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Persistance

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The purple sky crackles with lightning. Jimmy leans against the barn wall, watching it with false hope. He knows the storm won’t end – he knows there is no-one coming for them. His stomach is constantly aching, a gnawing that Jimmy can ignore up until he staggers and he has it the worst, he knows. Inside the barn, the fourteen kids he’s been looking after are unconscious in a pile, huddling for warmth and whimpering in their sleep. They curl their arms around their stomachs and their cheeks are thin and sallow.

The lightning is from an ion storm in space – Tarsus IV is infamous for not having communications tech advanced enough to penetrate the magnetic field around the planet and the subsequent storm that thunders on, never-ending. Jimmy remembers learning about it in the school, the first week he arrived, before General Kodos had seen to it that everyone was reminded.

Starfleet cannot hear us, he had declared, and our crops have failed. As your colony leader, I have made an executive decision that will keep our colony alive until their check-in next year. You must trust me, otherwise you will all die of starvation or worse. Do you want that for your children? Your parents? Your friends and family? Those on the following list to be released will report to the town hall – the rest of you are to stay inside at all times.

It had been a manipulation. Jimmy can remember his grandmother swapping places with him in the lines after she escorted him there, her eyes becoming fraught with recognition and fear. Grandpa Tiberius had taken him home when she was out of sight – had taken his rifle from a bygone era off the wall and told Jimmy how to take care of it.

But why, Grandpa?” Jimmy had asked, uneasy and frightened. He was only thirteen, then – he’s only fourteen, now.

Because we have long memories and we’ve taught you that, James. Samantha taught you that. Now, take off your blinders and pack your things.

Jimmy had known. Of course he had known – but he didn’t want it to be true. There’s something to be said about recognising genocide and Jimmy never wants to say it. Never. As soon as his grandfather turned his back, it had sunk in that Jimmy would never see his grandmother again. When Tiberius sent him off back into town, ordering him to go through the chalk-white fields full of fungus and dead insects turned to mulch instead of the paths, that was the last time he saw his grandfather.

Rosily, Yarrow, Kevin, Tommy, Ziki, Savanna, Darion, Giovanna, Yair, Torxana, Kesi, Gavin, Ulysses and Rees, Jimmy recites in his head. He can’t keep this up for much longer – they need food and they need it soon. He knows there’s a silo they could raid, but he only has so many bullets left for Grandpa Tiberius’ gun and he’d taken them all, when he left their homestead. I’m the oldest, he thinks, so I need to do better.

Above, the purple storm crackles onwards. Jimmy watches it for a few moments longer, thinking through his plan and coming to a conclusion that they need to go for it now. He goes to turn away – and while doing so, he sees a flash.

Jimmy freezes, then looks up to the sky again. There, sinking below the electrified atmosphere, is a starship. He doesn’t realise he’s fallen to his knees until the stones biting at his skin tell him he’s hurt. That’s when Jimmy realises he’s making a mistake and he gets up, tearing into the barn and heading to the power-supply.

Federation vessels can see from high orbit and further, he thinks feverishly, turning the lights onto maximum and then turning them on and off, dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot and again and again-

“What are you doing?” Tommy cries, trying to haul him off. Jimmy actually trips backwards, nearly falling on his backside, except his fervour outweighs his surprise. He jumps back to the controls.

“There’s a starship outside, we just need to get their attention for long enough-”

Word spreads. The kids awaken and the younger ones are crying, but the middle-aged ones who are nine and eight and six, they all head to the barn door that Jimmy had wedged open. He can hear their shouts of joy, their laughter and their tears. He keeps turning the lights on and off, dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash, dot-dot-dot until a hand comes to rest on his shoulder.

He looks up and there they are: the Federation.

“This is Tarsus Four,” the officer says, her words calm and measured. She’s older, with lines beside her eyes and her pin is-

Jimmy’s eyes go wide.

“You’re an admiral,” he whispers.

She smiles tightly. “Kat Cornwell, Admiral for Starfleet Command. What seems to be the problem, kiddo?”

Jimmy looks around the barn and he sees other Starfleet personnel in blue, like the admiral. They’re surrounded by children tugging at their shirts, all human except one, who’s an alien Jimmy’s never seen before and wouldn’t be able to identify for the life of him. His gaze strays too long – the admiral follows it.

“That’s Commander Saru, a Kelpien of the U.S.S. Discovery. We appeared above your planet by accident, but we’re here to help, if we can.”

“Food,” Jimmy croaks, his throat so dry all of a sudden. “Water. The fungus, it’s taken over everything and the animals are all dead and-”

He blabbers and his eyesight goes blurry. The admiral takes his weight as he falls, hauling him towards the large group in the middle of the barn.

We’ve got fifteen kids to transport, plus the original landing party. I want a science team down here, Pike and I want Burnham to get back in her suit. Something’s not right. This is Tarsus Four and they’re acting like it’s the middle of the Massacre-

They end up in the medbay. When they hook him up to an intravenous solution, Jimmy stops crying long enough to do a headcount and panic, because there are seven kids and where are the others?

“Where are they?” he demands, grabbing a laser scalpel from the nearby cupboard and roaring, “Where are my kids?

A doctor approaches him when the nurses step back. Jimmy can see Ziki, Tommy, Giovanna, Savanna, Kesi, Rees and Rosily all spread out through the sickbay, but the other half of his group are gone. Jimmy catalogues everything he sees, everything he feels – I’m not hungry, I have energy, I’m actually goddamn hydrated – and he turns the laser scalpel in his hand the right way around, fingers on the button.

“Hey – hey,” the doctor says, Jimmy having already noticed the ranks on his uniform, subconsciously. Lieutenant-Commander, Starfleet Medical, doctor on- what did the Admiral say? The U.S.S. Discovery? “My name is Dr Culber. Your group was too big to put in a single sickbay. Your kids are hooked up to IV drips outside in the corridor, with my colleague, Dr Pollard. Once you and your friends here-”

“My kids,” Jimmy interrupts.

“-your kids,” Dr Culber corrects himself, “are all seen to, we’ll check them as well, thoroughly. There’s a rec room being set up for you to stay in. Tommy here said you wouldn’t want to be separated.”

“No,” Jimmy agrees quietly, swallowing nervously. Dr Culber is far from threatening and they haven’t even called Security on him, or tried to sedate him. He thumbs the laser scalpel once more, before stepping forwards, holding it out. Dr Culber takes it from him. “I’m sorry.”

“Don’t worry about it,” he says in a gentle voice. “You’ve been through a lot. I can’t even imagine.”

Jimmy’s throat swells from both emotion and from something else. He looks to his IV, reading the description and shaking his head.

“I have allergies,” he croaks, sucking in a slow, deep breath as Dr Culber’s eyes light up in recognition. Jimmy reaches for the line in the back of his hand, but Dr Culber gets there first, taking it out and closing up the catheter. It’s too late, though. He can feel his throat closing up and it makes him panic again, selfishly fearing for his own life when there are fourteen kids who need him, fourteen kids who can’t live without him.

“Easy, easy,” a nurse comes to his aid, quickly helping him back to the special sickbay bed-chairs as Dr Culber heads to Tommy.

“What’s his name?” Jimmy hears him ask. “Is he registered with Starfleet?”

Tommy wouldn’t know, Jimmy thinks, grasping the nurse’s wrist and trying to regulate his breathing long enough to rattle off, my bag.

“His bag – doctor, he’s saying something’s in his bag!”

“Where’s that bag?”

Jimmy is jabbed with his emergency hypo soon enough, but it’s a little too late. By then, he’s half-passed out and he needs them to know who he is. Lucky for me, he thinks with only a smidgen of amusement, Grandma Samantha was half Betazoid.

He still has the nurse’s wrist. He manages to communicate what little he can, the way his grandma taught him: James Tiberius Kirk, 22nd of March, 2233. He even manages to rattle off his medical ID number before reality starts to slip and slide.

When he finally wakes up again, Jimmy is alone in the sickbay except for the medical team and Ziki, who’s lying on his chest with her thumb in her mouth.

“Scuttlebutt says you were always a limpet,” he mutters, though she doesn’t wake. Culber is by his side in an instant.

“James,” he greets, smiling uneasily, “You might have saved your own life, there. We managed to access your records with that identification you gave us. How’d you do it?”

“Betazoid grandmother,” Jimmy replies in a breeze, smiling. He can feel a certain high in his blood – pain medication, probably – and the gnawing in his stomach is obliterated. He feels heavy for the first time in months, though it feels like longer. “Are the kids okay?”

“They’re having soup,” Culber says with a little more positivity. “They think the world of you, Mr Kirk.”

“Jimmy,” Jimmy offers. “Call me Jimmy.”

“Alright, Jimmy,” Culber inclines his head, before checking his chart. “You’ve been unconscious for two and half days while we fixed you up. According to this, you have over fifty listed allergies, but I checked you properly while you were under and did as many tests as I thought necessary to discern whether that was correct. Unfortunately for you, that number has gone up to two hundred and four, since your screening before being allowed to join the colony.”

Jimmy gapes.

Culber nods. “I know. It’s a lot. The children told me you often ate foreign substances on the planet, to ascertain whether it was safe for them to consume. A brave thing, for sure, but it’s wrecked your immune system. I’ve got you on some drugs trying to repair what I can and stretch your health. You’ll be in my care for at least a few more days.”

“O-okay,” Jimmy stutters, before he asks, “Can I see my kids?”

“If you promise to stay hooked up to this,” Culber taps the IV line in his hand. Jimmy follows it, blanching slightly at the sight of two separate bags of fluid and a monitor. “I’m not taking any chances of you getting ill, not while you’re like this. If I didn’t think a teenager would take it off immediately, I’d have you wear a mask.”

“I’ll wear one,” he volunteers. The doctor pauses.

“You will? Huh.”

“I take my health seriously. I just want to see my kids and it won’t help them if I’m trapped in sickbay.”

“True,” Culber allows, before going over to a replicator and returning after a moment with a white mask. “I’ll be watching you,” he tells Jimmy, “but otherwise, you’re free to wander around the ship. Stay away from the engineering stations and damaged sections of the ship.”

“Damaged?” Jimmy questions, but Culber doesn’t reply, instead calling over a nurse he calls Aaron to guide Jimmy to the other children.

The U.S.S. Discovery is obviously in the process of having an overhaul. His eyes flick from wall to wall, open cavity to open cavity. Ziki in his arms doesn’t stir, snoring softly against his neck and Jimmy keeps a tight hold on her, even when Aaron offers to carry her instead.

“No,” Jimmy replies shortly, before they pass a window and he stops.

Outside, he can see space. It’s not purple like the sky over Tarsus IV or even dark like normal space – no, instead it’s cloudy orange and they seem to be orbiting a planet or some sort of gas giant. Jimmy struggles not to frown. What is the Discovery doing, here?

“Come along,” Aaron prods him when he stops a little too long, moving his IV stand a little further away. Jimmy allows it, though he dislikes the way Aaron has his meds in hands, walking slowly as he theorises why they’re hiding.

Then he thinks, maybe we’re witnesses.

It makes Jimmy blanche. Did the Discovery rescue him and the kids because Kodos has been arrested? He vaporised four thousands people and killed more, when they resisted. The last Jimmy heard about the main village, Kodos had little over fifteen hundred people left, living under house arrest and strict curfew.

Those thoughts are chased away, however, when Jimmy enters a large room full of his kids, sitting on a piled-high amount of blankets with a red-haired ensign and an alien girl with a wide smile.

“Jimmy!” Rosily screams, before Yarrow is throwing herself out of the mix and rushing to encircle his legs. Aaron is the only thing that keeps him standing up and Jimmy realises the good feelings are just the meds – he’s far from strong, right now, not like his kids. There’s something pale orange smeared around Yarrow’s mouth.

“Did you have soup?” he asks her faintly, staring at the food so carelessly splattered across her dark skin.

“Tomato!” Yarrow exclaims and she’s nothing like the kid Jimmy’s been looking out for. There’s a brightness to her eyes, a lack of perpetual nervousness and shaking. She squeezes Jimmy tightly before abruptly returning to the red-haired ensign, who looks nervous in the middle of the group.

“Hi,” she waves. “Uh, I’m Ensign Sylvia Tilly. I got ordered to keep an eye on the kids by our captain – concussion, you know? Dr Culber put me off-duty for another day.”

“Right,” Jimmy says, before realising no more of the kids are coming to envelope him in hugs like Yarrow. It makes his heart drop, seeing them cosied up to the ensign and her friend, who watches him with an alien face, her eyelids blinking sideways. Jimmy doesn’t recognise her species either, like Commander Saru.

“My name is Po,” the young woman offers.

“She’s a Queen!” Rosily squeals, climbing into her lap. ‘Po’ grins at her, their forehead gently rubbing together as they smile at each other.

“What’s your name?” Ensign Tilly asks him cordially, attempting to extricate herself from the mess of kids – some of which, he realises, are snacking on nuts and fruits offered up in a large bowl behind her. Jimmy salivates, already moving forwards to drop down in front of her, startling the ensign into staying put. He reaches for a peach and he doesn’t even care that it’s replicated when he pulls down his mask and bites into the fruit – it still has the same juiciness of a real peach and the same furry texture. That it’s been replicated doesn’t even compute.

It’s food.

Ziki awakens at his movement – there’s a brief tugging at his IV as Aaron struggles to keep up with him. Jimmy doesn’t care and Ziki reaches for the nuts she can see, calling his name quietly, over and over, because she’s found food.

“Jim?” Tilly carefully starts, hearing her. Jimmy glances up, licking at the juice on either side of his lips. “Hey, you should probably slow down. The other kids have had a hundred millilitres of soup and are filling up on snacks, but you-”

Jimmy knows what she’s getting at, but he shakes his head and eats his peach. Curling up on a cushion and wrapping his arm with the IV around Ziki, who settles in his lap easily, crunching on her cashews and almonds, Jimmy falls into silence.

Giovanna and Torxana are cousins with shared grandparents living on Earth and a multitude of aunts and uncles to return to, later. Savanna has her mother, who lives on Risa – her father and his new husband had been the ones to move to Tarsus IV. Rosily and Ziki have no-one and neither does Yarrow, Darion, Kesi or Tommy. Kevin has an uncle he might be able to placed into the custody of and Rees similarly has a trio of aunts.

Like Jimmy, Yair, Gavin and Ulysses were given the choice of working off their crimes on Tarsus IV or go to a juvenile detention centre. Jimmy was lucky his grandparents decided to go with him – but he thinks of who is waiting back on Earth for him and his skin crawls, thinking of Frank’s loud voice and the fear that would prickle up his spine when he heard him coming towards Jimmy’s room.

It’s you or your brother, little shit for brains.

A hand touches his elbow, “Jim?” Tilly queries, worry apparent.

“What’s going to happen to all of us?” Jimmy asks her, hijacking the conversation before it’s even begun. “Why did Starfleet show up? The supply-drop isn’t supposed to be for another few months. Did you arrest Kodos? Did you save the rest of the town?”

Tilly’s jaw drops slightly. “Kid-” she starts, flustered.

“Have you contacted our families on Earth?” Jim pushes, seeing Po look up, her investment in knowing the answer to his question clear, if her reason cloudy.

Tilly doesn’t seem to know how to answer that. She pauses, looking around at the kids – most of whom look at her, waiting for Jim’s query to be answered.

“We are out of contact with official Starfleet channels,” she says carefully, too carefully. Jimmy keeps his suspicion close to his chest, face blank. “Getting a hold of your medical file brought attention to us in a way we don’t need right now, so reunions will have to wait. In the meanwhile, you can all heal up and get to a healthy wait and we’ll document everything you show or tell us, to be reported later.”

“General Kodos is a mass-murderer and you’re letting him get away with it?” Jimmy questions sharply. Tilly winces.

“I can’t answer that properly, Jim. I might be on Command track, but-”

“I want to see the Captain,” he interrupts her, standing up. He deposits Ziki into Tommy’s arms, glad his second in command is nearby. Tilly scrambles to match him.

“I can’t allow that.”

Jimmy narrows his eyes, turning and scanning the room. Seeing a panel that would lead into a Jefferies tube, he raises a hand to his mouth and whistles twice, sharply. The effect is immediate, his kids rallying to action, pouncing on both Po and Tilly. It’s as comical as it is necessary.

Lifting up his IV stand, Jimmy swings the entire thing at Aaron’s head, knocking the man prone long enough he can pilfer his communicator and tricorder. He disconnects the monitor and the IV from his hand, letting it scream out a sharp, unbroken beep.

“Ten seconds!” he hears Kevin exclaim in a panic. Jimmy skirts the group immediately, knowing the kids will only have so long before they’re overcome. He glances at them as he uses a nearby wall to climb up, swinging out to grab onto the handholds.

Po has nine young ones all over her. Rosily is tugging at her long hair, the girl letting out a girlish scream as she’s pushed to the floor. Knowing the combined weight and power of nine under-eights will definitely keep her occupied, Jimmy looks to Tilly and finds the problem.

Tilly is ducking and tripping kids onto the cushion pile, using the food against them. Nuts are thrown and it’s crude, but effective use of their trauma, though Jimmy thinks Tilly is just too smart for her own good – she already looks horrified. But behind her, Aaron is getting up, already sedating Tommy and lowering him to the ground, clearly aiming to skirt the group like Jimmy did.

Got to get away, he thinks, using the adrenaline rush to put his feet up, kicking solidly. Like he thought would happen, the Jefferies tube opens up cleanly and Jimmy hauls himself up, closing it behind him. The kids are safe in the hands of Starfleet, but Jimmy wants more than safety – he wants information.

Never let it be said that Winona Kirk did not leave her boys unprepared, even if she did abandon them for the stars.

Section 31 is a black badge, Jimmy thinks as he scurries through the tubes, purposefully getting lost and finding a console, activating it. He takes a whole five minutes of time, switching the location of the console before he even begins hacking the ship. But I don’t recognise their uniform. Who even wears full blues anymore?

Jimmy remembers what the Admiral said in the barn two days ago. She’d said, “I want a science team down here, Pike and I want Burnham to get back in her suit. Something’s not right. This is Tarsus Four and they’re acting like it’s the middle of the Massacre.”

Only, that doesn’t make sense, because it is the middle of the Massacre, from Jimmy’s perspective. So therefore, either time has gotten fucked up on Tarsus IV and Jimmy really should have checked a PADD for the date or the U.S.S. Discovery has gone wonky during a warp through the system and picking them up made them realise that. Now, he would call bullshit on said insane theory in his head that the discrepancies are to do with time travel – if not for the fact that last time he checked, Katrina Cornwell was Chief Medical Officer on the U.S.S. Armstrong, where his mother works as Chief of Engineering.

Also, that same Admiral mentioned a suit and according to the most recent logs from Discovery’s engineering bay, the suit she’s talking about is the ‘Red Angel’ suit, meant to fabricate wormholes through space-time.

“Woah,” Jimmy stares at the schematics, before getting back on track with a shake of his head and bringing up a map of the working Jefferies tubes. He memorises it, quick as you please, before moving to crawl towards the turbolifts. The sickbay isn’t in the saucer section, according to the schematics and wherever he was before deliberately getting lost, it was on the same floor.

Time travel – talk about cool. I wonder what kind of time travel it was – are they creating a paradox by being here? The Admiral seemed to think something was wrong. Maybe she becomes an admiral later?

A bell chimes and Jimmy pauses at a corner, listening as the captain opens a ship-wide hail.

This is Captain Christopher Pike. Apparently, we have a teenage boy loose somewhere in the ship. Hello Jim – I wish our first introduction could be under better circumstances.

“Right,” Jimmy mutters, moving along the tube towards the turbolifts again – but he remains listening.

Now, I’m not sure if you’ve noticed, Jim, but our ship is in pretty bad shape,” Pike says lightly, but Jimmy can hear the falseness to it, the worry. “Meaning our Jefferies tubes aren’t all there in some places and you’re climbing through them right now. For your own safety, I recommend finding an exit that isn’t locked up tight and finding a security officer to bring you up the bridge. I was told you wanted to meet me.

Jimmy lets his words sink in, wondering if he’s made a mistake. His hand is aching from the detached catheter and the meds are fading. At least I still have my mask, he thinks, belatedly bringing it back up over his mouth. Dr Culber won’t be too mad, hopefully…

We’re working on establishing lines of communication with Starfleet Command, but we’re hitting some walls, there. Getting you home to your family is a priority, I promise you, however keeping you safe while we’re still repairing the ship is more important. Please come out of the tubes, Jim.

Jimmy turns another corner and nearly pops his head through the blue forcefield he finds. Jimmy stares out past it, where something has come careening through the hull and shorn through the Jefferies tube – Captain Pike was right, after all. Clenching his fists, Jimmy stays put, trying to think of another plan. The Captain is silent for a few moments as well and the ship-wide hail drops, but then he hears a crackling behind him.

Jim, can you hear me? We’ve tracked you down. There’s a panel about eight feet to your left.

Desperation fills Jim. He wants to succeed – he needs to succeed. He calculates the length of space between the gap – there is another part of the Jeffries tube on the other side. If he got enough of a push and didn’t hold his breath…

Jim, talk to me. What do you need?

Jimmy shakes his head, feeling like its full of cotton wool. He crawls backwards, slowly, coming close to the panel. Through it, he can the image of a bridge, the captain stepped forwards from his chair. Jimmy frowns.

“You’ve got too many people on the bridge.”

The captain – Captain Pike – looks around, shrugging with a faint smile. “There was an incident. The equivalent of two crews are on board and then some. You met Her Most Serene Highness, Queen Po of Xahea, earlier. She’s not supposed to be here either.

“Here in this time, you mean,” Jimmy clarifies, enjoying the startled expression on Pike’s face. “Y’know, my mother works with Kat Cornwell. She’s not an admiral in this time, not yet.”

Said Admiral is behind the captain’s chair, looking chagrined. “So it’s my fault.

“Yeah,” Jimmy agrees blithely, noting the Command gold of a woman at her side, standing out of place in a sea of blue. “Don’t worry, I’m just a genius. I’m sure the others haven’t figured it out yet.”

You have your friends well trained,” Pike says. “Didn’t know turning kids into attack-dogs was a thing.

“We were always hungry. Sometimes-” a lot of times “-we had to steal. We’re just kids. We deserve food.”

You do, I don’t deny that.” Pike nods, “But you could have waited. Ensign Tilly was just doing her job. I was planning to talk to you tomorrow, once you’d settled in.

His speech makes Jimmy feel sick – or maybe it’s the meds wearing off. “Don’t care,” he lies. “Wanted to see you immediately. I’m in charge of my kids and my kids don’t all want to go back to Earth. Most of them have family, but not-” the words stick in his throat. He wants to say but not me, but not Gavin, but not half my kids.

Pike’s expression softens. “Jim. I’m sure you have family who’ll take you in.

“I don’t!” Jimmy can’t help but snarl, a lifetime of bitterness pouring out of his mouth, “I know you think that the Kirk’s are the most tight-knit family in the Federation, but we’re not, okay? My mom abandoned us for Starfleet and Frank’s a paedophile and Sam left and just because my dad died and made us all famous doesn’t mean we’re happy or- or good! And no-one ever listens to me and those kids are mine and I won’t let you split us all up! I won’t let you put me back to Frank or put us up for adoption, or- or-”

Jim,” Pike interrupts, shaking his head and stepping forwards, hands up, “I have no idea who the Kirk’s are, but if your home-life is really like you say it is, I won’t let you get put back there, I promise. Any of you who left Earth for a good reason won’t have to go back to that.

“You can’t promise that,” Jimmy says thickly, voice muffled behind the mask. He wants to take it off, but he said to Dr Culber he would wear it, he said.

He can’t,” Admiral Cornwell starts, “but I can. We might be from ten years in the future, but I’m still an Admiral and I still hold rank. You said your mother and I worked together, who is she?

“Winona Kirk – or Lawson,” Jimmy says miserably. “You’re CMO on the Armstrong right now, or you were last year.”

He watches her expression twist, the bottom of his stomach falling out as she says, “But I’ve never worked on the Armstrong. CMO, yes – but I’ve never stepped foot on the Armstrong.

Are you sure?

Damn sure,” the Admiral replies, Pike looking to his science officers – a dark-skinned woman and a bearded man with zero expression. The two glance at each other.

Discovery was dragged off-course by the gravity of another’s incursion with time travel and you were forced to adjust the wormhole in the moment to accommodate the pull, lest Discovery be destroyed during travel. It would not be improbable to say we have ended up in an alternate timeline.

Not improbable, but unlikely,” the woman says, the officers clearly debating how they ended up in this time and place. Jimmy listens carefully, taking in everything they have to offer. “The spore-drive has taken us to alternate universes before and Philippa magnetised the navigation cube. It could have done anything.

Or perhaps not. If the other time traveller used a different method to time travel, then perhaps their effects on the time stream created an alternate reality in which we are now displaced.

“Tarsus IV is magnetised,” Jimmy blurts out as the male science officer finishes speaking. The crewmembers looks to what is assumingly his big blonde head on the window-screen of the bridge. “My dad was killed on the U.S.S. Kelvin when a giant Romulan ship appeared from nowhere from a lightning storm in space on the day I was born. Starfleet got weird about having kids onboard ships after that. It could be both – both of your theories, I mean. If your navigation cube was magnetised, you could have synced with Tarsus and got drawn here, but led to this timeline by- by-”

He falls silent, feeling like the genius kid in school again, always giving the teacher all the right answers, always at the wrong time.

…by the other traveller,” the woman finishes his sentence, flashing him a smile. “A clever theory.

“Thanks.” Jimmy says. “Who are you?”

Commander Michael Burnham, Chief Science Officer for the U.S.S. Discovery,” Michael greets him, before introducing her colleague. “This is Commander Spock, Chief Science Officer for the U.S.S. Enterprise and my brother. You are Jim Kirk.

“James Tiberius Kirk,” Jimmy sits up a little straighter, winking at her. “But you can call me Jimmy.”

He watches as Commander Burnham smiles slightly, despite her raised eyebrows – an expression matched by Commander Spock, who looks a little more judgemental than his…sister?

You are approximately fourteen point two years old,” Spock says. “It is inappropriate of you to be flirting with an adult of Michael’s age and stature.

He’s a kid, Spock,” Pike interrupts, amused. “Let him live a little.

“Can I come to the bridge?” Jimmy asks. Pike’s smile fades slightly.

We’ll beam you up. Stay put.

“Aye-aye, captain,” Jimmy sits back on his haunches, belatedly asking, “Can I get a new IV when I get there, please?”

Pike’s eyes flare with suppressed annoyance. “For that commentary, you’ll be beamed to sickbay first, then be escorted up – Bryce?

The communications officer turns around in his chair to face his station. “On it, sir. Transporters activated.

Jimmy feels himself being dematerialised and when he is put back together, he’s in the sickbay, Dr Culber turning to glare at him coldly. Aaron sits on Jimmy’s old bed-chair and Jimmy, guilty as hell, swaggers up to the bed-chair beside him and hauls himself up.

“How’s the head?” he asks cheerily.

“You hurt Nurse Aaron,” Culber snaps, clearly rattled. His eyes lock on Jimmy in a different way from before, staying back. “Dr Pollard, would you see to our guest?”

“Let me take him,” a female doctor comes up beside him, reading his vitals and setting up what is obviously his old IV. “You’re stupid, you know. The captain would have seen you soon enough.”

“He’s seeing me after I’m patched up again,” Jimmy replies smugly. Pollard looks distinctly unimpressed. Jimmy looks back to Aaron.

“Really, how’s the head?”

Chapter Text

“Honest to god, kid, if you don’t get out of there soon, I will pull you out by your ankle,” Tilly threatens.

Jim wiggles, arm awkwardly twisted around a pipe, trying to reach the communicator. “I’m nearly there.” His fingers brush the device and he shuffles his shoulder just enough for it to hurt, mouth – and ultimately, his mask – pressing up against a cold piece of metal as he grasp it. “Got it!”

Thank god,” he hears her mutter as he shuffles backwards, the recently promoted Lieutenant Junior-Grade helping him manoeuvre out of the floor, grabbing onto his belt to pull the most of his weight. Once back up in the S-Drive bay proper, Jim grins at her. Tilly points her finger at him.

“Stop losing things in there while we’re doing repairs! I swear, you’re doing it deliberately!”

Jim winks, scrambling out of the way of her searching hand – meant to ruffle his hair, he is very aware. However, Jim has recently discovered the merits of hair gel and he means to keep his ‘gelled monstrosity’ as Katmiral calls it whenever she see him.

“Totally forgot! I’ve got to run – got to see Stamets about a thing!” he exclaims, running off even as Tilly exclaims.

“Stamets is in the spore garden!”

Exiting the S-Drive bay, Jim jogs down the corridor, waving at various crewmembers as they go past. He’s feeling particularly restless today, as is a lot of the crew who are ‘in the know’. Today is the big day. Today, after a month of waiting, they’re finally getting in contact with Starfleet.

The spore drive will be put to use and they’ll go on Black Alert for the first time since Jim was unconscious – and yeah, he’s pretty annoyed he missed their dramatic escape from Tarsus IV airspace – and travel to a predesignated location to meet with an admiral by the name of Barnett. That’s the plan, at least. Last week, they’d had a mini-invasion of living spores throughout the ship, so everyone had to get booster-shots and go on spore-roundup duty.

Jim, of course, was exempt, but he and the kids were pretty adamant about helping out. Pike allowed everyone over the age of seven to join in, though Jim was told they’d be triple-checking areas after the crew had been through rather than actually helping.

The result of the mini-invasion, however, means they’re putting the spore drive back together after checking every last area in the bay – including under the floor. Jim’s already been told to go find something else to do by the bridge-crew, because they’re feeling stressed out.

So bored… Jim slows to a walk, kicking his feet against the corridor floor. He’s in a replicated DISCO shirt, along with a pair of fitted blue trousers. He’d been given a matching jacket as well, but it’s in this quarters. Jim doesn’t need it, usually, though right now he feels a chill.

“Wonder if Colt’s managed to get me let into the phaser-training rotation…” Jim mutters to himself, deciding on his direction. He’s only just gotten to the turbolift though, when there’s a Black Alert. His eyes light up. “Turbolift, the Bridge, direct!”

The turbolift dings and then the doors close. Jim hopes he’ll get there on time and he runs when the doors open, reaching the open bridge doors just in time to see the jump through the bridge window. The ring spins and lightning crackles, before they’re shooting through a maze of blue lines, appearing in another section of space mere moments later, almost falling through space before they stabilise.

“Permission to enter the bridge?” Jim breathes, still staring at the window. He can see a starship in front of them, one much smaller than he expected from an admiral. Pike glances back at him, lip twitching.

“Permission granted, Mr Kirk. Come stand behind me,” he offers, before Jim eagerly joins the line-up of officers, standing beside Number One and Admiral Cornwell with his hands clasped behind his back.

He’d learnt a lot since coming aboard Discovery. The ship is at full capacity and then some – the rec room he and the kids are staying in isn’t the only room to have been converted into sleeping quarters. With a total crew numbering over three hundred and fifty – two hundred plus from the evacuated Enterprise and a hundred and thirty-eight from Discovery, plus the Tarsus 15 – the Discovery is overridden twice over.

Subsequently, two alpha bridge crews – and the subsequent beta crews – are made up of a lot of people who both deserve the privilege. In the Chair is Christopher Pike, the captain of the U.S.S. Enterprise and the U.S.S. Discovery. Each ship has their own XO, however – Number One, an Illyrian woman who’s been teaching Jim some sly tricks lately and helping him get out of trouble, is the XO for the Enterprise and Commander Saru, the Kelpien who came down to Tarsus IV with Admiral Cornwell, is the XO for Discovery. However, unless directly stated, it’s always Saru that takes over Command when Pike is off-ship.

Michael Burnham and Spock are the Chief Science Officers, but Lieutenant Nilsson is the Head of Spore-Drive Ops working on the Bridge under Paul Stamets, the Chief of S-Drive Engineering, which is technically another division of engineering entirely.

Jim is perfectly aware, however, that Jett Reno, the recently promoted and actual Chief of Engineering, would rather be fatally irradiated by Discovery’s warp-core before she got involved in Commander Stamets’ spore drive. She shares the position with the Enterprise’s COE, a Betazoid Lieutenant by the name of Louvier. Neither COE has a place on the Bridge, however.

Nilsson usually shares her station with Commander Nhan, Discovery’s Chief of Security, who was actually Enterprise’s COS before she ever stepped foot on Discovery. Nhan would have her own station in the corner, but Pike gave her computer to Philippa Georgiou, a former agent of Section 31 who now acts as Discovery’s Chief Intelligence Officer.

The Helmsman, Keyla Detmer, technically shares her position with Number One, but Number One gracefully let it go to the younger woman when Captain Pike asked her to head admin on ship repairs. Jim likes to think it’s because Number One has no idea how to fly Discovery, but that would be stupid – she didn’t become Pike’s XO by being incompetent.

The Chief Tactical Officers and Navigators work together at the same station, like Michael and Spock. Lieutenant Gen Rhys of the Discovery and Lieutenant Amin of the Enterprise get on quite well, unlike their brothers in the Chief of Communications seats, Bryce – from Discovery – and Nicola – from Enterprise. Jim knows it’s because in reality, Nicola outranks Bryce, a Lieutenant versus a Lieutenant Junior-Grade and Bryce, the ship native, doesn’t like conceding his position.

Lastly comes Tilly, former-Ensign, now a Lieutenant Junior-Grade. A glance at her station shows Yeoman Colt from the Enterprise, who said she’d attempt to get Jim some phaser-lessons, sitting in her seat. As Tilly’s usually down with the spore drive, it’s not surprising.

All in all: there are too many people on deck, something they’re hoping to correct by at least getting themselves another ship to play with.

“We’re being hailed by the U.S.S. Adrastea, Captain,” Nicola states.

“Alright everybody, best faces on,” Pike says, glancing at Jim and motioning to the mask on his face. Jim frowns, reaching up and pulling it away from his face, realising that it’s covered in dark blue oil. Shit, he thinks, taking it off quickly and taking a fresh one out of his pocket, stuffing the dirty one out of sight. He manages to put the new one on before Pike straightens in his seat, nodding at the Communications officer. Bryce answers the call before Nicola can even reach over, in an ultimate show of pettiness.

On the window, the screen opens up. A Human man with the same dark skin as Ziki sits on his captain’s chair, an entirely Human crew spread out across his bridge. Jim resists the urge to tug at his mask – he’d put it on wrong around his ear, dammit.

My name is Admiral Richard Barnett and this is the U.S.S. Adrastea,” the Admiral states, voice low as he scans their crew. “We received your transmissions. The sight of your ship appearing from nowhere was…surprising, to say the least.

“Admiral,” Pike greets. “My name is Christopher Pike, Captain of the U.S.S. Discovery and the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise. If my dates are correct, I should be serving as first officer aboard the Enterprise right now.”

Yes. I can see you’re older than your picture, Captain,” Admiral nods in respect and Jim grins, unable to keep from bouncing slightly. He believes them, clearly. Unfortunately, his movement catches the admiral’s eye. “Who is the boy? Is he one of the children you found on Tarsus Four?

“He is. Of the fifteen children on board, he’s the oldest and one of the best. He’s requested to stay with Discovery as a cadet. He managed to keep the other fourteen alive as long as he did alone and without help, so I’m inclined to allow it.” Before the admiral can say anything, Pike adds, “His circumstances are different from the others. His only suitable guardians are dead or otherwise unavailable to take him on.”

Barnett doesn’t seem impressed. Jim’s happiness slowly shrivels to nothing and he feels his heart in his chest, beating against his ribcage.

General Kodos has been arrested and the remaining survivors of the Tarsus Four Massacre returned to Earth. An investigation is ongoing. Before we continue, under advisement from Starfleet Headquarters, I order you to turn over the fifteen children you rescued.

“I won’t go,” Jim immediately says, squaring up. “I don’t know you. You can take the kids I know have family, but the rest stay here until I know what’s happening to them.”

“Jim,” Pike turns, hand up. “Let me handle this. Stay quiet, or I’ll have Colt take you to my ready room.”

Jim bristles, but Pike’s eyes are serious. After a moment, he nods, but his fists are still clenched as Pike speaks to the admiral.

“The Tarsus Fifteen are under the care of my three CMOs I currently have onboard. Three, Admiral. You’ll have to argue it out with all of them before they let you take them out of their care. The children are still suffering the effects of over five months of starvation and living on the run from adults.”

Barnett glances at Jim. “He seems fine.

“He is also fourteen and a teenager whose immune system is compromised,” Pike replies wryly. “Can’t you see the face mask? That’s a Starfleet-issue medical face mask, meant to prevent Jim here from picking up anything that’ll kill him. Another reason for you not to take him out of our care – if one of your crew members has even just a petty cold, he could die.”

Stop being dramatic. You’ve got more people on board than I do, supposedly,” Barnett rolls his eyes. “Fine. They can stay – but only until we get to Earth and I want a list of their names. My niece was on that planet and she was listed as MIA by General Kodos’ minions. Now, Command wants you on my tail at warp five, heading to Earth, stat.

“I’m afraid that’ll be difficult,” Pike replies, more grave at the mention of Barnett’s niece. Jim similarly feels a flip-flop in his stomach, wondering who she was, if he knew her. “As we said in our report, the Discovery is compromised. We’ve patched her up the best we can, but until we get to a starbase, the spore drive is all we’ve got working for us past warp two. We’ll be moving at snail-pace, with shields that could be shattered by a single round of photon torpedoes.”

I see. Your request for supplies was approved, pending my approval. Permission to send a party aboard to inspect the facilities, Captain Pike?

“Of course.” Pike nods. “We’ll lower shields momentarily. Just give us the when.”

Now, Captain,” Barnett says. “It was part of the plan for when you arrived. My team is waiting in our transporter room.

Pike nods again, looking to Owosekun and Mann. “Lower shields.”

“Aye, captain,” Owosekun says, gesturing politely to Mann, who does so. Jim watches Barnett give his own orders on-screen, Saru stating that six persons had beamed into the transporter room.

“Number One, Commander Burnham, would you go greet our guests?” Pike says, the women nodding and stepping away, heading side-by-side out of the bridge.

Your plan to assimilate with this reality was noted at the meeting with Command,” Barnett informs them. “You later sent a list of your combined crews and which would prefer to go under new identities, rather than stay amongst Starfleet.

“Yes, though I may have to send you an updated version of that list,” Pike describes, the two captains discussing various options for the numerous crewmembers who wish to transfer over to other ships, stay upon the Discovery or even request to transfer to the current Enterprise.

“Captain Pike and I both agreed that it could be potentially disruptive,” Admiral Cornwell starts, just when Jim is starting to get fidgety, “but in my mind, what might solve our problems is simply building another Discovery, sans spore drive.”

The plans for your ship cannot be shared under the Temporal Prime Directive,” Barnett points out.

“Yes, but this crew isn’t equipped to work with technology ten years older than what they’re used to. The Temporal Prime Directive also applies to our crew. Yes, they could be transferred throughout Starfleet, but it would be safer if they were grouped amongst their own – perhaps with a certain injection of Starfleet cadets or otherwise vilified groups.”

Vilified groups?” Barnett questions, clearly confused – Jim knows he is.

The Katmiral and Pike exchange a look, telling everyone they know what the other is about to say. Cornwell clears her throat delicately.

“Admiral Barnett, in twenty-two fifty-six in our reality, we went to war with the Klingons. As an Admiral, I am recommending you start recruitment to Starfleet from our so-called enemies, in the name of peace.”

You want Klingons on your ship?” Barnett exclaims.

Jim stares at the Katmiral starkly as he asks her, “What about Romulans? The Breen, too?”

Cornwell glances at him. “Anyone and everyone. Klingons, Romulans, Breen – anyone and everyone.”

“As a friend once said to me,” Pike says, looking at Spock, “‘Infinite diversity in infinite combinations’. It would be foolish to let our words of caution go unheeded and if, say, we were allowed to commission another ship similar to Discovery, we could offer up ourselves for that venture. We would anyway, just to be clear – but having a second ship would help with the numbers we have on board.”

Barnett still seems quite shocked as he sits back in his chair. “It’s a lot to think about. I’ll remain available for my team, but tell them I’ll be talking to Command at the same time.

“Thank-you for your time, Admiral,” Pike nods politely, before Barnett cuts off communications. Jim immediately pounces.

“You want to let our enemies onto your ship? What if they steal it? What if they kill you?”

The Katmiral puts her hand on his shoulder, leaning down slightly. “James,” she starts quietly, “I fully expect the first will, but if I can stop the Klingons from attacking in this timeline, it’ll be a decision well-made. Wasn’t it Romulans who killed your father?”

Exactly.” Jim says, but Cornwell just shakes her head.

“We’ll talk about this later, in my office.”

“But it came from you,” Jim argues, “so how can you be bias as my shrink?”

“I’m everyone’s shrink, or just about. Just give it some time to sink in. We’ll talk later.”

Jim looks to Pike, before remembering he’s part of it. Jim decides that hell no, he is not staying on that bridge, so he turns and leaves, storming off and climbing into the nearest Jefferies tube he sees. The Jefferies tubes have been a fun way for him to get around in the past month and Dr Culber doesn’t even mind, so long as he wears his mask.

He runs into Kevin, of course. Kevin has as much claim to the Jefferies tubes as he does, these days.

“Hey, what’s going on, Jimmy?” Kevin asks, oblivious to what had just gone on.

Jim scowls, moving to sit cross-legged, Kevin mimicking him. “You’re my second in command, so you have to agree with me, right?”

“Right,” Kevin agrees.

“Captain Pike and Admiral Cornwell both want to invite Klingons and Romulans onto the ship to be part of Starfleet. That’s bad.”

Jim watches Kevin’s eyes widen, the young boy looking horrified. “Bad?” he squeaks, “That really not good! We have to get off this ship!”

“It’s not happening immediately, dumbo,” Jim rolls his eyes. Honestly. Twelve years olds. If Jim didn’t remember how disrespected he felt at twelve by older teenagers, he might be meaner to his XO. “They talked to another Admiral, today, one from our Starfleet. They’ve got people on board right now, looking at stuff and prying. They want to take us away.”

Kevin is unusually quiet. Jim frowns. Kevin chews his lip, playing with his thumb.

“Oh,” Jim realises, voice gentle. “You want to go home, don’t you?”

“Well- well, I’ve got my Uncle Fred and we’ve always got on. He got me that game-PADD, the one you fixed for when it broke,” Kevin says and Jim feels utterly alone for a long moment. Kevin has his uncle – why does Jim keep forgetting that?

“Who’s going to be my second when you’re gone, Kev?” Jim asks and Kevin’s eyes snap up to meet his.

“I’ll always be your second. Promise, Jimmy.” Kevin reaches forwards, hugging him tightly and Jim lets him, wrapping his own arms around Kevin’s skinny frame. A month onwards from Tarsus IV, Jim can’t feel his bones beneath his shirt and the bumps of his spin are barely present. He’s taller, too, Jim thinks to himself before Kevin ends the embrace and remembers he’s supposed to meet Tommy and Gavin for afternoon snack in the mess.

“I’ll see you later, Jimmy!” he says as he leaves, Jim remaining there where they chatted for another few minutes, wondering what’s going to happen to him. Barnett wasn’t happy about him staying on Discovery – almost immediately after Pike told him Jim wanted to stay, he ordered Pike to hand him and the kids over.

I want to see Ziki, Jim thinks, finally moving in the direction of their room.

Ziki is the youngest of his charges, except Lilliandros and the others – but Lilliandros and the others died on Tarsus IV, so Ziki became the youngest. She’s only three. Rosily is next after her at four and Rees at five. Jim didn’t know how to keep young kids alive and Ziki had teeth. Lilliandros was only a month old and there was no way for him to feed her, not when the goat died.

Kodos hadn’t spared babies from his execution. Jim checked the records later – five was the cut-off, for the second execution, when he cut into the living four thousand and stole children off their parents. Lilliandros died from starvation because Jim was too chicken to suffocate her. He couldn’t do it.

Ziki though – Ziki is a survivor. She was always small, small enough Jimmy thought she was younger until he read her ID bracelet around her wrist. All space-faring kids are meant to have one, even Jim – though Jim got rid of his almost immediately upon arriving. Ziki didn’t need to eat as much as the older ones did and even Jim’s portions were bigger than hers, before he started giving every second ration away. Then, they were about equal.

He gets to the nursery on auto-pilot and Ziki is happy to see him, her arms rising in a motion for him to lift her up. Jim does so, swinging her around with a grin she can see, even from behind the mask. Tilly says it’s his eyes – they get bright.

Queen Po is playing with Rosily again, in the corner. When she sees him, she waves. Jim winks at her, before turning back to Ziki.

“Hey, baby-girl. What have you done today?”

Ziki giggles, grabbing his shirt with a toddler’s strength. “Play.”

“Play? What did you play? Was it…puzzles? Dancing? Dress-up?”

“Puzzle!” Ziki exclaims, arm swinging around. Jim’s eyes are automatically drawn the shine of her ID bracelet and abruptly, all the joy drains out of him. He adjusts his grip on her, taking her wrist and reading it intently, even as Ziki starts complaining.

Ziki Barnett.

Barnett – like the Admiral.

Or the admiral’s niece, Jim thinks, knowing what he has to do. He readjusts his grasp on Ziki, quiet as he heads towards the exit. Po sends him a worrying glance.

“Jimmy?”

“Not now, Po,” Jim mutters, heading towards the transporter room. When he gets there, the Admiral’s team isn’t there, probably already doing the rounds with Number One and Commander Burnham. “Hey, guys. Two to transport to the Admiral’s ship. One to beam back, after.”

The transport techies exchange a glance, “We’ve not heard any of this.”

“Ziki’s the admiral’s niece,” Jim says, confessing his belief. A moment passes, before one of the techies motions for him to go over. Their other half looks torn. “Tell the Captain if you like – I’m coming back, for sure.”

The techie procrastinates, “I’ll- after? After you come back. After.”

“After,” their partner agrees, before transporting Jim and Ziki away. The ship he appears in is less gleaming grey and more stark, with smooth white floors and bright green accents. The techies look at him in something like surprise.

“Hi,” Jim greets, waving Ziki’s wrist. “This is the Admiral’s niece. I thought he’d like to see her again.”

Security is called. Jim is escorted to the Bridge and then, the captain’s ready room. The doors open and Barnett looks over from the wall where various other admirals are on screen, mouth opening to refute his presence, most likely, when he sees Ziki.

“Kia?” Barnett takes a step away from the screen, Jim knowing he’s right. Ziki catches sight of the admiral – of her uncle – and then there’s a transfer between arms and the admirals in the background get to watch as Barnett is reunited with his niece.

Jim’s brain sparks and he steps past the admiral to face his colleagues.

“My name is James Tiberius Kirk and I rescued Admiral Barnett’s niece on Tarsus Four. I would like to request permission to stay on the U.S.S. Discovery as a ward of Starfleet and early-entry applicant for the Academy.”

“Kirk?” Barnett snaps to attention, Command murmuring to themselves in shock before a Vulcan speaks in a clear, concise voice.

Entry to Starfleet Academy is reserved for adults, unless their scholastic ability is proven to be more than satisfactory.

“I levelled out of high school when I was eight,” Jim tells the Vulcan, who seems to be the one he has to convince. She watches him, unblinking, as he tries to prove his eligibility on the spot. “But my step-dad refused to pay for me to take correspondence courses for college-level subjects. I have a record – I drove my dad’s car off a cliff – but I was bored and I paid for it by going to Tarsus Four instead of juvie. When I got to Tarsus, my grandparents got me on correspondence courses and I was doing really well, until the famine. I have my junior drivers license and junior pilots license and I think surviving Tarsus proves I’d manage an extreme adventure training course-”

Enough,” the Vulcan interrupts him. “Your verbal application will be considered and processed accordingly. Admiral Barnett has his orders to return with the U.S.S. Discovery to Earth space-dock; you will have your answer by then. However, your choice of guardian is a separate matter and must be brought up with Earthen Child Protective Services and is not for Starfleet to decide or interfere with.

“Frank’s a paedophile. There’s your reason to interfere. Also, he chased my brother Sam out of the house when he was a month off turning fourteen and I’ve not been able to find him.” Jim breathes in deeply, trying to release some of the tension in his shoulders. “Thank-you for your time.”

Jim turns back to Admiral Barnett, who doesn’t seem to know what to say, eyes drifting between Ziki and Jim equally. Jim decides to let him off the hook, recalling the route back to the transporter room with ease; the techies from Discovery are glad to have him back.

“Did the Admiral cry?”

“No,” Jim says, before going to hide in the Jefferies tubes – making sure to mask his signature, when he does. Ziki is with her uncle, now. Ziki’s gone.

Dr Culber’s going to kill me and I’ll deserve it.

Jim hides and hides. He doesn’t come out, not even when Pike puts them on Yellow Alert, trying to find him. He curls up in a dead-end Jefferies tube, wishing he has his jacket because it’s cold and wishing he got rid of Ziki’s ID bracelet as soon as he found her.

Number One eventually seeks him out while he’s sleeping.

“James,” she greets, reaching to pull him out of the jagged corner. “This area is unsafe.”

“You’ve got a tracker on me, don’t you?” Jim grumbles.

“Yes.”

They leave the Jefferies tubes. Jim wants to go back, but Number One is by his side and she doesn’t touch him, except for an ever-present hand on his shoulder. She doesn’t take him to the children’s rec room, though, instead taking him to a set of quarters more suited to two adults – or three, if the mattress on the floor near the bathroom is anything to go by.

“Commander Burnham moved out of her previous apartments with Sylvia Tilly, so Queen Me Hani Ika Hali Ka Po might have a more adequate residence – she and Lieutenant Tilly are friends.”

“Who lives here?” Jim asks.

“Myself, Michael Burnham and Lieutenant Nicola,” Number One replies. “Lieutenant Nicola has been convinced to join Commander Saru and Yeoman Colt, however, as he is used to far more tempered climates, as they are. If you wish to separate yourself from the others of Tarsus IV and join Starfleet, you will begin now.”

“Now? Here?” By moving in with you and Burnham? Jim doesn’t understand, but Number One is on his side, most of the time. She has a tracker on him – she must have convinced Captain Pike to let Jim come out in his own time, or at least let her get him out.

“Do you know how Illyrians function?”

Jim looks up at Number One, face twisting in confusion. “What? Function? Uh…like Humans? But longer-lived?”

“Culturally,” Number One clarifies, before explaining. “My people are all but dead. We are hybrids of other races and we do live longer, yes, but we carry on our traditions by passing them onto protégés. I’ll be teaching you the Illyrian language with sparing use of the Universal Translator and once you’re fluent, you’ll learn hand-to-hand. You were born in space on a medical support pod designed to have harder gravity than most ships – you can afford to muscle up.”

Wide-eyed, Jim listens intently as Number One explains her intentions, not even giving him a chance to reply. When she does finish, the first thing she does is hand him a pre-made set of pyjamas with CADET on either side of the shirt, ordering him to bed.

James Tiberius Kirk goes to bed – because you always do as Number One says – and he wonders if this means he’s just been adopted.

Chapter Text

“Check.”

Michael shakes her head, seeing the seven ways Spock could put her in checkmate and the three ways she could attempt to escape right now, to her own detriment. Tipping her king, Michael looks up at her brother in apprehension.

“I can’t concentrate.”

Spock inclines his head. “Clearly.”

“What if they don’t believe us? They aren’t our parents,” Michael pesters.

“Michael, calm yourself. We have already sent my DNA sample to the Vulcan embassy. It is only logical they believe our tale,” Spock says, resetting the board for their next game of three-dimensional chess. “My younger counterpart will be naturally curious and our family is naturally possessive of their own; we will not be, as you suspect, ‘left hanging’.”

“I can’t help it,” Michael mutters, helping him with resetting the pieces. “The Burnham’s are alive in this universe. My younger self is twenty years of age and we never stepped foot on Doctari Alpha. I have no idea if my mother and father worked on the timesuit in this timeline, but nevertheless, they declined to meet me.”

“You did not endeavour to inform me of this.”

Michael shakes her head and there’s a minute of silence, before Spock speaks again.

“It is no fault of yours that would cause your alternate parents to decline your invitation. They have never met you. However, this gives you all the more reason to connect with our parents. In the six months since our arrival, thirty-two point eight percent of the crews have spoken to their alternate families and of those people, only twelve point two percent have made the decision to completely integrate themselves into the current familial structures. The others remain at a distance.”

Spock looks at Michael with a certain look to his eyes. “I am of the opinion that Mother, especially, would welcome you into the fold. We cannot return to our timeline – you do not know how to guide us and the likelihood that the Discovery could replicate the feat is in decimals.”

Michael agrees with him, but his words make her aware that Spock himself is suffering. When had her brother ever scrimped when it came to calculating the numbers? She reaches over, pressing her hand to his sleeve, avoiding his skin until he shifts his wrist, connecting them. She feels a certain tingle that feels like grief, but it passes soon enough as they separate. They may be siblings, but prolonged contact is inappropriate except among lovers and Michael has zero intention of implying anything.

“Our parents should be introduced to James Kirk,” Spock then says, Michael furrowing her brow.

“Any reason why, brother?”

“Your romantic liaisons with Number One have not gone unnoticed,” he replies, Michael reigning in her flush. Of course, he noticed, she thinks, listening to him carefully. “She has taken James into her care, despite the arguments from Starfleet and Earth’s Child Protective Services. Logically, if you wish to continue your liaisons, it would be proper to introduce him to our family.”

“Jim isn’t my son,” Michael denies.

“He queried me on the definition of adoption,” Spock informs her, lip twitching. “I gave him said information. I recommend you discuss this with Number One, sister.”

“I will,” Michael mutters, before standing. “If you’ll excuse me, brother.”

“We are scheduled to beam down to the Vulcan Embassy in approximately fifty-three minutes. You do not have time to have such a complex conversation.”

“We do,” Michael replies before leaving. She heads to her shared quarters with Jim and Number One, which aren’t too far away, considering how Spock has been sharing with Christopher Pike and Phillip Boyce. Entering, she finds Number One sitting at the desk by Jim’s mattress filling out paperwork.

“Michael – I thought you were with Spock?”

Michael walks over to stand behind her, hands drifting to her shoulders. Number One looks back at her, dark eyes narrowed as she takes in Michael’s expression.

“I was,” she tells her, “but Jim came up.”

Number One is silent and Michael is aware her significant other is clever enough to realise what she means to bring up. The Illyrian woman shifts in her seat, turning to face Michael properly, reaching up to take one of Michael’s hands in her own. Their fingers link and Michael squeezes gently as she analyses her own feelings.

She was aware of Jim and Number One’s relationship when she and Number One began ‘dating’, as it were. Multiple times, they have had to reschedule meetings or otherwise change their itinerary to go in search of their wayward charge; Jim has a knack of getting places he shouldn’t be or doing things he isn’t allowed to.

“I have decided that he will be my son. It doesn’t have to be your responsibility as well,” Number One tells her and Michael nods, squeezing again.

“Come with me to meet my parents in this reality?”

Number One stands slowly, Michael moving so she has room – but Number One follows her, pressing their lips together in a perfunctory manner. Michael relishes the contact until Number One pulls back.

“I’ll have to find James, then. How much time do I have?”

A noise comes from above, where Michael knows a Jefferies tube runs. Michael and Number One look up, listening to the clangs that – presumably – their eavesdropping son is making for communicative purposes.

F-I-V-E-M-I-N-U-T-E-S

“Morse code. He’s made good use of it, so far,” Michael notes, before reaching up, brushing her thumb down her partner’s jaw. Number One allows it with a small twitch of her lips, before they kiss again, deeper than before.

“Are we meeting them in uniform?”

“I don’t know. This is a social visit, but Spock still has his beard on.” Michael snorts, shaking her head.

“He looks better for it, to be fair,” Number One states in a wry tone. “Your friend, Tilly, seems to appreciate it.”

Michael shakes her head. “No – no, we are not talking about that.” That being the rumour that Spock is somehow involved with either her best friend or the captain.

“It’s both,” Number One teases.

No.

The door opens, admitting a puffed Jim, his hair pulled back in a high ponytail and his face-mask bright green, today. He shucks off his jacket and shoes, grinning at them.

“So, do I get to call you guys mom, now? Spock’s been helping me with my Vuhlkansu, so maybe I could call you ko-mekh and Number One-” a word that Michael assumes is Illyrian for mother escapes his mouth, sounding like a mix between birdsong and Klingon. The tonal changes are still tripping Michael up in her own study of the language, as they change the meaning and tense of each sentence entirely, depending on the syntax involved. That, along with the sign language that goes along with it, makes Illyrian harder for Michael to learn than Ancient Golic.

“Not when you’re on duty,” Number One says, gaze flickering to Michael, who gives a short dip of her head in acquiescence. “You’re changing?”

“Got to look myself, not my best,” Jim says, sounding awfully wise despite the flippant manner of delivery. Michael finds herself agreeing, watching him grab his civilian gear from his space in their drawers, heading to the bathroom to change.

“He has a point,” Michael notes when the door locks.

“He does.”

They raid their drawers and Michael gets the pleasure of seeing her girlfriend in tight leather trousers and a black turtleneck, her sleeves rolled up and a long chain falling over her chest. When Number One sees Michael looking, she winks and makes a point of bending over to tie up her heeled boots to show off her shapely…figure.

“When we have a moment to ourselves,” Michael murmurs, aware of Jim redoing his hair in the bathroom while they change and most likely listening in at the same time, “I’m going to ravish you.”

“I do hope so,” Number One replies, before seating herself with her PADD, eyes occasionally glancing up to watch as Michael changes into the same outfit she wore when she went after Spock. When they’re ready, they invite Jim back into the room.

“Can I wear makeup?” he asks them and it’s Michael who does his eyeliner – and Number One who expressly forbids glitter. Jim is a little upset about the latter, until Michael introduces sparkly eyeshadow instead and Jim goes a little wide with colours. The teenager takes to makeup like a duck to water.

They’re left with a Jim that has winged eyeliner, blue eyeshadow with a yellow crease and a patterned green and blue face-mask instead of lipstick, which the boy insists feels funny and refuses to wear. To top it off, he wears a matching outfit to Number One, but with a set of white running shoes instead and a jacket flung over his shoulder.

“We need to take a picture. We look awesome,” Jim insists, getting his PADD set up on the desk and fiddling with it. Then he gets them into place, overly-cheery.

“We’re going to be late to the transporter room,” Michael reminds him and that, of course, is when the PADD takes the photo – with Michael looking down at him in amusement, Number One standing, staunch, one hand on Jim’s shoulder as he grins wildly at the PADD, mask askew.

“Then let’s go!” he exclaims, grabbing his PADD before whizzing out of the door. Michael shakes her head and Number One offers her elbow in a way that seems both perfunctory and gallant.

“Michael.”

“Number One.”

The Illyrian woman bends down slightly, kissing Michael’s cheek. Then, they walk to the transporter room. Spock is waiting for them, looking slightly befuddled over Jim’s choice of meet-and-greet get-up.

“Ready to go?” Michael asks them.

“We are late,” Spock informs her as they step onto the transporter pad. “Energise.”

They appear inside the embassy a few moments later in a shimmer of light. Michael immediately feels the difference in temperature, the embassy kept hotter than San Francisco outside. The Vulcan architecture is clear in the construction of the room, the double doors leading further inside open wide – it is familiar territory to Michael, who has been here numerous times.

In the open space directly in front of the transporter pad is Sarek, Amanda and Young Spock – a teenager approximately seventeen point four years of age. Compared to his older self, he’s clean-shaven and dressed in traditional Vulcan-wear, his robe a dark green to match Amanda’s bejewelled dress. Michael doesn’t see much difference between Amanda now and the Amanda she knows – there are less wrinkles beside her eyes and she certainly might be thinner, but other than that, Amanda is Amanda.

Sarek, of course, has not changed an iota.

“Greetings, Commander Spock,” he raises the ta’al and there is a moment where his eyes flicker to the rest of them, before Spock responds.

“Greetings, Ambassador.”

“There is a room prepared,” Sarek states, but he looks once more to the rest of them. “We were not informed there was to be more than one additional guest.”

“Michael Burnham is my adoptive sister,” Spock introduces her, Michael offering the ta’al herself before he motions to Number One and Jim. “Number One and James are her family of choice. They came to offer moral support to the both of us.”

“And I wanted to see what Spock looked like,” Jim interjects, flinging his jacket fresh across his shoulder and cocking a hip as he looks Young Spock up and down. Young Spock similarly tilts his head, the teenagers looking at each other in interest. Michael believes Young Spock to be unreasonably gangly, considering how he seems to have finished growing any taller.

“Let us move to the meeting room,” Sarek says, eyes narrowing slightly at Jim’s behaviour. Michael nods, stepping forth alongside Spock while Number One puts a hand on Jim’s back. The group move in a process to a nearby meeting room and without meaning to, Michael slips back into a familiar persona. Her face slackens and her back straightens, her Vulcan training returning to the fore.

Jim glances at her oddly. “Ko-mekh, you’re not a statue, y’know.”

Michael takes a moment to react to the new title, looking his way briefly. “Habit,” she replies, not saying any more on the matter. Jim frowns however, scuffing his feet on the ground once or twice en route.

The meeting room is closed once they’re inside, only the family security officers witness to their meeting. Amanda steps closer to them both, scrutinising Spock deeply.

“The DNA results came back positive.”

“As they would, Lady Amanda,” Spock says quietly. Amanda raises an eyebrow.

“Our realities can’t be so different that you don’t call me ‘mother’.”

Spock inclines his head, “I did not mean to intrude. Our parents still live on, though we will not see them again. Coming here today was both meant as a courtesy and to find…closure. The thought of you living out of reach caused a reduction in my everyday functioning. Similar thoughts plague my sister, though she is aware what she seeks in not able to be given.”

Amanda turns to Michael, who forces herself not to tense even more under her attention. Her eyes are empty, compared to the Amanda she knows, who would look at her with love and possession. Michael’s Amanda was her mother and thought of Michael as hers – this Amanda does not think the same.

“How did you come to us, in your reality? Why us?”

Michael swallows the nervous lump in her throat. “I don’t know why,” she says, “but it was Sarek who I met first and spent the most time with, before the decision. My parents had died in an attack by the Klingons, during their work with Section Thirty-One – though I didn’t know it at the time, they were building the original version of the timesuit that I used to bring us here.”

“Something changed so that never happened – you never came to us, as you did before,” Amanda says softly. Her eyes search Michael’s. “Who were you most close to?”

“Sarek,” Michael admits, glancing at her adoptive father, who frowns at her attentions.

“Michael was attacked by logic extremists when she first came to Vulcan,” Spock says, then. Michael’s senses prickle, knowing exactly where he’s going with this. “She was dead for several minutes, until our Sarek gave part of his katra away to revive her. They have had a connection since and have used it when the other has been in danger.”

“Why would Father give his katra to a Human who had already died?” Young Spock questions, sounding unusually defensive. “Surely he had a logical reason. Vulcan’s do not love.”

“It was logical to commit to such a sacrifice when it became clear his daughter was dead,” Spock replies, as Michael resists the urge to ask Young Spock why the word ashau exists, if Vulcans do not love. “Clearly, you have had no influence such as Michael needed to temper yourself with.”

“I do not need a Michael,” Young Spock argues, stiffening. “The doctrines of logic are enough to guide me.”

Michael’s Spock looks down on his younger self, unimpressed. He says, “You are lesser for it.”

“Enough, Spock,” Sarek intervenes, looking to the elder version – though both react to his words. “Kaiidth. What is, is. Commander Burnham, why seek us out? There is reason for you to seeking closure, but you have Human family, do you not?”

“They have no wish to see me,” Michael explains, the hurt bursting anew in her chest and she’s very sure it must show on her face, from Sarek’s expression. “They have their Michael; they have no need for another.”

“Are you guys going to be a family, now?” Jim asks after a long moment, voice muffled behind his mask. It’s clearly to release some of the tension in the room and Michael thanks him for it, even if the subject matter is somewhat more embarrassing. “Does this mean I get new grandparents? Mom’s dead, in this reality and so are her family. My real grandparents died on Tarsus Four-”

“Tarsus Four?” Sarek interrupts sharply, looking intently at Jim quite suddenly. “You were one of the children rescued by the U.S.S. Discovery. You said you were Michael’s family.”

“I am,” Jim raises his chin, pulling down his mask to speak more clearly. “I’m the one who looked after the rest of the Fifteen. Mom and Ko-mekh say it’s something to be proud of.”

“Indeed, it is. Your name is James?”

“Jim.”

“Jim, then,” Sarek says, a beat of silence passing before he addresses Michael again. “You say you have part of my katra. Have you been able to reach him?”

Michael’s heart flutters. “I do not have the natural ability to make a connection on my own. Once, I managed with the assistance of a device, but the situation was dire and we weren’t so far apart.”

“How dire?” Sarek raises an eyebrow and Michael smiles humourlessly.

“You were bleeding out on a shuttle in the middle of the Yrdia Nebula. I had to use our connection to wake you. You were…reticent.”

“You were invading my mind – even considering your position in my alternate self’s household, it is an unspeakable act.”

Michael struggles not to roll her eyes. “That wasn’t why you were angry about it. My father and I had some unresolved issues of our own. I could have gone to the Vulcan Science Academy, if he hadn’t chosen Spock over me.”

Her brother physically startles at her side, eyes jumping to her. “But I never went to the Vulcan Science Academy.”

“Exactly,” Michael broods.

“…my apologies,” he says softly, Michael not looking at him – she’s had time to get over it. Her quarrel was never with Spock, though a bloom of resentment might have grown briefly, when she found out. Michael squashed it down though. Sarek should have told them both of the decision he was forced to make.

Sarek bows his head. “My counterpart made mistakes, but it seems your reality was kinder, still. I am currently fighting to gain my Spock an interview upon his graduation.”

“It is a worthless battle,” her Spock tells him, only to be refuted by his younger self.

“That was your reality. Considering the difference between our two timelines, it would be logical to believe a different outcome would occur.”

Spock once more looks down on his younger counterpart. “You are assuming that I failed to obtain an interview. On the contrary, I declined my offered place in the VSA because of the xenophobic bias towards our mother. Assuming your troubles are worse, then logically, so will their behaviour. Being half Human does not make us lesser or leave us at a disadvantage. It took too long for me to realise I would never be treated as anything more than an experiment on Vulcan – Starfleet was infinitely more welcoming and I would recommend it to you.”

“The Vulcan Science Academy would not represent these values,” Young Spock argues, not seeing Sarek’s expression of defeat. “You do not know this reality.”

“Once more on the contrary, I believe it is you who is naïve to the workings of the universe. Wisdom will come to you in time – I only offer it early,” Spock says softly.

“Spock has a point,” Jim adds. Young Spock turns to him and oh no, Michael can see that it was a mistake for him to speak, if Young Spock’s expression is anything to go by.

“You would do well to keep your comments to yourself. My counterpart is from a different reality. His opinions are redundant due to the differing history and timeline and therefore, his so-called wisdom irrelevant and unsubstantiated,” Young Spock says, his words spilling out so fast, like he expects to be cut off at any moment.

“That’s not fair,” Jim steps forwards, “He’s trying to help you!”

“Ascribing fairness to a conversation is superfluous; ‘fair’ has no place in logic.”

Conversation isn’t logical or two dimensional – including subjective ideas amongst the objective introduces other avenues of communication and understanding. Uncle Spock is trying to help you.”

Young Spock tilts his head. “You do not seem to understand the definition of ‘two dimensional’.”

“And you’re avoiding the point to Jim’s argument,” Amanda interrupts, putting a hand on Young Spock’s elbow and neatly defusing the situation. “Take the advice on offer. It is your own choice whether to act on it.”

“Exactly,” Jim says, smug. Michael’s lip twitches – it’s been a long time since she’s seen someone win an argument against Spock, especially when it so clearly has roots in emotions. Young Spock recovers himself quickly, but his dead-eyed stare is focused on Jim, as if he’s the most dangerous thing in the room.

Teenagers, Michael thinks fondly. A glance at Number One causes Michael to assume similar thoughts are running through her head, the amused tilt to her lips and the spark in her eyes a familiar occurrence when Jim is involved.

“If it would seem appropriate,” Spock starts, “both Michael and I wish to remain in contact with you all. Rejoining Clan Surak may be…unfitting.”

“The Lady T’Pau will be informed of this gathering,” Sarek disagrees. “If it is her will, you might join us as outlier members, at my recommendation.”

“Your recommendation,” Spock repeats slowly.

“My recommendation. You are not to join my House.” Sarek confirms, before continuing to say, “That would be unfitting. You have a mother and a father who love you, even if they are far from you. As a son and daughter of Clan Surak, you are to be afforded the privileges of your rank and I will fight for those to be bestowed upon you, but I am not your father – nor is my wife your mother.”

“We understand,” Michael says, wanting to leave. She betrays herself by fidgeting, by shuffling her feet towards the door. Sarek steps forth.

“This is not a protest against you,” he assures her, voice strong and his eyes flashing. “You do not belong here, but a place will be made for you among us. The Lady T’Pau will agree with me.”

Michael forces down the feeling of loss in her throat. T’Pau, the Matriarch – the Pid-Kom – of Clan Surak and Vulcan’s closest thing to an empress, whom even the High Council bend to, is known to have a ‘soft spot’ for Sarek and his brood. She can’t imagine anything different, in any universe or reality where she is still Sarek’s grandmother. If Sarek says he will convince her, she believes him, but it’s stale. Michael’s Sarek had already convinced T’Pau of her worth years ago – Michael’s T’Pau had called her ko-fu’il, granddaughter, years ago.

“Thank-you,” she says, feeling like she’s choking. She feels a hand sneak into her own, where they’re clasped behind her back and she looks to see Jim, her new son offering her comfort. His expression is unusually solemn and haunted; she wonders what was said that is making him think of that god-forsaken colony, for Michael can think of no other reason for him to look so sad.

When they get back to the ship, it is with comm numbers for the three of them. Oddly enough, Jim is insistent on immediately sending Young Spock the picture they took earlier, with instructions to give it to Amanda.

“It forces him to be involved. We’re not related, but we’re family, now and he’ll have to get used to that.”

“He’s your uncle, according to you,” Michael points out.

“No – Commander Spock’s my uncle. Kid Spock’s just annoying. A cousin, at most.” He shrugs, playing with his PADD for a minute before asking her, “Are you going to see Kat?”

“The Admiral doesn’t have time to see me today,” Michael replies carefully. “However, I will see her soon. She’s already arranged to meet me tomorrow.”

“Good,” Jim says, “Therapy’s not fun, but it’s good for you.”

“I’m glad you think that,” Michael praises, before Number One bestows a kiss on his forehead as she passes him on her way out. Jim beams at her and Michael wonders what he might have done, had they not forced him into said therapy sessions – Admiral Cornwell had been over-inundated with crew seeking mental help, when they first arrived. Luckily, Pike prioritised the Tarsus 15, Alpha bridge crew, the medical department and high-ranking officers. Everyone else went through the sickbay staff first.

“Thank-you for taking me in!” he calls out after her, before Michael wraps an arm around his shoulders. Jim looks up at her, “And you. Thank-you for helping me and agreeing to look after me with Mom.”

“I’m your ko-mekh,” Michael says to him, squeezing tightly. Around her back, Jim’s arm slips neatly into place to reciprocate her embrace. Michael smiles at him. “It’s my honour.”