The Apple Never Falls Far From the Tree
The Yanada had still been in the Laurentian system when the brightest class to grace the halls of Starfleet Academy supernovaed. News of Vulcan’s destruction had taken hours to reach the captain’s ears, but even then, he opted not to discuss the matter with his crew. They were to maintain orbit over Laurentius IV, to ensure fragile diplomatic relations remained intact, and to focus on the task at hand while the rest of the fleet returned to deep Federation space to assist in whatever useless way they could.
Still, it hadn’t occurred to him to destroy the communications from Starfleet Command, or to instruct the communications officer not to relay any new information regarding Vulcan’s emergency to anyone other than himself until further notice. But he’d never put much faith in the ingenuity of his first officer. She was a decent officer, took her orders well, came up with viable solutions when requested, but she was never one to initiate anything. She was practically a mouse. The only reason he took her on as his first was because the executive officer he’d chosen was killed early on in their tour. She ranked, she was good at her job, and he needed all his specialists exactly where they already were.
So when Jose Mendez awoke to find that Yanada was no longer sweeping gracefully over the fifth planet from Laurentius, he wasn’t alarmed so much as puzzled. He made his way over to his chair where his first still sat, hands clutching the rests in a white knuckled grip, feet planted firmly on the floor, body pitched slightly forward as if she were going to launch herself through the viewscreen any moment. Her eyes blazed wildly and her mouth was pinched in the strangest frown Mendez had ever seen on anyone, but especially her. “Report,” he said softly at her elbow.
The only move she made was to stab a button on the command chair. “Lieutenant Hartfort, I thought I ordered you to let me know when the Captain was on his way to the bridge,” she spat, still staring crazily at the viewscreen.
A voice filtered through the intercom at her hand. “Aye, Commander, but-”
“No ‘buts’ Mister! When I give an order I expect it to be followed!” She stabbed at the comm link on the chair again and shifted her eyes slightly towards the back of the navigator’s head. “ETA to Earth, Mr. Mitchell?”
“Four hours at this speed, Commander.”
“Not good enough! Warp Seven!”
“Now just a damn minute,” Mendez cut in, but a hand whipped up from the command chair and smacked him squarely in the mouth. He stumbled slightly and dabbed at the blood trickling in the corner of his mouth. His first officer was twisted slightly in the chair, her hand still in the air where she’d followed through on her backhand, and now those wild eyes were fixed on him.
“When the hell were you going to tell the rest of us, Jose?” She brought her hand back to the chair, thumping the console with her epitaph. “Were you just gonna let us sit here and drift over a rock crawling with people who think we’re too goddamn stupid to associate with? Maybe they’re right, Jose! Maybe they’re right!” She was half out of the seat now, spitting and screaming with the rage of an angry lioness out for the blood of who or whatever killed her cub.
Mendez sagged against the console he’d landed on, hoping to give impression he’d acquiesce quietly. “I know, it was hard to follow the order, but some needed to stay-”
“Bullshit.” The commander was back in the seat, some of the insanity drained from her face. She turned back towards the viewscreen. “ETA.”
“Two hours, thirteen minutes at Warp Seven, Commander.”
“Not good enough. Give it all she’s got, Bali.”
The small woman at the helm turned to face the crazed First. “She isn’t responding, Commander, power’s bottlenecked-”
“Goddammit,” the commander growled and shifted in her seat. Mendez waited, knowing she’d either have to settle for Seven, or risk giving up the conn to tinker with her precious engines herself. She whipped her head around to where Mendez was still slouched, piercing him with hard blue eyes, as if she could hear his thoughts. “Mitchell. You have the conn.” With that she stood from the chair, and Mendez launched himself at her.
In an instant, he found himself at the bottom of a dogpile, and was dragged bodily from his first officer who still glared hotly from where she’d been slammed to the deck. Mitchell strode between the two and sat in the captain’s seat as if he belonged there. “Get Mendez to the brig, heavy guard,” he said without looking at the captain. He spared a look for the woman still on the floor. “The engines, sir,” Mitchell said softly.
She got to her feet without grace or embarrassment and stalked towards the turbolift. “Keep me appraised, Mr. Mitchell.” The doors hissed shut.
Mendez found himself in a tiny room on the wrong side of a forcefield, with a very nervous looking security guard posted on the other side. He couldn’t remember the young man’s name, but he knew the kid was a ‘soilder for the cause’. He edged up to the doorway as close as he dared. “Ensign.”
Rather than answer him, the young man went to the commlink just out of Mendez’s view and hailed Engineering. “Commander, Mendez is ready to talk.” A sharp answer and the link was severed. The ensign went back to his post and continued to stare ahead, ignoring his imprisoned Captain.
Several long moments later, she strode in, eyes flashing. “What the hell do you want, Jose?”
“You’ll be court-martialed.”
“I don’t give a good goddamn.”
“How is this going to help? Those kids are dead-”
“I have had nightmares about that thing! You can’t know what the hell those kids faced! I knew!” She staggered backwards until she hit the bulkhead across from the brig and slid down to the deck. “We’re out here, trying to play nice with a bunch of assholes that don’t care about us, and those kids… they never knew what hit them… it should have been us, it should have been us...” A sob tore from her throat.
“It will be us, if we go running into this half-cocked-”
The comm whistled, interrupting Mendez’s bid for sanity. The XO scrambled to her feet and answered breathily. “Mitchell here. Commander, that disruption, the lightning storm – it’s happening again.”
“But sir, it’s not by Earth. About 4.5 parsecs from Earth, nearer to the Sirius system than Eridani – just a minute, there’s been a high energy explosion from-”
“On my way.” She stabbed at the comm and ran towards the nearest lift. “We’ll talk later, Mendez,” she called over her shoulder, and then the swish of the shutting lift doors was followed by the shrill alarm of Red Alert.
Jim’s relief was short lived. The blast had saved them from certain death, but it hadn’t offered certain salvation, either. Enterprise drifted haphazardly along, a little over 12 light years away from home, broken and tattered and devoid of any real power to get back to Space Dock. She’d been ripped through in places, a good portion of her crew had been killed before they even saw any real action, and they were carrying the last people to have stood on Vulcan soil before the planet folded in on itself.
Jim stalked down to Deck Five, in hunt of a place to lay his head. He paused in front of the Captain’s cabin and thought about going in. Pike wouldn’t be back in it for quite some time, but… the idea made Jim feel weepy. He scrubbed at his face with the back of a hand and moved further down the hall to the Chief Medical Officer’s Quarters. Dr. Puri wasn’t coming back. That thought made Jim weepy too, but he clamped down on it and overrode the privacy lock.
There was an older Vulcan man seated on the bunk. He was turning a large wad of cloth over in his hands, a bulky affair that looked like it could have been a sweater. Jim started to backpedal from the room.
Jim stilled his movements. “I… apologize. I assumed this room would be unoccupied.”
“My son offered me this room, Mr. Kirk. He told me the former occupant had been killed early on.”
Jim nodded, though the man still had his back to him. “Hence my belief the room would-”
“I am well rested, Mr. Kirk,” the man said, rising gracefully to his feet. “And you have had much need of rest, if you have still been acting in the capacity of Captain.”
The man turned finally, swinging his robes behind him like a swashbuckling pirate. He was the same man on the bridge when Jim made his move to reveal Spock’s emotional… compromise. The man closed the space between himself and Jim, and regarded him with a familiar air of distrust. “I trust you have come to some understanding with Spock?”
“I… don’t actually know. He… we work well together. I hope… uh…”
Though the man’s expression didn’t change, the tension in the room began to dissipate. “I will retreat to my son’s quarters. The Captain should have a place to rest in privacy.” With that, Vulcan’s Ambassador to The Federation swept out of the room.
Jim turned and stared at the door for a moment before moving to work his way out of the ridiculously heavy snow boots he was still stomping about in. He'd only freed one foot when a shipwide page commed him. “Oh for the love – Kirk here.”
“A vessel is approaching us, Warp Eight, Captain.” Spock’s voice was as calm as ever, but the stress he put on ‘Eight’ gave Jim pause. “It refuses to answer our hails, but it appears to be a Federation vessel. Correction, Starfleet vessel, Miranda Class-”
“On my way.” He disconnected and looked at his feet. “Well, shit.”
Jim stepped onto the bridge and slid into his seat, whirling about to face Communications. “Report?”
“No response, sir, still trying,” Uhura said automatically. Then, a beat later, “Kirk, what in the fu- Wait, the… U.S.S. Yanada is hailing us.”
Jim’s brow furrowed – wasn’t that… “On screen.” He composed his best I-know-exactly-what-I’m-doing-here-don’t-worry-guys face and began to turn to face the cracked viewscreen. “This is James T. Kirk, Captain of the U.S.S… no… fucking… way…” Jim couldn't stop the slow grin from sliding across his face.
“You’re alive!” The woman on the screen stood from her seat and ran closer to the sensors on her own ship, flooding the Enterprise viewscreen with her face. Her wide, round, blue eyes seemed to get even rounder even as they crinkled in the corners when she smiled. “You’re alive.”
Then she frowned. “Wait, James T. Kirk, what of the what?? ” She turned and addressed someone behind her, “This is NCC-1701, right?? But he hasn’t even – I’m sorry, repeat that? …but- …wait, so Mendez is… well, shit. Ah… Captain Kirk,” she said, still not quite addressing the screen, “I’m gonna have to-”
“Mom please! Just give us a tow, we got nothing but impulse power, the ship is crippled, we're carrying the most important refugees of a dead planet and we’re more than a decade away from home if nothing else goes wrong!” Jim ignored the murmurs behind him. He could deal with the fallout of begging mommy for help later.
“Yeah, yeah, I got all that, it’s just-”
“Wait, Commander Kirk, who’s in charge of the Yanada?” Jim turned to Spock, crossing his legs and glancing at the view screen from the corner of his eye. “I’d have heard about a field promotion if-”
“Excuse me, Mister-I-haven’t-graduated-from-the-academy-but-i-still-outrank-Mommy??”
“Don’t try to cloud the issue, and please don’t refer to yourself as my ‘Mommy’ ever again in life or otherwise, and don’t make me pull rank-”
“You can’t pull rank on a commissioned- Dammit all to Hell, I told you people to keep Mendez off-” The transmission suddenly ended.
“The current commander of the U.S.S. Yanada is Captain Jose I. Mendez. Commander Winona Kirk is the Chief Engineer of the Yanada, and currently serves as First Officer, a commission received-”
“Thank you Mr. Spock, I know how Commander Kirk became the Executive. I don’t quite know how she managed to commandeer command-”
“You don’t?!? ”
“Keep your opinions to yourself, Lt. Uhura, or I will open a can of whoop-ass. Spock is not the only person on the bridge who is sensitive about his mother.” He turned to the viewscreen, which now showed the Yanada powering slowly towards them. “Hail them again, Uhura.”
It took a few moments to re-establish communication, and even so, things were not exactly settled on the Yanada bridge. “-half the fleet is gone Jose-” “should have you court-martialed right here Winnie-” “stuck in the middle of nowhere a heartbeat from home-” “no right to order this ship” “goddamn fleet just getting to the hole that is Vul-” “important treaty-”
“This is Lieutenant Gary Mitchell of the U.S.S. Yanada. How can we be of assistance, Enterprise?”
Jim rubbed his forehead and ignored Sulu and Chekov’s failed attempts to conceal their sniggering. “Tow. To Earth. Please. And please convey my gratitude and extended invitation to your captain and first officer to tour the Enterprise.”
That stopped the argument. “This is Jose Mendez – where is Captain Pike?”
“He’s undergoing emergency surgery. I’m Acting Captain Kirk.”
Winona cut in, arms folded. “ Oh, Acting now? Jim – where the hell are your damn boots?”
“Oh for the love of-” Jim cried, slashing his hand through the air in Uhura’s general direction. To her credit, she cut off the transmission. “I’m going to Dr. Puri’s quarters. If anything else comes up before we get to Earth, tell Spock. I don’t care anymore.”