2258; Starfleet Academy, Main Auditorium
Jim hated the main auditorium. Every time they were all forced to gather here it meant one of the teachers or admirals had a bug up their butt about something and wanted to blather on and on until the cadets felt like their brains were going to leak out their ears. Plus there was the added downside of the chairs. Damn thing felt like they were made out of stone, all cold and unyielding.
“This session has been called to resolve a troubling matter. James T. Kirk, step forward.”
Jim looked up from the PADD he had resting on his thighs at the stern sound of Admiral Barnett’s voice calling his name. Glancing over at Bones, Jim stood, letting his PADD filled with text messages he had been sending to Gabriel take his place on the seat. He could feel the eyes of all the other cadets in his year watching him like a lion watched a wounded gazelle. Fuck, this was going to be bad.
“Cadet Kirk, evidence has been submitted to this council, suggesting that you violated the ethical code of conduct pursuant to Regulation One-Seven point three of the Starfleet Code. Is there anything you care to say before we begin, sir?”
Admiral Barnett gave Jim a look like was both amused and disappointed at once. Jim knew the man had a sense of humor buried under all the Starfleet pomp and seriously hoped this was all some kind of prank set up by Captain Pike to get back at him for waterproofing his office and filling it with water from the bay. Still, just to be safe he knew he should take this seriously.
“Yes, I believe I have the right to face my accuser directly.” Jim let his gaze follow Admiral Barnett’s back into the audience to where the instructors all sat in there pressed black uniforms.
A shiver went down his spine as he watched the tall, lean figure of a Vulcan rise. His heart was beating wildly in his chest, speeding up to beat like hummingbird wings inside his chest and Jim was sure everyone could tell his breathing had changed as well. The Vulcan stood, his piercing black gaze never leaving Jim’s as he tugged at the hem of his uniform. His head felt strangely light at the top and heavy as lead at the bottom, his world tilting wildly. Spock. God, it was Spock!
“Step forward, please. This is Commander Spock. He's one of our most distinguished graduates. He's programmed the Kobayashi Maru exam for the last four years.” Admiral Barnett paused, his eyes watching the way Jim looked at Spock before turning to look back at Spock. “Commander?”
“Cadet Kirk, you somehow managed to install and activate a subroutine to the programming code, thereby changing the conditions of the test.” His voice was cold and smooth as ice, sliding between those lips Jim remembered oh so well.
“Your point being?” He wanted to flinch and to scream. To yell at Spock asking him everything that had built up year after year since he had watched Spock drive away. He was half a breath away from stepping over to his K’diwa when Admiral Barnett spoke.
“In academic vernacular, you cheated.”
Jim turned to look over at the Admiral. Whispers began to fill the echoing chamber of the hall as Jim turned to look back at the front where the row of Starfleet Officers sat, watching him. He could hear the disappointment more clearly now. The sound of it crashed against his brain in waves, laving him dizzy and angry. He didn’t do well with people talking about him and looking at him like they knew that everything would end up with him shammed and tossed aside like trash.
Out of the corner of his eyes he caught sight of Uhura smirking at him before swiftly letting the emotion be hidden by her disgust. Obviously she was going to try and make him feel ashamed for being a stupid townie hick who got caught trying to show the rest of them up. Honestly! Did none of them even realize what he was trying to prove? Did they not understand what the Kobayashi Maru really was? What the test was really teaching them?
“Let me ask you something, I think we all know the answer to. The test itself is a cheat, isn't it? You programmed it to be unwinnable.”
“Your argument precludes the possibility of a no-win scenario.”
“I don't believe in no-win scenarios.” Jim looked at Spock, trying to make him understand. To see the reason behind Jim’s choice of outcome. ‘Come on, Spock! Surely you of all people understand!’
Spock turned again to face him and Jim was sure that for a moment Spock recognized him. “Then, not only did you violate the rules, you also failed to understand the principle lesson.”
“Please, enlighten me.”
“You of all people should know, Cadet Kirk. A Captain cannot cheat death.”
Jim felt his heart freeze in his chest. There was a pain there, growing where his heart should be. He couldn’t understand how the kind young man he had fallen in love with could do this. How could he look at Jim like he remembered him and say those words he knew would flay Jim apart? ‘I guess this means Frank and the others were right. He couldn’t have loved me. I’m just some kind of sick experiment for him. Well, I’m not going to let him do this! Not without a fight.’
Jim looked down at the podium, as the whispers grew louder. Licking his lips he looked up, gazing at the Starfleet emblem on the front of the Admirals desk. “I of all people.”
“Your father, Lieutenant George Kirk, assumed command of his vessel before being killed in action, did he not?”
It hurt, those words cutting through him as they always did. It was like people couldn’t help but compare him to his Dad and find him lacking. “I don't think you like the fact that I beat your test?”
“Furthermore, you have failed to divine the purpose of the test.”
Jim swallowed down his anger and forced himself to plot out how he needed to word his answers to prove he hadn’t cheated. That the test was only going to train them to give up when they should fight until the last breath if it meant any hope of saving more lives. “Enlighten me again.”
“The purpose is to experience fear. Fear in the face of certain death. To accept that fear, and maintain control of oneself and one's crew. This is a quality expected in every Starfleet captain.”
It was like Spock was saying Jim didn’t understand. That he couldn’t understand what fear was. Like he had never lived through horrors that would sicken even the most experienced officer in the room. If Spock knew who he was then he sure as Hell should know what Jim had suffered though. Obviously Spock had lied when he had told Jim he could always love him. Just like he had lied about coming back for Jim and making a family.
Jim shook his head and tried not to cry. He had been convincing himself for years that one day Spock would come for him and Gabriel. Well, they didn’t need him and Jim could prove it. Spock could go fuck himself! Jim looked up ready to turn Spock’s own argument against him when the sound of footsteps rushing down the steps caused him to halt.
“Excuse me, sir.” An aide rushed past them, hurrying up to Admiral Barnett’s seat, handing over a PADD before leaning in to whisper something in the Admiral’s ear.
A worried look crossed the Admiral’s face as he scanned the contents of the PADD. “We've received a distress call from Vulcan. With our primary fleet engaged in the Laurentian system, I hereby order all cadets to report to Hangar One immediately. Dismissed.”
Spock’s gaze cut away from Jim locking onto the Admiral with laser like precision. A small part of Jim silently thanked whatever deity was watching that something had interrupted before he could say something he would regret to the father of his most precious child. A larger portion of him felt worried about what could cause a Vulcan to call in for such sudden help and a creeping sense of guilt was rising like bile in his throat. Whatever had happened was big, bigger than Jim and this stupid farce of a trial and it left him feeling guilty for even being thankful for the interruption for a moment.
The Admiral’s in the dark suites stood, their faces grim as death as they turned and quickly marched out of the room, the sea of red clad cadets hurrying to follow. Jim turned to glance over his should as Bones stepped up to his side, lips pressed tightly closed in irritation and worry as he watched Spock turn and do the Vulcan equivalent of rushing madly from the room.
“Who was that pointy-eared bastard?” Jim wasn’t sure what to think. He knew this was Spock but it certainly wasn’t the Spock that he knew. The one he had known had been so gentle and loving. No this was someone else, a stranger.
“I don't know, but I like him.”