Tell me, good Brutus, can you see your face?
No, Cassius, for the eye sees not itself
But by reflection, some other things.
It is very much lamented, Brutus,
That you have no such mirrors as will turn
Your hidden worthiness into your eye.
JULIUS CAESAR by William Shakespeare
“Don’t fucking toy with me. I want a straight answer! Do you intend to help me destroy the Halkans or will you oppose me?”
Kirk slammed his clenched fist on his desk, unleashing some of his frustration and apprehension. His future hung on Spock’s answer; a future of either prosperity or adversity.
The first officer who stood calmly before him looked the same, but he was not—and Kirk had detected the change almost as soon as he had reappeared on his own ship, the I.S.S. Enterprise.
It wasn’t what Spock said or did. The Vulcan was too shrewd and disciplined not to act in his customary manner. But his dark, piercing gaze glittered with a newfound light, a peculiar gleam that Spock couldn’t conceal whenever Kirk looked him straight in the eye. Kirk was convinced that the Vulcan was hiding something or he was formulating a plan that excluded Kirk, and that could only mean one thing—mutiny or assassination. Kirk had always trusted his gut feelings to survive, and now his instincts screamed ‘danger’.
Marlena had been more transparent, almost an open book. She could barely hide her scorn when he stepped down from the transporter pad. He hadn’t expected that they would run into each other’s arms in slow motion, like some stomach-turning romantic film, but he hadn’t anticipated such a display of blatant loathing. In the beginning, she had done everything in her power to become his mistress, although he knew that she loved the status of being ‘the captain’s woman’ more than she cared for him. Their tumultuous affair had soured recently, so if she wanted out, he’d be happy to see her go, helped along from a swift kick of his boot. But if Marlena and Spock had joined forces and were plotting against him, they would both pay dearly.
He silently cursed his misfortune. Marlena wasn’t worth a second thought – women like her, however beautiful, were a dime a dozen. But Spock was the only person on board whom he had trusted; a trust not based on affection or loyalty, but on simpatico interests, an alliance that had brought each of them wealth and power. It was a pact with the devil that both had enjoyed to the fullest.
Kirk couldn’t remember a time when Spock wasn’t by his side, protecting his back, keeping him fully informed of the movements and plots of his enemies. The Vulcan had been an invaluable asset and he had been instrumental in Kirk’s rise to power. In his perilous position, Kirk didn’t put much stock in friendship, but if he could call anyone a friend, it would be Spock.
There was only one person who could have screwed that up—Kirk’s doppelganger. That Kirk was a man of morals. That captain believed in ethics. That commander had the respect and devotion of his crew. That miserable son of a bitch had taken from him the one man whom he counted on the most.
But how—how did the Mirror Kirk turn Spock against him? What insidious ploy had that bastard used to obliterate a thirteen-year partnership in only a few short hours?
It was a question that demanded an answer, but first, Kirk needed to destroy the Halkans. In four hours, the ship would be over the designated marks, and this time, he would make sure the primary targets were annihilated.
While he waited for the destruction to commence, he showered and changed into a clean uniform, inspected the bridge, then paid a visit to Marlena’s cabin. Less than an hour later, he left with all the information he needed.
So he was not surprised to find Spock waiting outside his cabin when he returned.
With mounting agitation, Kirk repeated the question. “Will you help me crush that bucolic planet of witless sheep or not?”
As Spock clasped his hands behind his back, Kirk drew in a tense breath, and waited for his answer.
With two simple words, Spock had signed his own death warrant. He had also damaged or quite possibly ruined Kirk’s plans for a glorious future. Any other man would have been executed immediately, but Kirk struggled to find a way to spare Spock, to make him see the futility of his decision.
“Cannot or will not?”
“I no longer have either the desire or the capacity within myself to commit such an act.”
“You’ve never opposed me before.”
“I have never had a reason to.”
“I have a reason.”
Spock didn’t volunteer any more information nor was he likely to. Kirk knew he needed to try another tactic.
“So who was the source of this ground-breaking, newfound wisdom? The other Kirk? The Kirk who knows zilch about our empire or what we must do to survive from one day to the next?”
“It is unfortunate you did not have the opportunity to meet him.”
“I agree, most unfortunate, because if our paths had crossed, I would have sent him back to his own universe in a body bag. But tell me, Spock, how does a man like you, who has lived his entire life without scruples, suddenly develop a conscience? Was he that good or are you that stupid?”
The insult hit the mark, just as Kirk knew it would. Spock stiffened and his hooded eyes narrowed dangerously. For a fleeting moment, Kirk thought Spock’s control might snap. If baiting the Vulcan would untie his tongue, then Kirk would use words as he used his dagger and rip out the truth - piece by piece.
“Well, which is it, Spock? Have you been duped by a puppet-master or have you finally lost your mind?”
“I am not so easily deceived by your antics, Captain. Your attempts to provoke me will fail.”
“Your logic is faulty, Mr. Spock. If you aren’t afraid to die for this absurd reason, then why are you afraid to divulge it?”
“It serves no purpose to speak to those who will not hear.”
“I can’t hear anything if you don’t tell me what the fuck is going on.”
Spock contemplated Kirk’s reply for a long moment. “Very well. I have at last found sanity and truth in the midst of chaos. Waste is illogical; the waste of resources, lives, entire worlds. The Empire cannot survive through tyranny and terrorism, sanctioning the mass murder of innocent people. To support an unjust system doomed to failure is meaningless. Therefore, I will do whatever is required to stop the Halkans from being annihilated.“
“In our universe, it’s kill or be killed. You know that.”
Spock took a deep, uneven breath.
“Yes. Sometimes killing is necessary, which is why only one of us will leave this room alive.”
“You know what has happened to those who have gone against me in the past.”
“They…disappear. But I do not intent to simply vanish, Captain. We both know that I stand between you and the Tantalus Device. ”
Kirk glanced at the wall behind Spock and the triangle-shaped panel.
“Marlena didn’t waste any time showing you it, did she? Did you know that that back-stabbing little cutthroat was planning on seducing you once I was out of the picture, then murdering the new captain of the Enterprise? Seems that she thought she was fit to command a starship. Of course, now she’s not fit for anything.”
“She is dead?”
“I certainly hope so,” Kirk softly chuckled. “Her body is floating somewhere in space.”
Kirk rose from his seat behind the desk. In his right hand, he gripped a phaser.
“Nothing personal, Spock, but it looks like our business together is concluded—permanently.”
Kirk’s index finger wavered on the trigger. A sharp pain spiked between his eyes and his stomach knotted. In a second or two, Spock would be dead. His brilliant mind would cease to exist, and all that he was—all that he could have been—would be gone forever. Kirk had assassinated others without a moment’s hesitation, but this was the most difficult thing he had ever had to do.
“I’m sorry, Spock. I wish it could have ended differently, but I don’t have a choice.”
“I understand the position you are in more than you realize,” Spock stated with an uncharacteristic touch of forlornness in his tone. He made no move to defend himself, but remained motionless, his dark gaze riveted to Kirk’s face.
Kirk clenched his jaw, inhaled a raw, anguished breath, and squeezed the trigger.
Then he squeezed it again. And again.
Spock’s eyebrow rose slowly. “I took the opportunity of draining your phaser and returning it to your desk drawer.”
“You god-damned pointed-eared bastard!” Kirk flung the phaser directly at the Vulcan, missing Spock by mere centimeters. The projectile bounced harmlessly off the far wall.
“Ruffus!” Kirk yelled for his bodyguard.
“He is…indisposed. Only Selek stands guard outside the door. No one shall be permitted to enter until this is finished.”
Kirk lurched forward and slammed both palms down on the surface of the desk. “I should have expected such judicious efficiency. You’ve taken care of everything, haven’t you?!”
“Not everything, but that will be remedied shortly. I take no pleasure in the thought of killing you, nor do I wish the captaincy, but as you said, there is no alternative.”
“And you frequently say, ‘There are always possibilities’.”
Spock paused for a long moment. “I may have been in error.”
Kirk broke out laughing. “At least I’ve lived long enough to hear that! Now I can die a happy man.”
“You find that amusing?”
“Yeah, I do.”
They were both quiet for a moment.
“I offer you a choice, Captain Kirk,” Spock finally said. “How do you wish to die? If you have a preference, I will grant your final request in a last modicum of respect for the time we have served together.”
Kirk sat down in his chair again, grinning slyly. “Then I chose extreme old age.”
“That was never an option either of us expected in our line of work.”
“I didn’t expect you to betray me either…”
“Continuing this discussion is pointless, Captain. Will you choose or not?” Spock took a determined step forward as he kneaded his hands together, then flexed his fingers. “The ancient technique of Tal-shaya is both quick and painless. I would recommend it over other, less pleasant, methods.”
“Spock—listen to me for a second! Forget this foolishness, stand by me, and we’ll be invincible. Now that you know about the Tantalus Device, we can destroy all of our enemies, and one day, even rule the Empire together. We can be Caesars, Spock. Think of it. The greatest men of our time!”
“At what cost? A thousand lives – a million? How much innocent blood will it take to buy your way to glory?”
“All right, then. You can no longer be a part of the system that supports tyranny —I understand that. So why seize the captaincy through my assassination? Why not just relinquish your commission and return to Vulcan? If you don’t like the heat, get out of the kitchen.”
“Those who are not a part of the solution are a part of the problem.”
“What you plan to do is suicide. You can’t fight the entire Empire single-handed.”
“The Tantalus Device, and this ship, run by a crew of loyal Vulcans, will increase the odds of success.”
“The Tantalus killing field is limited to a few hundred meters. It can’t reach across space to eliminate the dozens of ships or thousands of men that will come after you.”
“Once I properly analyze the device, I will significantly increase its range and power. It, and the modifications I will make to the Enterprise, will serve well enough.”
“Yes, I see. So your plan depends on the Tantalus Device then?” Kirk ran his hand under the lip of his desk, his finger seeking and finding a small sensor.
Immediately, the triangle-shaped panel exploded on the opposite wall, knocking Spock off his feet. Jagged shards, fragments of debris, and white plumes of dust blanketed the room.
Spock’s bodyguard, Selek, tried desperately to enter the cabin, but the blast had warped the door, and he couldn’t breach the twisted metal.
Rising from his crouching position behind the desk, Kirk brushed the shrapnel from his hair and peered through the murky haze. He found Spock crumpled on the floor, lying face down and motionless. The back of the blue uniform was shredded, the tattered strips mottled with bottle-green blood where the razor-sharp splinters had embedded in the Vulcan’s skin.
Kirk rounded the desk, then he nudged the lifeless form with his boot.
He kicked harder. This time he was rewarded with a weak grunt.
Lifting Spock up, he dragged his limp body into the sleeping area, and hoisted him upon the bed. A sizeable contusion marked Spock’s forehead where his face had impacted with the corner of the desk.
The pale blue eyelids finally fluttered opened, slowly focusing on the surroundings. Spock blinked rapidly to remove the film of dust that obscured his vision, then his gaze shifted to Kirk’s face. Studying his captain with a mixture of wariness and surprise, he couldn’t fathom why he still lived. Why hadn’t Kirk finished the job when he had the chance?
Kirk sat on the edge of the bed, and answered the question he could see in Spock’s eyes. “The Tantalus Device is destroyed and so is your plan. It’s back to the status quo now. You need me and I need you, just like old times.”
“You…should have killed me…while I was incapacitated,” Spock wheezed. “I will still…not take part in destroying the Halkans.”
The banging on the outer door increased, followed by the sound of a phaser cutting through the distorted metal.
“You won’t have to. I suspect that you’ll be in sick bay recuperating from your injuries for a while—that is unless you still have the strength to help me sabotage the weapons control panel in auxiliary control?”
“Captain?” Spock’s surprise was quickly turning into unshielded astonishment. “Then you won’t destroy—“
“—If we can’t fire our weapons, we can’t destroy anything, can we?”
Spock gripped Kirk’s arm. “Is it possible that you have also developed a conscience?”
“No, it’s not anything that pedantic that motivates me. The truth is that I’m stronger with you than without you and the reverse also applies. Together, we can achieve both our goals—the destruction of the Empire, and my rise to glory as Caesar of a new age of enlightenment. You gave me the choice of how I wanted to die. Now I give you the choice of how you want to live; will you fight the Empire on your own or with my help? If we combine forces, we stand a damn good chance of pulling it off. What do you say, Spock?”
“It is a logical proposition. Although our rationale may be diametrically opposed, the end result will be of mutual benefit, therefore, I agreed to your proposal. I will incapacitate the ship’s weapons, but in due course, Mr. Scott will repair auxiliary control, and then—“
“—And then we’ll have another Tantalus Device operational. You don’t think that there was only one, do you? I have another hidden on board the ship. One should never be without such a useful gadget.”
Spock’s eyebrow shot up. “Fascinating.”
The door suddenly crashed inwards, and Selek rushed into the room, his phaser aimed at Kirk.
“Kroykah,” Spock ordered, propping himself up on his elbows. “All is well, Selek, the captain is under my protection. Summon engineering and have the door fixed and the cabin put back into working order.”
Spock shifted his attention to Kirk, and added, “There is much damage that needs to be…repaired.”
Kirk smiled knowingly at Spock’s subtext. There was certainly much to be repaired—on many levels.
Selek bowed and left the room.
Taking Spock by the upper arm, Kirk helped him to sit up. Spock shook his head to clear the dizziness that threatened to engulf him. Kirk tightened his hold and asked, “Are you badly hurt?”
“Not significantly, although the injuries are proving to be most inconvenient.”
“Can you stand?”
“Yes, but I will need some assistance.”
Kirk slipped his arm around Spock’s waist, but the Vulcan suddenly turned to him, a solemn expression on his face.
“What is it, Spock?”
“Captain, every Caesar…has his Brutus.”
Kirk considered the caveat, then nodded. “And every Brutus has his Anthony. But history doesn’t have to repeat itself, not if we learn from its mistakes. I’m ambitious, I want ultimate power, but I won’t rule as a tyrant, not if you remain at my side. I may do the right things for the wrong reasons, but if the end result is the same, if justice is served, will you be satisfied?”
The glimmer in Spock’s eyes was still there, but now it was bright with admiration.
“I will be satisfied.”
Kirk wondered if Spock appreciated the irony; in trying to destroy each other, they had made their relationship that much stronger.
Purely on impulse, Kirk suddenly leaned forward and pressed his lips against Spock’s mouth. The Vulcan’s lips were firm yet pliable—and so incredibly hot. His sultry breath tasted like fresh apricots and cream, and the flavor was more pleasant than Kirk had imagined it would be. He savored the feeling of touching Spock through such an intimate act; it was an exhilarating sensation that coursed directly to his groin, instantly arousing him in a way he hadn’t felt in years. He lingered for a long moment, seeking a similar reaction from Spock.
The Vulcan didn’t exactly respond, but he didn’t pull away either. It was a good sign. Kirk finally broke contact and pulled back. “I’ve wanted to do that for a long time…too long.”
A faint but discernible smile appeared in the dark, smoldering eyes. Apparently, the first officer had had some thoughts along the same lines. Kirk grinned. “Et tu, Spock?”
“I believe that our relationship has ‘turned a corner’, so to speak. In this you will find no opposition, Captain.”
Kirk brushed a tiny piece of shrapnel from dusty black bangs; then he ran his fingers down Spock’s temple, over his cheek, to fleetingly glide across his lips in a featherlike caress.
“Then perhaps you should call me ‘Jim’…”