Jim had no idea how long it lasted, but it seemed like days. Later his first officer would claim they were only under psychic attack for 7.5 minutes.
One moment Kirk was on the bridge of The Enterprise, the next he was on a planet he would recognize forever, that played a prominent role in his nightmares. He was part of a massive crowd, losing sight of the aunt and cousins he had been visiting on Tarsus IV. There had been a military coup, and no one knew what would happen now.
Food supplies had become scarce and when military began sweeping homes and rounding people throughout the colonies into the main town center, it didn't appear to be a good sign. People were screaming around him, and he ducked down, pushing himself against the direction they were being herded towards. He made it into a alcove and hid in the shadows, watching.
A few minutes later he saw a small boy, who couldn't have been more than five or six years old, standing confused at the end of the alley. Without even thinking, Jim grabbed the child and pulled him back into the shadows as well, working them behind debris to hide their presences.
He heard someone speaking over a sound system, words he would never forget.
"The revolution is successful. But survival depends on drastic measures. Your continued existence represents a threat to the well-being of society. Your lives mean slow death to the more valued members of the colony. Therefore, I have no alternative but to sentence you to death. Your execution is so ordered, signed Kodos, Governor of Tarsus IV."
Seconds later, he was glad that he had placed his hand over the little boy's mouth, keeping him from crying out. The sound of phasers was unmistakable. Bodies fell and the people who were still alive screamed and began trying to fight their way free of the guards surrounding them.
Jim couldn't see the people who had already fallen, but he could see the reactions of those who were where he would have been if he hadn't broken away and hidden. He heard them scream and beg, and saw them fall. He watched a guard nudge one of them with his foot and turn dismissively away, and beneath his hand he felt the boy he was holding sob and mouth "Mama..."
He remember the hiding and the constant hunger, the fear and the horror. Holding the little boy, whose name was Kevin Riley, as he cried quietly at night and promising Starfleet would be there soon, even as he wondered if they have even been contacted. Glimpses of survivors eating meat, when the only meat anywhere was one kind he couldn't bring himself to consume, not even to stay alive.
The terror when they were finally captured and brought before Kodos himself and his own conviction they would die then, only to be told that the government had decided to keep alive as many children as they could support, especially children related to those important to the Federation.
Looking Kodos, executioner of thousands in the eyes as he stated, "My mother is a Starfleet officer and my father was the hero who was captain of The Kelvin.”
Feeling icy chills go up his spine when Kodos smiled at him and said, "I have a special job for you, James Tiberius Kirk."
Leaving Kevin at a makeshift orphanage and lying about who the child was, claiming he was the only surviving son of the aunt he had been staying with, thus related to a Starfleet science officer and hoping it would be enough to protect him.
Being led to a barracks full of young teenagers his age, all of whom were being used to "keep order" besides the guards with what remained of the starving population. Realizing he might have to kill innocent people in order to stay alive and swearing to himself to turn the weapon on himself first, ending the pain and the hunger.
Running away, trying to escape with the two children he had been ordered to kill. Wondering how he was going to hide himself and protect them. How would he keep any of them alive with a army of child soldiers stalking them and no food to survive with?
In this reality, there was no relief when Starfleet managed to finally appear, no tearful reunion with his mother, no being stationed with her on The Endeavor on the way back to earth, slowly recovering and building his starved body back up, no long meetings with the ship counselors about what he had experienced, or interviews besides other survivors. The worst parts of his experience simply replayed again and again. The pain of hunger, the horror of death and the fear of causing it himself. Unending and endless...
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -- -- - - - - - - - - -- - - - - - - -- - - - - - - - - - - - - -
It was Spock who brought him out of the memories, at least partially. In his mind, his was thirteen again, watching bodies fall and hearing the hopeless cries of those who were next, when suddenly a Vulcan appeared beside him, amazing and out of place in the strange environment.
And Jim Kirk realized he wasn't a boy anymore and he knew who the other man was. His relief was a living entity when he breathed out simply, "Spock!"
The Vulcan looked on at what was happening, expression impassive as he stated, "Captain, the entire bridge is being affected similarly. A message that Lt. Uhura intercepted contained some sort of weapon that is able to attack our minds. I was able to convince myself that what I was experiencing was not logical, and initiate this mind meld with you, but the memories are still present in my mind. If you will share with me what is happening then perhaps I can help you do the same."
So Jim showed him, feeling guilty to place such horror in his mind but unable not to show it to Spock, to share it with someone. They reached the end and this time he was able to continue to the events' conclusions, to safety and family and food and Earth.
Then he did the same with Spock through the mindmeld, experiencing his first officer's pain at always being different. His childhood being ridiculed for being too human and the shame at being unable to control himself adequately. Memories of harsh words and fists, disdaining expressions and small signs of prejudice. The bullying he was forced to endure, the insults aimed at his family growing up, His father's disapproval when he
left for Earth, and then discovering that if he was too human on Vulcan he was still too Vulcan for Earth. The isolation and loneliness, the fear he would never be accepted anywhere in the universe. His mother, the one person who accepted him completely, lost to him forever in Vulcan’s destruction.
Helping Spock work past that was easier for Jim. Moving him into the memories of Spock's caring from Nyota, the respect and friendship of the crew, the deep bond and affection and sheer need of his presence from his Captain that grew stronger daily. The emotions and self-acceptance Jim had sensed through the mind meld with the older, Ambassador Spock. All these things were sufficient to break the cycle of painful memories.
Awareness returning as he finally felt like he was within his own body and he watched numbly as Spock moved to the communications panel and cut off the transmission. Jim began moving around the bridge, trying to access everyone's condition. Spock was holding Nyota in his arms, and it was obvious she was crying. Jim placed a hand
on Sulu's shoulder and the hand that reached up to clasp him was trembling. They both turned to Chekov and found him with his knees pulled to his chest and tears silently streaming down his face. "Chekov..." Kirk called quietly. When there was no response still it was Sulu who moved forward to embrace him, softly whispering "Pavel, it's alright now..."
At that moment, Yeoman Rand came running onto the bridge followed by an out of breath Dr. McCoy. "Dammit Jim! We didn't know what was going on but we sealed off the Bridge trying to contain it. What the hell happened??!"
Bones began examining each of them in turn, before ordering them all the medbay for further testing. It was a sign of how traumatized they all were that no one, not even Spock protested. Medical scanning showed they were all stressed, but with no lasting harm. The science division was working on the booby trapped message, along with communication officers. Looking at his bridge crew's shell shocked faces, Jim decided none of them needed to deal with the aftermath of this alone, including himself.
"Bones has cleared us all but wants us on R&R until tomorrow. I want to see all of you in the rec room at 0900 hours. That IS an order."
Then he went back to his quarters and collapsed until he was awoken by the door chime.
Kirk wasn’t really surprised to find Spock was the person at his door. It usually tended to be his first officer’s job to collect him for various duties.
Spock nodded his head slightly in greeting, “Captain, I wish to speak with you regarding our meeting tonight.”
Jim motioned him inside and replied, “What about it?”
“May I inquire as to the purpose of the bridge crew meeting?”
Jim smirked at him as he found a clean work out shirt and changed into it. “Ever heard the phrase ‘Misery loves company’?”
“Call me Jim, Spock. It’s not as though you weren’t in my mind earlier today.”
There was a soft sound that seemed to be the Vulcan version of an exasperated sigh. “Jim, it is 1950 hours. We should depart.”
“See? Was that so hard?”
Arching his eyebrow in a way that Jim had long ago decided was the Vulcan equivalent of a human eyeroll, Spock followed Kirk to the ship’s recreation area.
All of the remaining bridge crew were already present, and when the captain arrived he noted the wary glances.
Herb, the ship’s recreation officer, showed them to a private room that contained a number of comfortable chairs and a large table. Jim sat down at it and gestured for everyone one else to do the same. It was dead silent until Jim began to speak.
“Today we all went through a very traumatic event. The psychic attack we went through was pretty much a mental rape, forcing us to experience our darkest memories. It is our CMO’s professional opinion that none of us should be on duty tomorrow, and we should be spending the next few days in session with the ship’s counselor.”
Noting mentally that no one seemed thrilled with the concept, Jim was glad to see the recreation officer enter with a number of containers from the strictly controlled alcohol.
Kirk grinned and grabbed the nearest bottle. “Personally I’d rather drown our sorrows the old fashioned way. If you would feel better talking about this morning while doing so, feel free. If not, know that you’re off duty tomorrow and that Dr. McCoy has already agreed to allow us some hypos to treat hangovers, which he almost never does. Get stinkin’ drunk if you’d like.”
With that, he poured a shot of vodka, downed it and prepared another.
Spock was giving him a stoic look that Jim had come to recognize as exasperated before stating, “Captain, Vulcan physiology is not affected by alcohol.”
Jim gave him a look as though he had just suggested that Vulcans had five heads.
After a slight pause, he managed, “How do you get sloshed then?”
“I don’t.” was the reply.
Uhura laughed and began mixing her own approximation of some alien drink that was bright orange. Smirking at her ex-boyfriend, she turned to Herb and whispered to him. A few minutes later, the recreation officer returned with a bottle of chocolate liqueur.
With Spock glaring daggers at her, Uhura handed the bottle to their captain with a wicked grin. “Vulcans react in a very similar way to Terran chocolate.”
Jim grinned and began considering all the ways he could use this knowledge. If he had his way, there would be a large triple chocolate cake at every ship party until their tour was complete.
Giving Uhura his most charming smile, Kirk gushed with “I love you Nyota. Marry me and have a dozen beautiful children?”
It earned him a derisive snort and rolled eyes. “There’s not enough alcohol in the universe, Captain.”
“It’s Jim for the rest of tonight, and that goes for everyone in this room. Every time someone calls me ‘Captain’, I’m gonna make you take a shot of something alcoholic but foul tasting. Got it?”
His bridge crew began grabbing drinks and finding seats at the table. Of course it was Spock who had to point out the obvious.
“Capt..Jim, as senior officer I must point out that Ensign Chekov is not of legal age to consume alcoholic beverages.” This earned him looks that could kill from both Chekov and Sulu.
Kirk regarded the younger man thoughtfully for a moment. “Ensign, do you drink?”
Chekov nodded. “Since I was thirteen, Kep… Jim, sir.”
“Promise not to give yourself alcohol poisoning?”
“Yes, Keptain… I mean, Jim!”
Kirk grinned and handed him a shot glass full of something neon green. “Too late! I heard that, so drink up!”
The next two hours passed quickly. Jim regaled them with stories of various bar brawls he was in during his misspent youth. Uhura began a discussion on various alien races and the various words they used to describe levels of intoxication and Sulu and Chekov started a debate on artificial intelligence. Spock mostly sat and glared at the various glasses of chocolate that Uhura and Kirk pressed upon him, which he tried to sip very little of.
It was Chekov who changed the entire mood of the gathering.
Later, Jim thought he should have realized that their youngest officer had the most potential to be an emotional drunk.