AN- Will be updated at least once a week for the next three chapters.
1. Cracked Mirror
'Fuck, Scott, you got it wrong again!' shattered through my turmoiled head. Cracking open an aching eye I squinted at the blood-stained ceiling. Shit. Not again. I'd had enough of rouge anti-Feds trying for a Jim-shaped notch in their sword.
A smooth, familiar tone slid into the continuing argument. 'It would appear that his ocular colour has also altered. I would advise that you refrain from further experiments with the ion interference. It is illogical to continuously sacrifice competent crewmembers for alternate copies of yourself whose future service and contribution to the Empire is as doubtful as his competence.
I caught the last part, but aren't cognisant enough to muster the required outage. I manage 'I can do my job. I ace my job. My job is to be awesome,' then fall silent. Somehow, it doesn't have the ring of confidence my claims always do. Peeling my eyelids back, I'm not surprised by the unimpressed looks on the familiar faces. I recognized their voices, even if the conversation made no sense. Admittedly, I am surprised by the beards- and the one too familiar face that I only see whenever I venture into engineering. Scotty keeps a spotless house.
However, given the snippets of conversation I caught, my alternate is less shocking than Chekov bouncing towards me with a bright smile and a chirpy 'Can I kill him? Please?'
My mouth falls open with a shocked exhale- not a scream. Definitely not a scream. Or a shriek. The contempt on other-me's face when he steps forward might say otherwise, but I assure you it wasn't. 'No, Chekov. All of you, piss off. And McCoy, turn the damn cameras off. I'll know if you haven't'. I feel slightly abandoned when Spock just raises a sardonic eyebrow before sliding out. Bones snorts and tosses a scalpel at a torture device on his way out. I refuse to think further on that. Other-me lazes into a chair.
Seven or so minutes later a knock interrupts his unhurried summation of his universe. Yet another familiar face peeks in, but this one in particular makes me freeze as I stumble to understand what his existence implies. When Other-me turns at my snort, I offer him a wry smirk.
'You know, you might live in a dystopian society where cuddles are kinkier than whips and gags, but I envy you. For what his life means, I envy you'. My voice comes out more broken than I'd planned.
His eyes sharpen. 'How do you know Lieutenant Riley?' he snaps. I consider what to say, how much to give away. He leans forward. Whatever lie I come up with is unlikely to get through him. It hits me that this being knows me more intimately than anyone else. Alternate or not, he is me. 'Tell me'.
'I saved his life once, in my reality. Given the general callousness in this one, I doubt you would've made the same choice if you were in that situation. And if you were never in that particular situation, I have every reason to envy you.' I snap more harshly than I intended. Breathing through my nose, I ignore Other-me while struggling to sit upright.
His exhale hits my ear as he sinks back in his chair, suddenly vulnerable. 'You had Tarsus too'.
It's not a question. There's a beat as we both adjust to the new information. My eyes trail to the door. This is important. Tarsus isn't to be taken lightly- it could've turned me into Other-me. But the boy who just left through that door tells me more about Other-me than the knowledge of Tarsus ever could. 'You saved him. You live here, in this mirror-universe, but you still saved him'.
'As did you, in your world.' His easy confirmation jolts me. His sharp gaze makes me as uncomfortable as mine makes him. 'How the fuck did you survive? It must have been better, easier for you. You're not from here, weakling. You couldn't've survived his kill-list. So you were a chosen.' He sneers the last word.
'I wasn't. I'm no weakling, Other-me. I survived Frank. I survived Kodos. I survived Nero. I survive, it's what I do.'
'I thought your job was being awesome.' It's a dry remark, but with the guillotine humour that characterizes Tarsus. My lips quirk and I sit up, leaning my elbows on my crossed knees. The academy teaches us to use shared interests and common experiences to encourage diplomatic relations. Tarsus is one common experience that irrevocably binds you. I relax.
'Meh, that comes naturally. I mean, my continued existence is a pretty big indicator that the universe is in love with me.' Smirking at him with all my trademark confidence, his quirked lips don't disappoint. He's relaxed from the harsh-faced dictator that greeted me and drawled out an explanation of his world. 'Why did you do it?' I query. 'Why save him?'
He falls silent for a moment. 'He tried to kill me. He didn't succeed, of course not. But when I was holding him up by the throat against a tree, he just kept chattering at me as though we were at a picnic. In your universe. It was normal, for a moment. I decided I needed a protégé- a legacy'.
I understand. 'Just in case you didn't make it out. So that there was at least one person who remembered you existed, someone that knew who you were.' We look at each other. He snorts. I continue. 'I knew people would remember what I was. I was Captain Kirk's son, child of a hero.' I spit. 'No-one knew who I was, not even my mother. Not until then.'
He is appeased from his discomfort. 'So who were you?' he asks, impertinent and curious. I let a mask fall over my face, the usual one for Admirals and shrinks. He shifts and I remember what he told me of this world he lives in- he's filing his nails with a blood-stained knife. The mask falls. I don't bother looking contrite. 'I became a murderer, a killer and I enjoyed it. I stabbed men in the stomach and gutted them like animals. The analysts treated me as though I would break apart because of it, but why should I? They were animals'. I can't stop know that I've started, can't bother to censor my words for someone that understands, someone that doesn't care. 'Most of them were sick and withered, or mutated with whatever Kodos had injected them with. Some weren't. and I skinned them. Skinned them and cut the meat from their bones then fed it to the children and told them it was deer. I think Kevin knew, but he cared about as much as me. It kept us alive, kept my Pack alive.'
His eyes trail over me. 'Pack?' he queries 'there were more of you?'
I'm surprised. I shouldn't be. He might've saved Kev, but that doesn't mean he's me. 'Twenty-three.' I announce. 'Well, actually there were more. Forty-seven at the start. But-' I pause. 'That was the start'. It would confuse anyone else, but he just whistles and gives me a nod of respect. I've told people this before. The official record required it and so did my therapists. They all condoled me on loosing half. But Other-me doesn't see it as a failing. He wasn't surprised that I lost twenty-four people, he was shocked I saved as many as I did. His respect is rare, but I've gained it.
For surviving Tarsus, anyone would have my respect. For saving Kevin, he has my gratitude. For understanding but not judging, he has my amity.
We pause in contented understanding.