The air was cold and a little harsh, but Nyota’s clothes guarded her well. The fur collar of the armor she found kept her bare neck warm. She learned the hard way that her swinging ponytail was only an invitation for the bandits and thieves she met and so it had been tucked up into the lightweight helmet.
She ran much of the way, collecting flowers and other ingredients as she went. Her mother had taught her well and she knew that nature yielded everything she would need without reproach. The draughts and potions would keep her healthy and the poisons would defend her in dangerous times. When she wasn’t running, she was carefully tiptoeing past violent animals and the few camps of ruffians she thought she couldn’t avoid.
It was a lonely life she led. Translators and cultural experts were always needed and in short supply. She knew these roads better than she knew the layout of her home city, far in the South. She had attended the Northern College and had been first in her year and had taken this position in short order. She sometimes regretted it as the eerie wind whistled through the plain and the low groan of a mammoth could be heard.
She stopped to look and could see it in the distance, majestic, slow and awe-inspiring even these many trips and sightings later. In her homeland, animals came no larger than the wolves that sometimes troubled her or the horse she still could not afford. The one time she had made the mistake of coming near one of the imposing animals she had estimated it to be twice her height at least.
She gave the sight no more than a few seconds consideration before taking off again. Her mission now was much graver than simple translation. Dragons had returned to the land, one she had called home for five years, and already a town had been utterly destroyed. None lived that remembered the time of the dragons and though she was among them, Nyota Uhura had spent twenty years learning about dragons and their rare and strange language.
She could not speak it, even after so many years of study. She could form the words and recite them in her paltry human tones, but unless she was instructed by the Greybeards or was suddenly discovered to be the Dragonborn, she would never be able to shout.
Whiterun, the city on the hill, appeared on the horizon and she slowed to take a few breaths. She smiled, relieved after such a long journey. She made to take off again when a loud screech startled her. She looked back and in the distance, near the watchtower, flames erupted. Her mouth dropped open. She pulled out her axe, but didn’t dare run toward the source. She was low on supplies and the weariness in her bones reminded her how long she had been traveling without rest.
Flame and roars continued to erupt from that quarter. Nyota ascertained that she was in no immediate danger and instead ran for the city. Turning every so often to observe, she made it safely to the gates. The guards recognized her and immediately threw open the doors for her. Inside the city walls, people went about their business warily, eyes on the skies and scurrying from one doorway to the next. Nyota did the same as she rushed up stairs to the Jarl’s hall.
The graying and solemn looking Jarl looked up with expectation on his face when she entered. But his face fell. She dropped into a light bow.
“Jarl Pike,” she said respectfully. “I am on journey to each city to provide whatever information I can on Dragons and the Dragon speech.”
“Uhura,” he said, bowing his head. “Your assistance is greatly appreciated but perhaps too late. One of our watchtowers was destroyed. By a dragon, I believe.”
“Yes, Jarl, I concur. I distantly witnessed the scene on my way here. Fire and shouts.”
“Yes,” he said, looking old. “I fear our ‘preparations’ will all be in vain. Dragons need none of the preparations we require, after all.”
A voice shattered the tense Hall, obliterating their conversation. Uhura could make out the words and her mouth dropped again.
“They call for the Dragonborn!” She exclaimed.
Jarl Pike stood, mail jingling, “Dragonborn?”
“The Greybeards, sir, they are summoning whoever--” she cut herself off. “I don’t know. They are summoning someone who they think to be the Dragonborn.”
“Yes, Jarl,” she said. “They shout in the Dragon tongue. I have studied it for many years.”
“Then stick around. Number One should be back soon with rep--”
“I am here, Jarl,” said a severe voice. A woman maybe fifteen years older than Nyota appeared as if from thin air, but then the heavy doors behind them banged close and several others appeared on the platform before she and the Jarl.
“Report, Number One.”
“The dragon is dead. Most of the thanks to this one without whom we could not have succeeded.”
She gestured to one of the men. He was not dressed in the armor and yellow sashes of the other guards. Instead, he wore a mish-mash of armors and carried an unadorned bow and an old, nicked sword. He pulled off his helmet to reveal a beautiful, but scarred face. His blue eyes were serious and keen.
“Your assistance to our city has been invaluable,” Pike was saying to the stranger. “I’m afraid the Axe of Whiterun is all I can offer by way of thanks.”
“It is unnecessary, but thank you,” the man said. “I’m more concerned by what occurred at the watchtower.”
Nyota spared a look for ‘Number One’ who looked tight-lipped and confused.
“What do you speak of?” Pike asked.
“Jarl, something happened when the dragon died. A kind of power suffused my being. Your men suggested I was something called ‘Dragonborn’.”
Nyota took an involuntary step forward. Dragonborn were called such because they were the only people who could absorb or trap dragon souls. Nyota’s power was not very great, but even she could trap the soul of a wolf or bear. Dragons were entirely different.
Jarl Pike, who had taken a seat, rose again. “Number One?”
“It is true, Jarl. Kirk absorbed the soul of the dragon. And then... he shouted.”
“And you’ve never--”
“Never,” Kirk said emphatically. “The first time I heard of ‘shouting’ at all was in regards to Ulfric Stormcloak.”
“They summoned you,” Uhura blurted out. Confused blue eyes turned to her. “The Greybeards. They summon you to High Hrothgar, to train.”
“And you are?”
“Nyota Uhura. I’m a dragon expert and translator.”
“Uhura is the foremost in her field. You would learn much talking to her,” Jarl Pike said. “See my armorer for the Axe. I must prepare my people and the settlements around me for the coming trials.”
It was a dismissal and Uhura bowed her head before leaving the platform.
“So, Uhura, what’s it mean to be Dragonborn?” Kirk asked.
“Hey, you, keep your hands off those ingredients. They’re not for children, idiots, or morons who think anyone with a mortar and pestle is suddenly an alchemist!” Leonard McCoy said to the man in armor who was fingering the deathbell a little too suspiciously.
“So, train me,” the stranger said, smirking underneath his helm.
“I don’t teach,” Leonard said shortly. “I haven’t got time for that kind of foolery. I can sell you all the potions you want, but I’ll be damned if I let you use my lab.”
“Uh, yes, but I’m a little short on coin for all I’ll need,” the man said, growing serious.
Leonard didn’t want to know why a man carrying five different kind of healing potion, three magicka, and eight stamina would need more than that. The weapons he carried looked well used--not that that was an uncommon sight since the start of the war--but he wore no recognizable uniform. His shield was iron, his armor was unadorned steel, and his gauntlets were of no discernible provenance, though they looked expensive. And warded.
“Listen, kid, I don’t know what kind of trouble you’re getting yourself into, but maybe if you need that many potions you should reconsider whatever it is.”
He thought of little Joanna, who followed around the soldiers asking questions and begging her father for a sword.
“Mostly, trouble comes looking for me,” the man said seriously. “Anyway, I’m headed up the mountain and I think I’ll need a little more than a few minor healing potions.”
“You don’t look like a pilgrim,” Leonard said, but waved off any explanation. “Gimme your ingredients, I’ll brew you up some potions that can actually save your life. Come back in a day.” The kid dropped an impressive haul on his counter and flipped Leonard a lazy salute.
He worked through the night, only stopping long enough to feed Joanna and take in a shipment. He exhausted his and the kid’s supplies of blue dartwings and blue mountain flowers and even used his precious Daedra Heart. When the kid arrived the next morning, looking more haggard than he had the day before, Leonard forced him onto the bench, running diagnostic spells.
“Damn, son, that’s a mighty fine curse you’ve got on you. Here,” he reached for the disease draught and made him down it in one go. The kid looked instantly better, more relaxed, and Leonard starting trotting out his potions, detailing how they should be used and when.
“Why do you keep calling me that?” he asked irritably.
“Maybe because, at the end of this, you’re saving mine,” the kid said, winking.
“Look, I can’t keep calling you ‘kid.’ What’s your name?”
“It’s Jim, Jim Kirk,” he said.
“Yeah, but I’m probably going to call you Bones. Meet too many people to rely on their actual names,” Kirk sassed. “Anyway, thanks for the potions, but I’ll probably still need to learn to do this for myself. You won’t always be around to pull my ass out of the fire, so to speak.”
“Come back when you’re done on the mountain,” and Leonard wasn’t even sure where the words were coming from. “I’ll teach you what I can.”
His side was aching and his sword lay in pieces a few feet away, but the dragon was dead, immolating before his eyes that widened as a swirling vortex of energy--the soul--poured out and over to his savior.
For James Kirk’s part, he looked unsurprised by the action and took a deep breath as he was imbued with whatever power that soul contained. He opened his eyes and they settled on Hikaru, who had finally gotten to his feet.
“Talos, man, that was amazing,” Sulu managed through puffs of breath.
“Thanks, Sulu, couldn’t have done it without you.”
“I get the feeling you could have,” Hikaru said.
Kirk shrugged and wiped the blood from his axe onto a piece of cloth. He then conjured a flame and set the rag alight.
“Poison,” he explained.
Kirk had been asking plenty of questions and getting plenty of answers, threats and other responses since he’d arrived in Riften, but no one really knew anything about him. He was as likely to do you a favor as to corner you in the Ratway and gut you. Sulu had run into him mostly by accident. When the dragon had swooped down outside the city, Kirk had taken off toward it, pulling out an enchanted bow that sent sparks throughout the dragon’s body as each arrow hit their mark unerringly. When it landed, Sulu had darted forward with his sword, doing as much damage as he could while trying to avoid the hellfire from the creature’s mouth and the swinging of its barbed tail.
Finally, Kirk jumped onto the back of the downed dragon and, with an impressive swing, embedded his Axe--a small, enchanted thing that was rarely seen far from his hand--into its skull.
“I’ve never seen anything like it. You whaled on that thing!”
“I’ve had some practice,” Kirk said wryly. “But you can have my back anytime, Sulu.”
“You have my sword whenever you need it.”
“I hear your name and your deeds wherever I go,” Uhura told Kirk when they met again. In Solitude, the threat of dragons seemed a distant one. The guards longed for the excitement and the populace exchanged rumors and misinformation with a great deal of equanimity given the subject. Here, though, the trouble between the Imperials and the Stormcloaks was of more pressing concern than the return of an ancient enemy.
“I’m a pretty popular guy,” Kirk said, never taking his eyes off the stars and the aurora that blazed through the sky in violent purples and greens.
“You have killed at least four dragons already,” she said. “How many do you think are still to come?”
Kirk’s face was serious. It didn’t suit him. She imagined him smiling and bright, not this serious young man whose heart still beat fast even in the relative peace of Solitude, on top of the highest tower of the Keep, staring out into a beautiful country. She had wondered if it was the fact that he was Dragonborn that made him this warrior, this man, or whether it was the other way around. He had, with little impetus, become the repository of all their hopes and fears. And he had borne it with no ill will or resentment.
She wondered if she would have been able to do the same. She would give anything to be able to shout, but would that ability have made her like him?
The cold didn’t suit Montgomery. There was nothing but wind and snow in this city and not enough mead or ale to warm him to the toes. The forge was his only respite and he pounded out some of the best pieces in all of Tamriel precisely because he would like, at all times, to be able to feel his fingers. Keenser brought him a bowl of stew that he choked down without complaint, but always wished for something else.
“May I use your forge, friend?” a voice asked and he looked up on a man in one of the finest looking helmets he’d ever seen. The rest of his armor was similarly fine, if heavy, and his weapons all looked sharp and warded.
“I cannae imagine what ye might be needin’ my forge for, but you’re welcome to it if you can show me your halfway competent.”
The man nodded and brought forth several different ingots. Expensive and rare ingots, in point of fact. He stood to the side and watched as the man quickly, but carefully crafted a greatsword. He abandon his own work to watch him work and by morning’s light the piece was done.
“Aye, she’s mighty fine piece. What will ye call her?”
“Her name...” the man stared at the sword, equal if not better to anything Montgomery had ever forged. “I think I’ll call her Enterprise.”
“Have a drink with me, laddie, and you can tell where you learned such fine workmanship!”
“Love to,” he said, looking to the sky. “But I’m afraid I’ve got things to do.” He doled out a hefty purse of gold. “For your trouble, Mr. Scott.”
Montgomery didn’t ask how the man had known his name, only took the proffered coin and aimed a salute to the man striding toward the only place in town with an Arcane Enchanter.
When Pavel had been a babe, his mastery of the arcane arts had been noted immediately. He had conjured a Flame of Antorach when he was but five years of age and his parents had applied for unprecedented early admission to the College of Winterhold. The Great Collapse had already decimated the town, but the College still held onto its prestige. Thirteen years later, he was instructing those twice his age on the spells and enchantments that came so easily.
“How old are you?” James Kirk asked as flames swirled harmlessly around his curled fingers, unnoticed.
“Eighteen,” Pavel answered. “I came to the College very early.”
“Bit of a whiz kid, huh?” Kirk asked, smiling with no malice.
“You are no slouch, yourself. How long have you used the Flames?”
Kirk shrugged, “A few months or so.”
“That is very impressive and with no mentor?”
“Not for this,” he said cryptically, or perhaps not. When the Lady Uhura had come through she had told of the Dragonborn, sang the song and Pavel had been rapt. The Shouts were a magic he could only aspire to and he had never received an invitation to study with the Greybeards.
Pavel taught Kirk everything he knew, hoping in some small way, that he had done more than simply waste his time.
He found him on the northern coast. He was standing still at the edge of the water, no fire to obscure the islands and sea that were lit by the full moon and clear skies. Of the strange world he had, only weeks before, found himself in Spock had learned much. Here, many things were possible that should not have been. Mythological creatures patrolled the sky and ordinary humans wielded extraordinary, and seemingly impossible, power.
Nyota, he had found in Solitude, singing at the Bards College bringing audiences to their knees with her song.
Our hero, our hero, claims a warrior’s heart
I tell you, I tell you, the Dragonborn comes
With a Voice wielding power of the ancient Nord art
Believe, believe, the Dragonborn comes
It’s an end to the evil, of all Skyrim’s foes
Beware, beware, the Dragonborn comes
For the darkness has passed, and the legend yet grows
You’ll know, you’ll know the Dragonborn’s come
Dr. McCoy had been found in Ivarstead, cooking up cures that even their immeasurably more advanced technology could not promise.
Mr. Sulu had been traveling town to town, performing errands, protecting townspeople with a sword that turned enemies to ice and with magic that set them aflame.
Mr. Scott had been bent double over his forge in Windhelm, creating instruments and protections of war in only a few hours.
Mr. Chekhov had been wielding such a great deal of ‘magical’ power that men three times his age looked on him with respect.
Admiral Pike had the rule of an entire region from his seat at Whiterun and had taken one look at him and provided him with the Clairvoyance spell, showed him how to use it.
“You can find him with that.”
Before him, his Captain had removed all of the heavy armors that protected him as he traveled across this land. In his hand was a large blade and as Spock watched it lit an unearthly blue. This, he knew, was Enterprise. It was fast becoming a blade of legend.
Without warning, Jim hurled the blade into the calm sea. It churned in protest as it swallowed the blade, the water blazing bright.
“I don’t belong here, do I?” his voice carried on the wind.
“It is not your home,” Spock answered noncommittally.
“I knew in my heart and I knew it the moment I forged her. I had to protect this land. I had the power so I had to protect it.”
“The power you possess is incidental, Jim. Your character would allow nothing less.”
Jim turned to him, every inch his Captain, but attired in the anachronistic, fantastical clothing that had adorned all his crewmates. With a strange echoing and deep shout, Jim was in front of him. One of his words of power then.
“And yet I can do that,” Jim said. “I can shout down the heavens and kill all in my path with a forceful word.”
“But you would not,” Spock reasoned.
He had woken in this world fully aware of who he was and what had happened. His efforts to free them from the delusion--though this delusion could kill them all--had been in vain. There were no explanations for their presence, only the dragons that circled the sky.
“Alduin,” Jim grumbled, turning away, back to the still lit sea. “He’s the one who started it all. I have to end him or he will end us all.”
“Are you strong enough?” Spock asked.
“I must be. I must seek him out in Sovngarde.”
“You know, I hadn’t really expected this to be such a success,” said a gratingly cheerful voice from behind Spock. His Captain stood upon the Throat of the World speaking to the remaining dragons. He stood below surrounded by the silent Greybeards. He turned to see a tall man of approximately fifty years of age quite incongruously lounging on a stone wall. He seemed entirely impervious, or uncaring, of the heavily falling snow and relentless wind and wore a strange jumper with a Starfleet symbol on the breast.
“Who are you?” Spock asked.
The man shrugged. “An interested party, or well, the victorious party, I suppose.” He chuckled and disappeared without warning and with only a flash of light. He appeared again next to Spock, looking up at Jim. “You see, this was all my idea. They all said it wouldn’t work, but just look at that! And Alduin is nothingness once and for all.”
He looked in surprise at Spock. “You are very like yourself, you know. I thought perhaps the changes in the reality--but no matter.”
“What was your meaning when you said this was all your idea?” Spock asked, ignoring the knowledge that this man--entity--was somehow acquainted with his other self.
Another flash of light and they were seated at a table with various foodstuffs and tankards. Moreover, the air around them was impossibly warm, yet there was no fire.
“Well, try and wrap your puny Vulcan mind around this. I am Q of the Q Continuum. Alduin was a Q too, before he was corrupted beyond all forgiveness or reason and took a new name. Billions of years ago, he caused the end of the multiverse. Of course, we were quite put out with him as we had spent a good deal of time arranging things to our liking. He was defeated, well, imprisoned anyway, and the Continuum came up with a few new rules for interacting with the multiverse, the largest and most annoying of which was non-interference in its natural course. Now, I’ve been known to test this one quite a bit myself, but never to Alduin’s extent.”
What Q was trying to tell him seemed impossible. But already the entity had demonstrated a power that outstripped even the offerings this world had to offer.
“Alduin was the dragon Captain Kirk was forced to battle,” Spock prompted.
“Yes, yes. Well, he got out, didn’t he? Omnipotence is very hard to keep under lock and key, you know. And besides having that, he had a powerful hatred for us and for the multiverse at large. We had to act quickly or risk having to start from scratch. And frankly, I’ve spent too much precious time breaking in Jean-Luc. I devised a rather simple, but devious challenge to trap Alduin here, in Skyrim. Here, he would be constrained by the rules of the world and by the body of the dragon.”
“Why choose the crew of the Enterprise? Why choose Captain Kirk? Surely, there were others more suited to your fight.”
“Others more suited than the vaunted James T. Kirk and his band of geniuses? I should think not! And, really, you should be asking why this crew and this Kirk.”
Spock merely raised an eyebrow. Q looked disgruntled, but continued his explanation.
“Your crew, Mr. Spock, underwent a serious, unalterable versal change and you were right in the thick of it. Your minds, unlike those in the verse I tend to deal with most, are open to possibility. Yes, Ambassador Spock’s Enterprise had their share of mind-bending missions, but even they were not ideal.”
He clapped his hands with delight. “The absolute cherry on the sundae, was dropping in all sorts of Q powers for people to take advantage of and tailoring them specifically for your crew to learn in order to teach Kirk. And then, my own coup d’grace was granting Kirk the words of power he would need to battle Alduin. It’s the thing about humans, you know, this strange invulnerability you all possess coupled with a willingness to die for what you believe. No Q was ready to die to rid the multiverse of Alduin and none had the imagination to use the shouts like Kirk. A few helped him, up there in Sovngarde--the Continuum, by the way--but even they didn’t have the mastery Kirk has.
“And now it’s all disposed of in a manner that caused very little inconvenience to me or world-ending consequences for anyone else.”
Spock quickly acknowledged and worked through his sudden anger at this capricious being, who had so casually disrupted their lives and their mission.
As if he had heard him, Q’s face became deadly serious. “Make no mistake, Mr. Spock, that was no mere dragon, easily brought down with arrows and poison. That was an omnipotent being. That he was confined to the form he chose and the rules of this world are the only reasons you live now. Alduin has always been over-confident. He would not have borne the possibility that a human, even a human wielding Q powers, could defeat him.”
Steps echoed on the steps and Spock looked over to see his Captain approaching.
“Mr. Spock,” he said and Spock intimated that he was himself again. “Who’s your friend?” He twirled his axe casually.
“Ah, Mi Capitan! Hmm, no, Spanish doesn’t suit you. No matter. May I congratulate you on not only saving the multiverse as we all know it, but for doing it with such style, such pizazz! Jean-Luc couldn’t have done it better.”
Jim spared the entity only a look before leveling a questioning one on Spock.
“I will explain all, Captain, however, now I believe it is time for the world to end,” he looked at Q.
“Ah,” Q said, clapping his hands. “Yes, I suppose it is. Sure you don’t want to explore some more? Buy a house? Get married? You can you know,” he said this last to Jim. “This whole world is aching to give you everything you ask for.”
“I want my ship,” was all Jim said as he gave them both his back and walked toward Hrothgar.
Q looked confused, but then his face cleared. “Oh well, win some and lose some.”
He snapped his fingers.
Jim stared out of the Observation window, fist to his mouth, rubbing the callous on one finger over his upper lip. Whatever Q had done to them, he had not taken away the scars or the rewards of battle. Jim could still feel the strength in his fingers, that ache in his shoulder from his shield. He felt so unencumbered now that workouts in the gym, even against Spock, went longer, harder than they ever had at the Academy. If, occasionally, he reached for magic that wasn’t there, it was understandable.
He had made counseling available to the others. Chekhov, in particular, had been affected by the loss of his magic. But he was resilient and always had his math to fall back on. Bones had actually come out of the whole thing with ideas about actual medicine and could be seen locked up in the lab in his off hours. Uhura’s lips tripped over the words of the Dragontongue and he thought he had even stumbled upon her writing quickly, cursing when she couldn’t remember some small detail of their... journey. Scotty and Sulu were probably least affected and had cooed and fussed over the Enterprise when they’d arrived back.
But Jim, he hadn’t been able to quite reconcile this life and the farce he’d been forced to live. He loved being Captain of the Enterprise and he had devoted himself, almost without rest, to her care and well-being. But he couldn’t help remembering cobblestone paths, the endless sea, and the unbelievable cities where, with each successive discovery, he dreamed of living. He closed his eyes, blocking out the stars, and pictured the view from the top of the mountain near Solitude.
“Not quite so easy to let go, hmm?” a familiar, grating voice asked.
Jim tamped down on his instinctive response to become belligerent. “Easy to leave, maybe not as easy to let go. But it hasn’t been for anyone.”
The tall figure came to stand next to him, folding his arms behind him in the red and black outfit he wore. “I feel I do need to apologize. Truly, I thought only of your use, not the effect that use might leave on you.” His face was almost farcically contrite, like he was trying to access an emotion he couldn’t really understand. From Spock’s report, Jim could suppose that was accurate.
Jim folded his arms over his chest. “It is hard. I didn’t want to think of myself as just a blunt object, but essentially that's what I was. And I was good at it.”
Q rolled his eyes. “Puh-leeze. You think I chose you because you’re handy with an axe? Brute force is all well and good, but you, sonny-boy, have the brains, the intuition, that indefinable quality.” Again, his voice took on a mocking tone, but Jim suspected he was being serious. “Any old Starfleet officer can kill. If that was what I was looking for I would have plucked Ensign Ricky, or whoever, off your Security force and made do.”
Jim was silent and the entity sighed.
“All right, Kirk, I’m going to give you a little gift, though I don’t know if you deserve it.” With a flash a padd appeared between his fingers. “But I want your word you won’t go looking until you’re really done here, in space, with Starfleet.”
Jim was confused, but nodded anyway, taking the padd from his fingers. With another flash, Q disappeared.
On the padd was a space bearing.
On the summit of the tallest building in the highest town in the world, Jim let his head fall back as summer wind and salt air blew his hair back from his face. Above, as night fell, the aurora began to shimmer.
Out on the water, the opera house--a welcome addition to an otherwise perfect replica of Skyrim--began to play a sweeping symphony that carried even up to his position. Soft footsteps invaded the majesty of the piece and he turned to regard his dearest friend and companion.
“You finally convince them not to come after me? Try to make me an admiral?”
Spock’s mouth twitched as it did when he wanted to smile and he came to stand next to Jim, eyes on the concert.
“I managed to convey your need for a vacation, solitude, but emphasized your restless nature.”
Jim smiled and ran a hand unconsciously over his still slender stomach and looked back out into the distance.
“When Q gave me this place... I really wasn’t sure I’d ever take him up on it. Days after we were back in the thick of it and I forgot--no, I managed to suppress--all memory of Skyrim.” His mouth turned down. “When David died, I finally came here, looking for a little peace. Damn, he would have loved this place.”
The piece reached a dizzying climax, voices and instruments working as one, and Jim closed his eyes. In his chest, a roar built, exhorting him to shout with a power no longer in his possession. Spock’s hand on his back distracted him and he took a deep breath. It dissipated and he smiled softly.