tried to get them to add fries to the replicators for ages… He’d signed all 7 petitions and been part of the group that brought the last two the facilities manager and been ranted at for two hours on proper nutrition and to just go to the civilian sector to buy some if they wanted to destroy their cholesterol it wouldn’t happen on his watch in his galley and what’s more Franklin agreed with him.)

Zack kept one eye on the Detective novel he was using as a cover, practically stabbing his carrots into the ranch dip as he tried to remember if the character making an overly dramatic love declaration was new or not. Only reading half heartedly as he watched the brat did little for his reading comprehension, especially as he had to mentally note every single one of the crew that would swing by and say hi, as even with the current suspicions in the upper ranks, Kirk was a social butterfly and had managed to make a crazy amount of acquaintances in the short time he’d been on board.

It was like he was determined to make sure everyone on board loved him and thought he was a giant, too smart for his own good puppy. If you combined it with the tragic story of how he got here and how he had saved the security crew from a bomb, well, it had the crew collectively wanting to make him feel better about being here and give him pats and cuddles and all sorts of other feel good stuff.

Which combined with his manipulative tendencies and how outwardly friendly he was, especially in comparison to the slightly more reserved Kirk of their own universe, meant that Kirk had a good portion of the crew eating out of the palm of his hand.

Given the fact Zack was half convinced Kirk was a-

Kirk climbed to his feet, holding the pad under his arm, he maneuvered the chess pieces and his basket of fries onto the board and picked it up as well.

He was probably heading back to his quarters.

Nope.

Instead the brat walked right up to him.

No, that wasn’t right.

The little shit sauntered up to him with a smirk and a twinkle in those damn eyes that made Zack want to throw his own pad at him. Or punch him.

Either worked.

“Lt. Zack Allan?”

“Yes?” He answered the little shit.

“You’re following me around.”

Zack blinked, immediately retrenching. “Do you always think people are following you? There are Doctors for that sort of thing you know.”

Kirk laughed and placed the board and it’s contents on the table, moving the fries and pad to the side as he dropped into the chair opposite Zack and began to set the board. “The least you can do is play a game or two with me.”

“I happen to be enjoying my book here, brat.”

Kirk rolled his eyes. “I’ll share my fries.”

“Fine. But tricks on you I suck at chess.”

“Why do you think I didn’t say we should bet on it?”

XxXxX

Dr. Chiaki smiled at him in that blank, super professional way that meant she probably wanted to do unspeakable things to him, and not the nice kind.

Jim grit his teeth.

“Do you know what I realized?” She asked too lightly.

“That Sigmund Freud needs to be replaced as the penultimate awesomeness of psychiatry in the collective media consciousness of mankind?”

“No, though I do agree with that,” she said, and there was a slight twitch of a real smile on her perfectly painted lips and dark eyes. “I suddenly thought that I never actually asked what your doctorates were in directly. It’s terribly rude of me.”

Jim raised an eyebrow.

Huh. She actually had a point there.

Heck, he didn’t think that any of them had asked now that he thought about it. As for himself, he’d been too busy browbeating them with concepts and stressing his title that he’d kind of forgotten that he’d actually never explain his doctorates or really enough of his past to explain how he had them.

Oops.

“First one was a dual major in Computational Engineering and Subspace Coms with a focus on Deep Space Signal Relays. Next was Thermo-Dynamics, with a Minor in Theoretical Physics that just kind of happened due to some of the Pre-Reqs they wouldn’t let me skip, and the last was Interplanetary Business and a Double Minor in Economics and Xenolinguistics because my Advisor slipped in a few extra classes and lied about a few of tests.”

She blinked, and Jim couldn’t help but shrug.

He was one of those stereotypical people that had failed at High School due to a mix of trauma and boredom.  

Halfway through his freshman year, he’d just up and quit going because pretty much everyone else there seemed stupid in comparison to him and no one had been able to give him a convincing argument not to.

Besides it wasn't really like anyone had really cared when he stopped showing up. The only people who had for a while were a particularly determined school secretary and the truancy cops. He’d solved that problem by heading to one of the local colleges and sitting through a GED exam, testing out of High School completely.

It had been kind of fun for the first few weeks, not having to show up at school or having to deal with any crap from teachers or his 'peers'.

But eventually he got bored. Very bored. More bored than if he’d just sat through school, really.

It wasn't even like he could get a decent job since he was only 14.

Well… Okay not really.

That was a lie.

He'd been head hunted a few times, but really, really wasn't interested in any of the things they had brought up, most of which involved off world stuff. Starfleet had even tried approaching him to see if he wanted to use his guaranteed in to the Academy thanks to his Old Man dying. His multiple four-letter word response and the subsequent reprogramming of the local recruiting offices computers to make Pokemon sounds anytime they did anything kind of dissuaded them from trying again even if they hovered at the edges of his vision just in case he changed his mind.

He'd bummed around a little, not sure what to do with his life, when it had happened.

It had been on a whim.

And not like one of the good, ‘hey I should go clean my room’ or ‘I wonder if I can blow that up’ whims, but the kind of whim that had ended up with him flying halfway across the Federation to live with his Aunt and Uncle rather than stick with the devil he knew.

After a day spent at the fort he and Sam had built back before Frank and expectations and everything else had his brother swearing off anything mildly related to the Kirk name, calling himself Johnny and running for the hills, he’d decided to find out if Johnny was alive or dead in a ditch somewhere. Really, he knew going in there wouldn’t be much of trail, especially given how much time had passed.

Hell, Frank hadn’t even filed a missing person’s report. Their Mother had had to do that when she brought Jim back to Kansas after the disaster that resulted from his aforementioned whim to fly halfway across the Federation to live with his Aunt and Uncle. The fireworks when she’d realized that when her now ex-husband said that Sam wasn’t home, he wasn’t just at a friends but had instead runaway had been fairly epic.

It had been spectacular enough that even in his pissed off, traumatized, and half dead state, he’d managed to cackle with glee and point out every tiny detail on why they’d both ended up looking to be anywhere but where their Mother had left them.

Maybe in retrospect he could have been a bit less harsh, but as a 13-year-old he’d been more interested in hurting the world that hurt him.

Either way, the damage had been done and neither the cops or Starfleet had been able to find the oldest Kirk kid.  

Jim hadn’t been able to find any hint either when he tried a year later. There’d been no police reports, no shelter logs, no activity on any of his old accounts… Nothing.

It had been a whim to visit the ancient bomb shelter.

A whim to try to find the brother that abandoned him.

An even bigger whim with more than a little stir crazy daring mixed in that made him want to test his crappy luck against a few of the systems he did when the standard ones turned up nothing.

When Jim realized they were tracing him back he'd lead them on a truly grand cyber chase, but they'd found him eventually. Robert, the jerk his Mom had married after Frank, had had no problems letting the cops know all of Jim's hideouts and they'd pulled him kicking and screaming out of the fort where he’d built his Johnny hunting set up.

Since Jim had been a minor, a hero's kid, a Starfleet Officer's kid, and a damn genius, they hadn't wanted him to 'waste his potential'. This had led to the State contacting Starfleet, and after a five minute subspace conference with his Mom and a few of the grinning brass that liked to show up whenever his Mom was in town, Jim was officially Starfleet's ward until he turned 18.

They'd promptly threatened him with actually enrolling him at the Academy to get him to sit a few aptitude tests and then forced him through a couple of classes at various Universities until wham, bam, thank you ma'am he'd had the first of his PhDs and was put to work with the groups adapting the tech they'd backwards engineered from the pieces of the ship that had destroyed the Kelvin that had been left floating at the crash site along with helping to actually make some of the concept designs the techs had in mind plausible.

Sometime between helping to streamline the Universal Translator with a few off shoots of the nano-tech to a much more adaptable version of the in-ear microchip and developing a crystal based type of microchip to handle some of the computing power the reverse engineered stuff was capable of and managing to figure out that weird element in the hull plating that increased its density, which was promising enough that Starfleet delayed launching their new flagship for almost 5 years so that all the systems and framework could be updated, Jim Kirk had discovered that he had another PhD and wasn't really bored anymore.

The various Admirals and Scientists in charge of him even made sure he spent some time out of the labs, because you know, they were technically acting as his parents and parents were supposed to do stuff like that. Even if he didn't sleep much there was almost always someone around to do something with, and one of the Canadian Scientists had introduced him to alcohol in a way that didn't involve him being hit so he kind of liked that. While him being buzzed or drunk it also led to him helping invent an actually playable version of 3D chess after a Russian scientist claimed it wasn’t possible that ended up being all the rage with high level chess masters.

He was actually happy enough that when he was 17 and 11 months old and Starfleet approached him about staying for a while after his birthday, Kirk had agreed. One of the other Scientists loaned him credits so he could have the contract looked at by some lawyers, and getting Starfleet to agree to him only accepting assignments he chose hadn’t been nearly as troublesome as he’d thought.

Being able to work on the systems for the Enterprise longer was amazing. He made it stronger, faster, more solid, was able to design systems for the programmers that increased her capability to replicate foodstuffs to a nearly unimagined degree while cutting the power drain by more than half. Oh, there would still be a galley and stuff, because people shouldn’t just live off of replicated nutrients, but the decreased power drain would help in unimaginable ways in emergencies.

The next thing he knew, it was several years later when he was 22 and back in Riverside, celebrating his latest PhD as he gave the framework for the Enterprise one last go over prior to plating and pressure testing for the launch up to the Spacedock where she’d be finished.

And on a bit of a whim, he’d hit on a gorgeous girl and gotten in a bar fight.

Jim had heard recruitment speeches before but for some reason Pike’s stood out. It wasn’t just the challenge, or the dare.

It was the belief, maybe.

While Pike made it clear that he thought Jim could be better, it wasn’t in that

Whatever it was Jim decided that screw it, he was going to finally use that guaranteed in.

The brass had been ecstatic, and his Mother had even deigned to send him a subspace com telling him that he’d do good if he didn’t balls it up.

Bones had been a revelation.

Something infinitely not boring.

Uhura, Gaila, his new Command Crew…

He’d never been happier.

And he was going to get back to them no matter what.

He smiled and Dr. Chiaki, and if it turned a little evil as her back stiffened, well.

It wasn’t like he hadn’t warned them that he was getting home one way or another.

XxXxX

In spite of his often-raging insecurities, Jim generally at least recognized that he contributed relatively positively to society, and that no matter how he got them, the Enterprise and her brilliant crew were his and he did a pretty solid job taking care of both. Which is why, he figured, the insidious feeling that he was a waste of space compared to this version of himself hurt even more sharply. This together, composed, made all the right choices, just plain fantastic jerk just…. just… rubbed all of Jim’s mistakes in his face in one glorious, expertly polite package.

Really!

Jim truly believed (okay, kind of believed… maybe...) that even with his issues, he wasn’t that bad of a person.

After all, he didn’t kick puppies, he donated most of his earnings to charity (he didn’t need that much for shore leave, and he was going to die in the line of duty so no need to save for retirement), made sure that his brilliant crew had everything they needed, and saved as many lives as he could without crossing the line (by much).

If he was prone to bragging Jim would also say he was pretty freaking smart, could throw a mean punch, and even managed to get Spock to smile every now and then.

Oh, and he was the youngest Captain of a Starfleet vessel, like ever. (And screw it that this alternate version of Starfleet didn’t believe him. They were idiots.)

All in all, he really should not be feeling inferior to a tightwad, stick in the mud, by the books, jerk.

But he did feel like he could have been better. Been this.

And it made him feel like a waste of space.

He didn’t even feel like it was with the Spocks, where there wasn’t one that was better than the other, they were just differently awesome and amazing. Where the Spock from his Universe looked at his alternate self and stated that aside from some wistful longing that he had more time with his mother he didn’t see any point of comparing their lives (and Jim was 90% certain that wasn’t a lie.)

With the other James Tiberius Kirk however, Jim felt the irrational need to show off, to justify his actions, to explode with the childish need to validate his existence in comparison.

It really, really didn’t help that the default expressions of most of the people they’d come across in this universe, no matter how much skill or intelligence he displayed, ranged from amused tolerance to disapproval to pity. They were looks that told Jim he wasn’t a poster child that needed no PR white washing to be a shining example of the pinnacle Starfleet Recruiters dreamed of. He wasn’t this wildly successful paragon of achieved potential and a showcase of everything Starfleet stood for.

Those looks shouldn’t impact him since he’d been seeing them practically his entire life, so if they did get to him, they should cause the normal anger, not this weird shame. And he’d imagined them on his Father’s face practically every day from when he’d been old enough to realize the man in the framed photos at the services and memorials and dedications was his Dad, and, well, now if he was 100% honest, so seeing the real thing shouldn’t hurt more, right?

Right?

Those were the thoughts that had Jim up and going at a punching bag in an empty gym like a mad man in the dead middle of Gamma shift with classic rage metal playing on his pad when he should be back in his guest room asleep. If he didn’t take out some of the frustration building up in stomach, there’d probably be more than a few odd looks from the galley staff at his sparsely filled meal trays (stress made him nauseous, and he couldn’t bear to waste the food by selecting more than he could keep down), if he was sleeping okay (which he wasn’t, the red bed sheets in this world freaked him out), if he was adjusting okay (no way, he wouldn’t be here long enough to ‘adjust’ no matter what the scientists here thought), and he’d haul off and plant his fist in his counterparts face (because biting in that fight instinct wasn’t something he did well unless he cared about someone, and even that was iffy.)

“You lean a bit too much into the rights, try keeping your core tighter,” a voice spoke over the pounding music.

No. Just no way.

He caught the bag and glared at the imitation leather for a second before plastering his press smile on his face and shifting to face His Perfectness, Lieutenant Commander James Tiberius Kirk.

“Really?” Ouch…. Tone down, Jimmy. You don’t need to have it up to 11 here, you’re not charming the ass for the first time. He already knows what you are.

His ‘other-self’ (or whatever terminology they’d settled on for the moment) nodded precisely, and there was this weird look on his face that Jim couldn’t quite place, and not just because the lines were slightly different than his own (Jim had taken a hard beating on Taurus, and the Doctors after had been overwhelmed) and his eyes are a warm hazel (rather than the blue that Jim’s were thanks to ambient space radiation making it through the medical shuttles shields when he’d been nothing but a 3 months premature baby, that and hair that had stayed mostly blonde, rather than turning too much darker). He has no doubt that the emotions are something that was way above his admittedly immature viewpoint anyway, given how emotionally stable and aware the ass was.

“Yeah, I can show you if you want?” Came the response, accompanied by a slight glare at the PADD. Jim couldn’t help but narrow his eyes a little, and his fingers clenched against the bag. “I’m a hand to hand instructor at the Academy on top of tactics, so I don’t mind.”

A hand to hand instructor. At the Academy. On top of tactics.

Jim wasn’t sure if that was either a further dig that his hand to hand skills weren’t up to what was being offered at the Academy, or a way to again highlight how much greater Lieutenant Commander James Tiberius Kirk was, or both. Or maybe he was being paranoid in his increasing fight to maintain his sense of self worth and the man really did just want to help.

Jim doubted it though.

There was something in the look the other man was giving him that he couldn’t quite make out that said Jim was wanting. Wasn’t as good as he should be if he was a version of James Tiberius Kirk.

“Thanks, Commander, but I’m done here for the night.” He let go of the bag and turned to snatch up his towel and take a drag from his water bottle. He ran the towel over his face, doing his best to ignore the other man in the gym as he killed his music and unwrapped his knuckles (he really owed the Ship’s Quartermaster a drink for somehow digging up extra boxing and workout gear for him on top of the standard refugee kit he’d been given.)

He tossed his stuff into his gym bag, and was just turning to head for the disinfectant to wipe down the bag (they didn’t have auto-cleaning ones like on his ship, the difference in Nano-Tech was ridiculous) only to be stopped short when his other self stepped into his path and held out one of the wipes. Jim forced a smile. “Thanks, man.” he took the wipe and quickly rubbed down the bag before going to toss the wipe, only to turn and once again find the other Kirk holding his gym bag and water bottle out to him. He forced another grin and nod before grabbing his stuff and turning to leave the Gym, praying that His Perfectness wouldn’t follow him.

“About the way that-” Jim spun to face the other man, stopping in the hallway to turn and artfully raise an eyebrow (no, he hadn’t spent too many hours to count practicing to get that eyebrow raise as close to Spock’s as he could get) to cut him off. He really, really didn’t need to know what he’d done ‘wrong’ enough to get this pathetically cookie cutter version of himself to hunt him down in the middle of the night. Seriously, couldn’t he just be like all the techies in this universe and fill his inbox with dozens of coms doubting the validity of his math, or his education, or his ‘theories’, or his general existence?

“It’s pretty late, and I have a meeting where I need to try and convince people that space is the thing that is moving at 07:00, so unless it’s vital mind if we pick this up at another time?” Like at whatever time constituted “never”? Maybe, please?

“Sure,” other him said with a slight smile. “Anything I can do to help on that, by the way? I know that our scientists can be a little overwhelming, and that’s for someone at the same technical level we’re at.” There was a bright grin, “I think that the fact they’re around people as brilliant as they are on a regular basis makes it so they forgot not everyone speaks in their specific formulas, acronyms, and jargon.”

Oh yes, I totally need you to translate those oh so hard technical terms, Your Perfectness. Thank you so much for coming to my rescue.

“I think I can manage, I am sure that you have your duties to deal with, Commander.” He gave a final, sharp nod to the other version of him, and spun to absolutely not stalk down the hallway towards a turbolift in a huff.

XxXxX

Jim stared after the other version of him. That hadn’t gone nearly as well as he had hoped.

When Security had pinged him, worried because Dr. Kirk was going at a punching bag for the 4th night in a row rather than sleeping, he couldn’t help but feel a ping of sympathy. He really didn’t know what he would do in his position, thrown from his Universe and all he had ever known and loved thanks to a couple of scientists being less than careful with their containment procedures, with no real sign of being able to get home.

The man was grasping desperately at any chance he could get home, Franklin had explained at the last check in meeting with the Senior Staff. Dr. Kirk was undoubtedly brilliant and demonstrated a remarkable ability that was years ahead in multiple fields of engineering, computer programming, and nano-technology, but the theories and information he was postulating on some subjects were getting more outrageous the longer he was in their Universe. Jim’s own personal grasp of engineering was pretty solid, and he could at least keep up with most discipline’s theories and conversations, but he had to admit that he got a little lost when his alternate self, Franklin, and whatever additional officers were there started really getting going.

Still Jim understood that the attitude amongst the ship’s scientists was that while they barely knew what happened to bring Dr. Kirk here, much less how to reverse it, they were pretty certain that whatever the man was postulating was unlikely to work.

It had made Jim, for lack of a better term, curious, about getting creative and just letting the man do whatever he wanted.

Not happy with a few half-remembered statistics from the Academy, Jim had thoroughly abused his Dad’s and Uncle Robert’s contacts to get his hands on the latest data. Of the times where there was some type of spatial, dimensional, or temporal anomaly that caused a person or persons to be displaced or altered, there was a less than 14% chance that they would be able to return to their prior status or location successfully. The chances rose to 28% if you counted when displaced people would mysteriously disappear and you couldn’t quite tell if they went back to their rightful place or not.

The odds agreed with the scientists that Dr. Kirk would be stuck here, forever.

Especially since they couldn’t afford to keep spending resources on this. Captain Sheridan had given this two week of priority research, but even with his other self’s help, the possibility of success was infinitesimal. Even if the crew of the ship he had been on were still working to find him, as he seemed certain that they were, there had been such little progress on this side that the justification just wasn’t there.

If they didn’t have something concrete within the next day or two, Jim knew that this would be shelved, and whether it was voluntarily or involuntarily, Dr. James Tiberius Kirk would be removed from the ship and taken to Starfleet Headquarters.

He wasn’t supposed to know this, but Captain Sheridan was already having a few inquiries made with the appropriate parties about ways to matriculate Dr. Kirk into daily life in this Universe. According to Franklin, who had pulled him aside to tell him what he could within regulations, several departments were already showing an inordinate amount of interest in the man based on what he had already demonstrated.

Jim doubted that any of them would treat him like a lab rat or anything, but cross-universal travel was still something found mainly in science fiction as opposed to serious scientific communities so there was little information on it. Anything that was gleaned from the first person that they could 100% prove was from an alternate world would be priceless. Especially as he claimed that his Universe already had some experience with it and could provide additional insight.

Heck, that wasn’t even the only thing that would make him an invaluable resource. Dr. Kirk could build devices that made the Engineers giddy with delight out of the scraps he’d been able to scrounge with his guest status and what he could sweet talk access to. (Apparently the fact that some of that sweet talking happened between sheets was something that Jim was staying away from with a 20,000 lightyear pole.) Additionally, his ability to run circles around their computer security was something that they were torn between wanting to learn more about and apprehension that Dr. Kirk would decide to do more than just monitor their work on getting him home.

It was certain that Starfleet would pressure him to remain as a civilian contractor to the Fleet as he had been in his home Universe.

Jim wasn’t sure how he felt about that either. He honestly felt that the man deserved as much consideration as possible given the situation he was in, but there was something that struck Jim as wrong about this.

Maybe it was that after spending as much time as he had around this other version of himself, he couldn’t help but be a little, well, not jealous, but maybe intrigued, by a version of himself that hadn’t followed the family expectations and joined Starfleet. Jim couldn’t really think of existing without being on a Starship, of having the Fleet at his back and the stars before him, but because of that and his parents and grandparents and various family friends, he’d had his life plotted out for him since he could play with toy starships.

All his extra-curriculars, most of his classes, and even some of his hobbies were geared towards the goal of being exactly what Starfleet wanted. It had all worked. His career was fast tracked, not just because of the people he knew, but because he was that good.

To see himself without the discipline drilled into him from an early age and how wild and intense Dr. Kirk was, was somewhat freeing.

It felt strangely like relief to know that even if he wasn’t as cautious, as careful, that he would still fly high and live amongst the stars. Dr. Kirk was assured, confident. He knew his worth even as he argued and dealt with senior scientists frustrated at getting their knowledge ripped to shreds by someone half their age.

To see this man tied down, to have his options so restricted, it wasn’t something Jim wanted.

“Commander Kirk.” Jim turned to the nervous Ensign that had called his name. He was vaguely familiar, maybe one of the ones that was always flitting around Commander Ivonova?

“Yes, Ensign?”

“Commander Garibaldi needs to talk to you urgently, it’s about Dr. Kirk.”

Chapter Text

It had taken them nine days, nine freaking days, to realize that Jim had been hacking their systems to do more than monitor their work. And even then, they had only noticed he was tweaking their math and re-wording a few research documents to lend his arguments more weight when they researched the appropriate topics. They didn’t know that he’d been… working on a few other projects as well. That or they weren’t letting on that they realized, but they seemed a bit too by the books to pull that.

Especially as he’d been digging through technical details and personnel files (not to mention gathering some funds from clandestine Starfleet Intelligence operations in case he needed to make a break for it). He’d expected to be caught sooner, but maybe he was just used to Spock, Gaila, Chekov, and Scotty and all the other people that made him feel like a complete novice at anything he even looked twice at.

And rather than actually do something to fix their security holes, or even ask him how he did what he did, his other self threw him in the brig (where he’d been waiting roughly 4 and a half hours with no contact his internal clock told him.) Really? Not even an interrogation first? Did the Lt. Commander James Tiberius Kirk really think that making him cool his heels in this tiny cell when he had already been doing little more than that already would change his mind about cooperating with their regulations or whatever? Hadn’t he heard the common definition of insanity?

“Mr. Kirk?” Came Sheridan’s voice.

Hmmm…. The big guns.

Did he want to fight the Doctor issue again with the Captain? Probably not, it wouldn’t do for him to sound too insane, after all, you know, saying the same thing over and over again.

“Yes, Captain Sheridan?” He said, swinging his legs down so he was sitting on the bunk, lounged back against the wall rather than stretched out staring at the ceiling.

“My people tell me they have no idea how you hacked their systems, and that if you hadn’t practically signed the changes to their equations they wouldn’t have known that was you either.”

Jim bit back an eye roll and nodded in understanding. For all that the people here looked down on him for not being their perfect little Lt. Commander James Tiberius Kirk, or tried to placate him with lip service about how it was a possibility physics/quantum mechanics/whatever topic they were on worked differently in his universe, it wasn’t like it was different enough even he could run rings around them.

“They also tell me that your contributions put us well ahead of where we should be and display an understanding of thermo-dynamics and several other branches of science that borders on genius, even with the supposed difference in our universes.”

Jim shrugged. He was decidedly not a genius, especially not compared to his crew. These people just lacked having been in a world changed by the horrible intervention of yet another world over 100 years more advanced, along with common sense and creativity.

“I want you to know that what I am about to tell you was decided prior to this, though there have been a few additions because of it.” Jim’s eyes narrowed. “I am also sorry to have to tell you this, as it wasn’t an easy decision in light of the suffering you are currently going through.”

No. Just. No. You do not get to give me stock sympathy.

“We’ve determined that at this point we have to reallocate resources from the accident that brought you here and how to reverse it. Our ship is desperately needed for other things and can no longer remain in this Nebula.”

“You rat faced liar,” Jim spat out, shooting to his feet. It felt good to give in a little to the anger at these people who trampled over his life with their perfect arrogant and condescending attitudes, like just because he wasn’t part of their worlds Starfleet he didn’t mean anything.

It only fed his anger further that Captain Sheridan just nodded, like he had expected the anger and dismissed it as unimportant.

“We recognize that it was the fault of our Scientists that caused this, and we will do all we can to try and make your adjustment to this Universe as easy as possible.”

“You’re kidding, right? I will not be adjusting. I am going home.”

That pitying look that so many of the people in this universe appeared on the Captain’s face, and it only made Jim more pissed.

“Per regulation we will be transferring you to Starfleet HQ for further review of your status and to make appropriate accommodations to get you settled here.”

Jim’s eyes narrowed. “If your people won’t just let me help rather than arguing with me so that I can arrange my own way home. Can’t you just leave me here with a shuttle or something rather than dragging me even further from where my crew will start looking for me?”

Captain Sheridan shook his head. “We would not be able to spare a shuttle, even if we thought leaving you here would do anything other than leave you to your death.”

Jim bit back another snarky reply before he really and truly lost all control of his temper.

“At this point, as you have demonstrated the distinct ability to get around our security protocols and a lack of willingness to follow our processes, it’s too much of a security risk to continue giving you relatively free range onboard until we come across an appropriate way station or Earth-bound vessel over the normal course of our missions. Given your understandably difficult situation we will not be placing you under arrest for your compromising of our ships systems, but every activity you do will now need to be strictly monitored, and when not actively engaged elsewhere, you will be required to be in this cell, away from all other technology.”

“Sounds like arrest to me, Captain.” Jim bit out, and Captain Sheridan just continued over him.

“This will be a temporary measure, however, as we’re emergency re-routing to the nearest Starbase, where we will transfer you to their local security until such time that Starfleet HQ can send someone to take you into custody pending the aforementioned review.”

Jim took several deep breaths, opened his mouth to say something before deciding that he was still not quite calm enough to say anything and snapped his mouth shut and with the most contemptuous air he could manage, dropped back onto his cot to lie down and close his eyes. He was five lines into one of the meditative chants that Spock had taught him when he heard the Captain turn and start to walk away before pausing.

“Again, Mr. Kirk, I am sorry that you have been placed in this position. I promise you we will do everything we can to make this easier.”

“Go to Hell, Captain.”

XxXxX

Lt. Commander James Kirk stared at Dr. James Kirk, who had so far refused to acknowledge all of his entreaties. The man was lying on his back on the cot in the brig cell, throwing his stress ball rhythmically at the ceiling.

How the Captain had thought making him be the one ensuring the comfort of his alternate self (as much as possible anyway) would work out when he’d been the one to stick him in the brig Jim would never know. It hadn’t been an easy call, and the initial findings on this latest breach hadn’t been that worrying, but he’d aired on the side of caution when combined with everything else the man had gotten up to. Really, the Doctor had even laughed when Jim had shown up at his door with security to take him into custody, telling them it was about time.

He knew that the Doctor was phenomenal with computers, and was frustrated with the lack of progress on getting him home, but he needed to trust that he might not understand this world or it’s technology yet, and that they had the best intentions for him because of that.

I mean, I’m one to bend the rules when needed, like with the Kobiyashi Maru, Jim thought, but this is one of the situations where patience should win out. The more you cooperate when in a strange situation, the better, right?

“Dr. Kirk, I understand that this situation is hardly ideal, but I need to confirm any appointments or trips that you intend to make for the day so that I can make the appropriate arrangements.”

Still no response, not even a break in the rhythmic smacking of the ball. And seriously, how had he gotten the stupid stress ball in the first place?

“I feel the need to point out that this really is not intended to be an imprisonment. If you don’t feel that you can make these arrangements with me, I can look into additional options.”

The stress ball smacked into the ceiling again, and Jim couldn’t stop his fists from clenching a little.

“Should I assume that you have no pressing appointments or plans for the day?”

The stress ball smacked the ceiling.

“What about any meal requests? If you don’t plan on eating in the commissary-”

Smack.

“-can I at least arrange a specific dish be brought down.”

Smack.


“Have a nice day, Doctor.”

Smack.

Jim turned on his heel and stalked past the stoic Security Officer on duty.

Smack.

He heroically didn’t order Security to confiscate the stress ball.

XxXxX

The doors to the brig opened, and Jim couldn’t stop a flinch as he heard the smack of that infernal stress ball.

The Security Officer on duty glanced up at him and quickly went back to staring at the wall.

Jim walked forward, determined to get something out of himself, even if it was a pissed off ‘screw you for sticking me in the brig.’

As Jim fell into parade rest in front of the cell, he ran through every opening gambit he had prepared again. There was one thing that might make this better, but Jim wasn’t going to say sorry, he wasn’t.

Smack.

He was sorry that such a brilliant person didn’t trust that they had been doing what they could. He was sorry that a couple of scientists weren’t smart enough to be careful with their side projects and brought him here. He was sorry that Dr. Kirk would be trapped here. He was sorry that he couldn’t find the right words to make this other version of himself…. Make this other version relax, let down his guard, feel like he might be able to make a home here, anything to make this better.

But he wasn’t sorry for making a decision to protect the ship from a possible threat.

Smack.

He wasn’t entirely sure how long he waited as Dr. Kirk threw the stress ball against the ceiling, laid in the same position he was in yesterday, but Jim broke first.

Smack.

“Dr. Kirk, I hope your day yesterday was pleasant?” Security had reported that nothing had happened aside from their people getting slightly keyed up at the noise from the ball that only really broke when the man was going to the bathroom.

Smack.

Given that the commissary had seen fit to report to him after Jim’s trays had been returned mostly full that the man hadn’t been eating well the last few days too, he likely wasn’t getting adequate nutrients. Which meant that if Dr. Kirk didn’t eat properly today, than they would need to get him to Medical to ensure that his system wasn’t starting to react poorly to something in this universe.

Smack.

He honestly couldn’t imagine throwing a stress ball against a ceiling for hours on end was enough to keep Dr. Kirk’s mind entertained. Or maybe it was entertaining to him in that it drove them up the wall.

“Is there anything I can arrange for you? Anywhere that you would like to go?”

Smack.

“I can’t give you a PADD, but I have a few paper books that you can pick through?”

Smack.

“Maybe info about our destination?”

Smack.

“We’ll be at DS4 in three days. Perhaps I could provide you info on-”

Smack.

“-that?”

Smack.

“What about any food requests for today? Maybe steak or a burger?”

Smack.

“What about a chess board. Security reported that you played the other-”

Smack.

“day…”

Smack.

“How about I come play you? I’m just getting off gamma, so you’ll need to let me get some-”

Smack.

“-sleep first but it would be an interesting game. I promise to give you a challenge. It’s-”

Smack.

“-been awhile since I played seriously, but I was the President of the Chess Club at the-”

Smack.

“-Academy and I still can play at a master level so you won’t be bored.”

Smack.

“I might not have been in your exact situation, but I understand what it’s like-”

Smack.

“-to have your world ripped apart around you. I want to do as much as I can.”

Smack.

“I am sure that if you let me help you th-”

SMACK!

Jim startled back in surprise as the ball that hadn’t broken stride against the ceiling slammed into the cell shielding right in front of his face.

The Doctor was glaring at him with those electric blue eyes narrowed to thin slits that practically glowed in the dimmer lighting of the cell.

Jim swallowed before glancing at the security officer who was eyeing them interestedly, one foot forward like he was prepared to intervene, but Jim shook his head and the man settled back into position.

Smack.

Jim turned back to his alternate self who was back to staring at the ceiling and bouncing that stress ball.

It wasn’t quite a ‘screw you for sticking me in the brig’ but it would do.

Smack.

Maybe Sheridan was right about making him be the one confronting the Doctor. The second stage of grief was anger. If getting mad at Jim made it easier for Dr. Kirk to remove himself from the tense isolation he’d been holding himself in since he’d arrived, then maybe that would help him move closer to acceptance.

Smack.

“Well, I guess I’ll leave you to your day. Please let just let the guard know if you need-”

Smack.

“-anything and I’ll do what I can.”

He walked out and it may have just been his imagination but the last smack that he heard sounded decidedly pouty. He smiled, proud of himself for not even making a threat to take away the kid’s toy.

XxXxX

Smack.

“Anything that I can get you, Doctor?” Jim asked, his brightest smile on.

Smack.

“The commissary is concerned about your nutrient level.”

Smack.

“They’ve offered to make anything you like.”

Smack.

“If they can’t the entire bridge crew has offered our replicator rations.”

Smack.

“Medical insists that they’ll need to do a check up if this doesn’t change.”

Smack.

“Have a great day then.”

Smack.

XxXxX

It was towards the end of alpha shift and Jim really should have been asleep. As XO he was pretty much permanently on beta or gamma shift but was still required to make most staff meetings, so he was used to his sleep cycle being wonky and getting by a few hours, but he was mostly at his limit.

Which is why he really should be asleep, and not stuck contemplating the man in the brig… Again.

It was just, the more that he thought about it, the more that something seemed off.

Dr. Kirk had chosen to hack their systems, chosen to let them know it was him (not like there could have been anyone else really.) And while Jim didn’t know Dr. Kirk as well as he would like, he was fairly certain that he wouldn’t do something like that for no reason. With him being that relatively obvious, there had to be something he was after.

First option: he was just trying to facilitate a faster trip back to his own universe.

Rebuttal: he had already displayed a distinct lack of faith in their ability to get him home, it wouldn’t be logical that he’d think that a few hints making it seem like he was right would change that.

Result: Not likely.

Second option: He was legitimately trying to work with them in a way that he thought would work since verbal debates tended to go in circles.

Rebuttal: Frankly see rebuttal 1.

Result: Also not likely.

Third Option: he wanted them to find it.  

Rebuttal: why?

Answer: to have them suspect him for some reason? To put him under custody? To put him in the brig?

With the same horrible timing as the Ensign the other day, his Desk Comm went off. He pinged to acknowledge, and Lt. Anderson quickly chimed in. “Commander Kirk, there is a problem with the prisoner.”

He briefly thought of reminding the officer that technically, Dr. Kirk was not a prisoner, but just sighed and stood up to start getting dressed. “What is it?”

“He is being transferred to Medical.”

Jim stepped into his boots and was out the door, “On my way.”

He was half way down to medical before he froze. This was too convenient.

He quickly moved to a communication panel and called the bridge.

“Lt. Anderson, what was the emergency that caused Dr. Kirk to need to go to medical?”

The man sounded slightly confused, but answered quickly enough. “He had an allergic reaction to something in his meal.”

That… seemed unlikely. So far the food across both universes seemed similar from Dr. Kirk’s chatter with the Commissary crew. Medical had been slightly concerned, that nutrient levels might be different, especially with the Doctor picking at his food rather than eating, but had ruled out general incompatibilities. “How bad of a reaction?”

“Anaphylactic shock mainly. Fairly mild but he has some periphery issues as well, slight swelling of the extremities, and some numb tongue.”

All of those could be bad, but were they?

“Was he still mobile? How coherent?”

“Sir?”

“Was he together enough to try to escape?”

And then with that perfect timing thing again, the red alert klaxon went off.

Chapter Text

Jim did not give in and curse, but it was close. He had two options, one was to make it to his battle station as per regulation, especially as he didn’t 100% know that it was Dr. Kirk that was causing this. The second option, go on the hunch that this was Dr. Kirk and figure out where he was headed, what he was doing.

“Commander Kirk?” Lt. Anderson called him from the panel. “The security alert is because the prisoner just escaped while in transit.”

Where…

No. Why.

Obvious answer, get home.

He had to know he was never going to be able to turn the whole ship around and keep her there for very long.

Maybe the transporters?

No, they were too far and there was nothing to transport to.

Shuttles?

‘Can’t you just leave me here with a shuttle or something rather than dragging me even further from where my crew will come looking for me?’

He had expressed interest in them to the Captain. But that was again, something way too obvious.

There was no other way off the ship though. So, why now? Why not wait and escape custody once he was at a station, or on Earth?

Maybe…

Maybe what?

He had to make a decision, and fast. His other self was too good, and he didn’t have time. “Lt. Anderson, check for activity at all transporter rooms, personnel and cargo.”

“Checking.”

Jim tapped his foot, trying to decide if he should let-

“There’s been multiple low energy power re-routes to Transporter Room 3. The technician on duty there isn’t responding, the station isn’t responding to shutdown pings, and we get an error when we try to remotely power it down.”

“Have Security meet me there!” Jim shouted as he bolted down the corridor.

It took him 4 minutes to make it there by using less than approved methods of navigating turbolift shafts and jefferies tubes. By then Security was there as well and were trying to get through the doors. It wasn’t going well.

They needed to buy time.

Jim, acting on the same impulse that got him to the transporters even though there was no way they could be used to get anywhere from where they were at, pounded on the door hard.

The Shipwide in the hall crackled for a second and then Dr. Kirk’s voice came over it.

“Really, you think pounding on the door will help, Lt. Commander Kirk?”

Jim froze for a second, before his eyes flicked up to the cameras.

“Bingo, Lt. Commander.” The voice sounded actually rather pleased. “Oh and I can hear everything that you guys are saying as well. So I know very well that I’ll be done before you are. Unless you can distract me, and well, I am constantly told that I have the attention span of a gnat and that I wouldn’t know how to minimize a risk to myself if it punched me in the face, soooooo…. 1D since we’re multitasking? That sounds good. Pieces for answers to give you a better shot. E4.”

Jim blinked for a second, trying to realize what that meant when he flashed back to another conversation in the brig.

“E5.”

“Knight to F3.”

“Knight to C6.”

“Bishop to B5.”

“Knight to F6.”

“O-O.” Why would he castle? Their opening had been standard so far…

Still if he was going to leave a piece vulnerable.

“Knight to E4.”

“Aww…. Well, ask away.”

“Why?”

“Is chocolate an intoxicant to Vulcans? Because of medical reasons that I don’t know except for the fact it is different than alcohol to humans.”

“Not what I wanted to know.”

“Then be more specific next time. Pawn to D4.”  

Jim huffed a little, and he didn’t glare at Dominguez when he choked on a laugh. “Knight to D6.”

“Bishop to C6. Do you love your parents?” Jim’s eyes flew to the camera.

“What?”

“Come on, answer the question, or I won’t play.”

“Yes. I love my parents. DC6. Do you love yours?”

“Of course you would. And not really. I should and I know that, but I don’t. If I feel guilty or not about it depends on the day, really. DE5. Did you have a happy childhood?”

Oh. “Yes. I did.” It might have been cowardly, but Jim really didn’t want to know why those questions were the first that he was asked, and why his other self didn’t love his parents. “Knight to F5.” It wasn’t just saving a piece… He needed a second to think.

“Queen to D8.” Oh crap… Of course Dr. Kirk would press him when he needed just a single second. “I’ve found enough to know that you were on Taursus, like me. Which half were you in?”

Jim froze. There weren’t any real flashes of recognition on the faces of the people around him, which was expected considering the whole thing had been, while not hushed up, certainly not publicized, and was over 10 years ago, but he could tell they knew this was something wrong.

It took him a few swallows before he could actually get it out. “I was one of his favorites, actually. Used the position to sneak food and supplies out to a few of the kids from the kill list that escaped, until I was caught.” The Security Guards were determinedly not looking at him at this point, and Jim was quite fine with that.

“Hmm...  How self-sacrificing.” Jim’s head shot to the camera with a glare. That noise sounded positively derisive.

“You have a problem with that, Dr. Kirk?”

“Oh no, you don’t get to ask a question, you haven’t taken a turn yet.” Jim scowled.

“King to D8, answer it.”

“No. I don’t have a problem with it. I think it fits the perfect little Golden Boy that you are.”

Jim was taken aback. The words themselves were insulting, but there was something more there in the tone. “So, does that mean that you didn’t help them? That you have a problem with yourself for the fact that you didn’t?”

There was an absolutely scornful laugh at that. “Not your turn but I’ll give you a, no I’ll give you two freebies. I don’t hate myself for not helping, and I don’t have a problem with you for that. I was on the list to die, Lt. Commander.”

Something caught in Jim’s throat. “And as I think would be obvious, I didn’t go quietly into the night. The second freebie that you’re getting, is a name. Anton Keridian. Look it up. Now, Knight to C3.”

Jim raised a hand to his head, trying to think. Maybe a Parnisis Trap? But no, his other self would see through that, and if these questions kept throwing him off balance, he wouldn’t be able to concentrate enough for anything too complex. Thank everything that this was a 1D board and not 3, otherwise Jim would be screwed.

“Bishop D7.”

They went back and forth few a few tense moves, setting up their more long term strategies, and Jim delayed as much as he could with each move as the Engineers worked to cut through the walls and security grew increasingly more grim looking. He didn’t think it would be enough.

Then Dr. Kirk started pressing his offensive and it was all Jim could do to dance around his pieces. And this time it really was that he wanted to buy time, not just that he didn’t want another question ripping his heart out.

Finally, there was, not an opening per say, but a chance. He had to risk it.

“Bishop to F3.”

“Ouch, I like my Knights, you know.”

“Yeah, I can tell. As for what I want to know, if your life sucked as much as your questions infer, then why are you fighting so hard to get back to your own universe so badly that you’d go to the point we probably are going to have to arrest you?”

“Wow, recognize your privilege. And just because it used to suck, doesn’t mean it does anymore. I found a new family, and the most important one of them has some pretty serious abandonment issues that I’d like to get back and assuage, thank you. Rook to F3.”

Jim tapped his foot with a scowl. He’d hope the other man wouldn’t do that… “How’s George?”

“What?”

“Your brother, how is he?”

“He’s fine, he just got another research grant. He and Aurlean are expecting their second kid now. They’re all fine.”

“Hmm…. Third freebie Keep them away from the Deneva system. Your move.”

“Dene-? Why?”

“Ah ah ah, you don’t get to ask for freebies. Your move.”

“Bishop to F6, why do I need to keep George, Aurlean, and their kids away from Deneva?”

“In as basic terms as possible, since you and everyone else in this universe seem so stubbornly simple and I’m not a linguist… Space parasites bad, will kill George and his family, and everyone else in that system and a bunch of surrounding ones until stopped.”

Jim looked at the camera. “Has that- have you?”

“Oh, not yet. Sorry, the possible vagueness was on my part, not yours that time. Mine is a different story than yours. Time travel gets mixed in with reality hoping though. You’ll get used to it, if you’re as good as everyone says. You have like, 6ish, 7ish years.”

“Time travel? And different? What happened to your George?”

“You know, I was wondering if everyone in your dimension was crazy, but you’re really demonstrating that definition quite aptly right now.”

Jim froze, what? What did that- Oh… That old joke about the definition of insanity being doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result, and Jim kept asking questions when he hadn’t taken a piece.  

“Well, since you didn’t seem inclined to make your move, I had to do something.”

“Nice. EF6. I’m curious, since your scientists seem to think that most of my theories are crazy, what is it that you think I’m doing?”

Jim thought carefully, even if the transporters could get Dr. Kirk somewhere, he didn’t know where. “I honestly don’t know. Call it a hunch that lead me here, but I have no idea why. Knight to C6.”

They went back and forth a few more times, and then the Doctor put a pawn in just the right place and Jim couldn’t help himself. “GF4. Is the reason why you went the civilian route that you hated your parents and didn’t want anything to do with Starfleet?”

The comms were quiet, and the Security Guards that were waiting for the Engineers to finish glanced at him nervously.

“I guess that would be the closest approximation, yes. Rook to F4. What is it that you think that Starfleet means?”

Jim was half tempted to say that was too vague, and get additional time to think, but in the end, the question wasn’t vague. “I think it means that we need to be prepared. By indulging our curiosity to explore, to go where no man has before, we might run into something dangerous, and that we need to be prepared to talk or fight.” There was quiet again in response, so Jim did the only thing that he could do. “Rook to E8.”

More moves, more set ups, and if the situation weren’t so dire, Jim might have actually been willing to admit this was the most fun he had had playing chess before.

“BA4. Why is it that you have so little faith that I’ll get home?”

Jim scowled. “It’s the numbers, it’s there. Things like this don’t get better. Rook to C4. What I don’t understand is why you have so much faith that you will. Until this you didn’t really strike me as delusional. So even if things are amazing in your life back home now, why do you find it so impossible to believe you’re trapped here now?”

“You really do fall for obvious sacrifices, don’t you? And that was rhetorical, before you ask. Why do I find it impossible to believe I am trapped here? Well, let’s just say that even if I can’t figure out how to get home, I know for a fact that my crew will never stop looking for me. And you’ll see, they’re the best there ever will be. Bishop to D2.”

“Rook to A4. What do you mean, I’ll see? And don’t try to say it’ll be because they get you home. You meant more than that.”

“Ha… Time travel, like I said. Because of it, even if I don’t believe in destiny or fate, or anything like that, I know that some things just are facts of the Universe. Rook to H6.”

“That answer was pretty vague, don’t you think?”

“Hmm… maybe, it had the facts though. Your move.” Jim scowled he was half tempted to take that Rook, but the Doctor was right. He had been going after obvious sacrifices, trying to get as many questions as possible so that he might be able to find one that slowed the other man down enough to let them get through the bulkhead in time. He didn’t want to lose his own Rook to that Bishop waiting in the wings. He needed to remember why he was doing this. No more pulling punches.

“Rook to G8.”

“Rook to H7.”

“Rook to A2. Why do you hate your parents?”

“Took you long enough. I don’t really hate my Dad. How could I since I never met him because he died the day I was born saving my life, my mom’s life, and that of over 800 of the crew of the Kelvin? But I do hate the memory of the great, noble, tragic hero that was all I was ever held against. And our Mom in my Universe, I don’t know how to explain this without it seeming worse than it probably was, but she never saw me, never wanted to see me, and she ran as fast and as far as she could from what was a reminder of our dearly departed hero so she could stop having to remember that I wasn’t Dad. And the step-dads…. Well, we didn’t have many decent examples of humanity. Taursaus, as much of a Hell as it was, was actually better in some ways. There’s a reason that I was a ward of Starfleet by the time I was 16 and we haven’t seen George since he decided he hated everything to do with the name Kirk, called himself Johnny and ran away when he was 12.” Jim swallowed. “Rook to F7.”

Jim swallowed again, after dragging all that up he really wasn’t sure he wanted to know what question the Doctor would think of.

“Your record shows that you’re the only person to beat the Kobiyashi Maru. The file on how and why though is kind of sparse. How’d you get a commendation out of cheating?”

Altogether, not as bad as he had thought. “I went to the Admiralty and explained why I did what I did, provided the information on how I did it, and accepted the consequences. Knight to E5.”

“You have got to be kidding me... That sounds way too easy. Rook to G7.”

“Rook to F8. Freebie answer to your concerns, it was that easy.”

“That question was rhetorical. H3.”

“Spell that out then, C4.”

“You sound like a Vulcan that hasn’t been exposed to other cultures yet. Rook to E7.”

“Knight to D3. Given how brilliant Vulcans are, I fail to understand the issue with that.”

“F7. And I never said there was one. Some of my favorite people are Vulcans.”

Jim scowled. His knight was boxed in. If he shifted, then the Doctor would be able to upgrade his piece, and he couldn’t really afford that.

Maybe… “Knight to F2. Have you ever been in love?”

“Ouch. And yes. I still am, and always will be. Rook to E8. Check.”

Damn it. “King to D7.” He wondered what her name was. She would have to be something special, to make the Doctor get that kind of tone in his voice. It was like peace, and light, a calm amongst the storm. Also to have that assured answered. There was no hesitation, no second guessing.

“Rook to F8. Have you ever been in love?”

“I think I came close once. But I don’t… I guess if I can question, that would be a no, right?”

“Hmm. Probably. But as a freebie, I am sure you will be eventually.”

“Thanks, I guess. King to E7.”

“Rook to C8.”

“King to F7. Do you hate us, for not keeping getting you home as a high priority?”

“No, in way I get it. Truthfully, I’m more disappointed. It’s like meeting your hero only to find out that they’re mostly polish and PR. Rook to C7. Check. What’s your favorite color?”

Jim was almost too busy processing options to get out of check to realize the mostly inane question that he had been asked after all the heavy hitters they’d been lobbing at each other. “Blue. My favorite color is blue. King to E6.”

“Bishop to E3.”

Damn it.

“Knight to D1.”

Damn it again.

“Bishop to B6. What’s in a name?”

“What? Are you asking what I feel about Shakespeare?”

“No, but that might be an interesting conversation for later. I am asking, Lieutenant Commander James Tiberius Kirk, what is in a name?”

What was the trick here, the trap? Should he just say that he didn’t know, like when Kirk said he didn’t know why Vulcans got drunk off of chocolate? His eyes met the Security Officer’s closest to him and they both glanced at the Engineers, who were just past 3/4 of the way through making them a door, and they flew back. The questions should be slowing Dr. Kirk down, not confusing him.

A name… A name…

‘he decided he hated everything to do with the name Kirk, called himself Johnny’

‘we talked about naming you Tiberius for your first name, but then settled on Jim, as many expectations are there, we that it’d be a little easier, you know?’

‘my name, is James Tiberius Kirk. And that’s Dr. Kirk to you.’

“It’s a story. A reputation. It’s who you are and how others know you.”

“Hmm.” The noise that dragged out of the Doctor was almost, pleased sounding, maybe?

Press the advantage, even if he couldn’t quite figure out what it was… “C3.”

A laugh, and they were off again, countering, back and forth until he couldn’t quite get to a pawn in time.

“Bishop to C3.” Oh well, he’d get it back.

“Hmm, what is it that you want out of life?”

“A tall ship and a star to steer her by. Knight to C3. What is it that you want out of life?”

“A home. Understanding. As little loss as possible. Rook to C3.” Oh great, make him sound greedy and take his piece. “Why is it that you all have this mindset that is so against trying something new? You’re explorers, testing new theories, picking the second star to the right and going to morning, why do you not leap no matter how much you look?”

Jim thought back to all the meetings he had been party to, how Dr. Kirk had been getting more and more frustrated as days went by. Maybe, it hadn’t been entirely because he had been stuck, Kirk decided. He couldn’t really remember one time when they’d explained the progress they had made due to some of what they gleaned from him. Well, some of his less out there stuff anyway. And Jim stilled. Out there. Even he was doing it. Dismissing things out of hand.

“I’m not sure. I can’t really think of anything, I mean, we make progress and tech advances, but we have regs for testing things in place for a reason, and I’m not going to lie, half of what you say makes no sense to any of us, so we’re going to be cautious about trying it.”

He stayed quiet as he went over things again. Would the other man be less upset at staying if he thought there was something to stay for, if he felt people listened to him?

“Your move.” Jim snapped out of it at the other man’s voice. Right. He glanced at the glowing line in the bulk head. They were almost there. There weren’t many pieces left on the board, so the timing for the end of the game and them being able to get into the Transporter Room were pretty close.

“Rook to H4. Do you really think that whatever you’re planning will work?”

“Yes, well, unless you can stop me in 1 minute and 22 seconds. Rook to F3.” Jim looked at the Engineers, one of whom waved a hand indicating it would be close as they beared down. There weren’t that many pieces left. And he had one less than the Doctor. The difference was only a pawn, but… Even if he could get it…

“We’re going to tie this game, aren’t we? Rook to H5.”

“Likely. King to F2.”

They played a few more rounds into their now stalemate, Jim watching the line cutting through the door like a hawk. It finally made it enough that Security slammed a concussive charge to the door. Everyone pulled just back out of range.

“Aww…. I guess we’ll have to play again another time,” Dr. Kirk practically sing songed right before the charge went off.

Jim was one of the first through the door.

The transporter room was empty save for the unconscious technician.

When he ran across Dr. Kirk, he was going to punch him in the face.

This was only compounded by Dr. Kirk laughing over the comm. “What, you thought I had to be in the transporter room to work this out? For shame. Hope I don’t see you soon, Lt. Commander Kirk.”

There was a whine from a transporter, and Jim turned around to see the familiar transporter sheen encompass all the guards around him. He looked down and realized he was about to be transported as well.

Oh forget punching him, Jim was totally going to KO the ass the next time he ran into him.

XxXxX

Jim used his PADD to switch off the comm and quickly made his way out of the Jeffries tube he had been hiding in. Talk about way too easy.

He quickly made his way through the empty ship’s corridors to the bridge, where he lounged in the Captain’s chair and triggered a few more of his hacks to drop the ship out of warp and immediately reduce certain power functions before he hailed DS4. The screen quickly powered on to show a still slightly freaked out Starbase staff, along with an absolutely fuming Sheridan and his other self.

“Hi Mr. Sheridan, this is Captain Kirk of the U.S.S. Constitution.” Not quite as good a ring as Captain of the Enterprise, but oh the looks of utter hatred were so worth it.

“You’ll pay fo-”

“Oh let’s stop that antagonism there,” Jim drawled there. “This is entirely because you pricks couldn’t be bothered to listen to alternate options and locked me in your brig.”

“You-”

“Ah ah…. What did I say about being antagonistic? I swear I will be the nicest hijacker that you’ve ever dealt with. Your ship will even be here waiting for you. Well, I’ll be leaving it here with several automated defenses active including the shields, and you’ll be the only ones with the frequency to beam through them, but still it’ll technically be free floating without crew and could probably be considered salvage so I would jump on the fastest ship that you can with a skeleton crew to bring her to base.”

“Kir-”

“Ah ah ah, I’m not done. Since my ideas about long distance, at warp beaming obviously can’t work, I’ll make sure to disable the changes I made to your ship to transport every person on your ship to the Starbase. I’ll even go so far as to delete the recordings and notes made, so that I am not taking up any precious space with my junk.”

He couldn’t help but grin at the look of pure rage that was settling over the other man’s features. This was such just desserts.

“You’ll be short a shuttle and some tradable goods, but ultimately, you’ll get your ship back. Fair trade, right?”

“You don’t think we won’t know where to come looking for you?” The other him asked.

Jim let his grin become predatory. “Oh, I think that leaving a ship out there waiting for me wouldn’t be an appropriate use of resources that are desperately needed elsewhere.”

He leaned back, practically sprawling in Sheridan’s chair just to watch the man go absolutely red. “Especially since I can guarantee you, you won’t be able to find me. Have a nice day folks, enjoy your ship if you make it in time.”

He killed the transmission and after a moment of staring at the stars in the viewscreen, sauntered off towards the shuttle bay.