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Old December 14 2009, 11:36 PM   #1
Gojirob
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Peter's Christmas, TOS-Ancient Destroyer, PG, 1/1

Title : Peter's Christmas

Author : ‘Goji’ Rob Morris

Series : The TOS-based AU, The Ancient Destroyer Cycle

Type : Holiday story with some drama/tragedy

Part : 1/1

Characters : TOS 7 Plus, PK

Rating : PG, for latent grim imagery and concepts

Summary : Christmas aboard the Starship Enterprise for one young man is a mix of heartbreak, nightmares, joy and wonder.

Two Story Notes : More of my ST Xmas stories are available at : http://www.adastrafanfic.com/viewstory.php?sid=631 Also, this is the latest revision of what was once the very first story in the Ancient Destroyer Cycle, first posted in 12/1998!

Peter's Christmas
By Rob Morris


USS ENTERPRISE, NOVEMBER 28, 2266 RELATIVE TIME

He remembered the running. He had horrid dreams of zombie-like creatures, and of tearing them limb from limb. He had memories of finding his father dead and his mother dying.

But mostly, Peter Kirk remembered the fading screams of a dying infant, wondering where his beloved caregiver was. Before the pain of the neural spores' possession took hold, he also remembered one last scream. That, he knew, was the man he called Uncle Jim. He was Peter's true biological father, not George Samuel Kirk, Junior, also known as Sam. He was also father to the infant that Doctor McCoy had warned his Captain against seeing. The sight made the hardened battle veteran scream. Even the sight of his brother's corpse had failed to do that.

As the boy struggled with the pain in a coma, the neural spores were destroyed. Their origin, however, was still a mystery. Peter had bizarre visions of himself defending Deneva Three against a hideous monster. These visions changed nothing, for his family was still dead. When he awoke, his Uncle Jim was in front of him. On each side of him, like they were born there, were Commander Spock and Doctor McCoy.

"Peter? Peter, can you hear me, son?"

The sound of his voice was so like Sam's, Peter thought it had all been a dream. Now, his life would resume, and his only complaints would be lazy parents and backbreaking chores in the era of automation. But it was Jim's voice. Sam and Aurelan and Marc were gone.

The boy looked around, and for a brief second saw an image of Jim being attacked by an animal. Then, he saw where he was.

"This is The Enterprise. Uncle Jim?"

"I'm right here, Peter. Are you feeling better?"

"I guess. Please, Uncle Jim, where are my parents? Where's my little brother? He gets nervous if I don't hold him every so often. Plus, I'll bet the house is a mess."

Jim's face was a tower of concern and love. Doctor McCoy looked like he was bracing for impact. But it was Mister Spock's face that gave it away. For Peter knew that to actually see visible pity in a Vulcan's face meant that things were about as bad as they could get.

"Sam's gone, isn't he? How is Aurelan?"

Jim knew the depths of their common grief all too well. The right words would be impossible to find, so he just muddled through as best he could.

"Peter...she struggled so hard. You would have been proud of her."

But his mother was of no concern to the boy, at this time. His tone grew arch, and hard as steel.

"Where is my baby?"

Only Jim understood why Peter would refer to the late Marcus Aurelian Kirk, aged One and One-Half and then no more, as his baby.

"I'm sorry, Peter. Marc is gone, too."

In denial, the exhausted but loving caregiver asked his question again.

"Where is my baby?"

Captain Kirk had seen the bond between the brothers early on. It was Peter who got his mother to the hospital on time, and a third of his own DNA was used to prevent a genetic miscarriage. Legally, this made Peter the infant's parent as much as Aurelan or Jim. But it had been Sam and Aurelan's burdening of their older son with the care of their younger one that sealed matters. Sadly, all the chores had started as a misinterpretation of a relative's innocent suggestion to help contain the energies of an extraordinary young man. But as the parents grew to like lower automation bills and an easier life, they found that mistake easier to bear, as well.

The boy in The Enterprise Sickbay asked again.

"Where is my baby?"

He saw that Jim was now embracing him. But he could not feel him, or anything else. For the focus of his life was gone.

"Uncle Jim--can I see the bodies?"

For some reason, the request was denied. There were nervous looks all around.

"Then can anyone tell me what those things were? It was like they didn't exist. They were completely resistant to my phaser."

McCoy was thrown by how easily the boy shifted from grieving parent to a tone of voice not at all unlike The Captain's. Spock took note of something, though.

"Peter, just where did you obtain this phaser?"

Not knowing Spock or McCoy well enough, Peter lied to protect Jim from a possible court-martial. For it had been his phaser the boy had used. One he had forgotten and left behind, on his last visit.

"It was in somebody's collection, sir. They'd abandoned their house for the hills when things got bad. I grabbed it and--and--some of the people came after me, while I was looking for help. They wouldn't stop--so I had to--to--"

The boy then sat there in stone-faced silence, as what he had tried to say sank in. After a minute, he spoke again.

"You didn't answer my question. What were those things? I need path histories, bio-analysis, spectral analysis, and the frequency of the light that eradicated them. We have to make sure there aren't any more like them out there."

McCoy turned, and walked into his more private office area. Curious as to why, Spock followed.

"Doctor, what information are you accessing?"

McCoy stopped, and looked confused.

"Spock--was it Jim or his nephew who gave that order?"

Spock nodded.

"Yes, I see. Most odd. Doctor, I myself very nearly responded to his voice as I would have to Captain Kirk's. His demeanor is quite intense for an eleven year old human."

"Maybe there's something in the genes, Spock. Or maybe that boy's living under a mountain of hurt--so to speak."

Not questioning the phrase in this instance, Spock returned to Kirk and looked at the boy.

"So near as we can determine, they were the brain cells of an immense macro-biotic being. But all we have is conjecture to go on. Those creatures are gone, and their threat has ended."

Peter nodded appreciatively.

"Can I go down to Deneva, and get my things?"

Jim held his boy's hand.

"Peter, Deneva is gone. There was a vile madness, a kind of plague down there. Neither you nor Spock shows any signs of it. But its infectious nature demanded use of a weapon normally banned by treaty. You can't go home ever again, Peter. I'm sorry. What's more, I have no choice but to invoke laws that apply even to a civilian. You may not discuss what you know of the Denevan situation with anyone save myself or Admiral Nogura.You'll be staying on Earth, with Grandma Bri."

"What if I want to stay here, with you?"

Jim got up. He smiled, and avoided the question.

"We'll talk. Right now, get some rest. Peter--I'll be formally adopting you. But you can still call me Uncle Jim, if you prefer."

Sam and Aurelan had been lousy parents, but Peter felt he owed them that much loyalty. They were still Mom and Dad, no matter what.

"I'd like that, and I love you, Uncle Jim."

Captain Kirk hugged him one last time, and thanked God that the baby he once held in his arms was still alive, after all that had occurred. The boy slept and healed for two weeks--but it cannot be said he rested. For his dreams were monstrous--and the monsters were real.
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Old December 14 2009, 11:38 PM   #2
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Peter's Christmas, TOS-Ancient Destroyer, PG, 1/1

-----------------------


Jim sat and contemplated how to speak to a woman he had vowed on different occasions he would never speak to again.

The psychologists had all said that he was a remarkably confident individual, especially when one took his childhood into account. When they had said childhood, of course, they had meant Brianna. They had meant the beatings. They couldn't understand that having a mother like her made him more, not less confident. Granted, he had literally left her house on a hospital stretcher-float. But he had left--alive.

So it was that no one, Romulan, Klingon, or opponent within Starfleet could understand his durability. For he knew that any beating that left him alive was one he could keep conscious through. There was not a Balok, a Trelane, or a Melkotian whose tricks he could not best. Sometimes with help. Often quite alone. Neither brawn nor brains could stop him. For his opponents knew not what they were up against. For reasons owing to love and his family's precious guardian, he could not fight back against his own mother. But them he was free to move against--and win against. The only real casualty was the development of a crisis mentality he would relax only once--and that pause would literally be followed by the Apocalypse.

"Personal Log: Always, when reading The Epic Of Gilgamesh, I would wonder why the death of Enkidu so crippled him. Granted, they loved one another--they were brothers. But I admonished that great hero for his weakness. Pick yourself up, hero. That's what a cocky boy of ten said. I despised Sam, then. I wanted him to die. Because he was having sex with Aurelan. Because he left me home with Mom. Because the only way he could tell me he loved me was by pulling grander and grander practical jokes. He so wanted me to hate him more than Brianna, so I could forget. But he forgot that my time of learning ran deeper than his own. I doubt even a telepath of Spock's talent could make me forget anything, ever. So I remember wanting my oversexed absentee jokester of a loving brother dead. Now, I fear my ancient wish has been granted. But it took two innocents with Sam. It left a third innocent behind. And I finally understand Gilgamesh's words."

Jim opened one of a large armful of actual books he owned, and quoted from near its end.

"For He Who Was My Brother In Trials And Tribulations Is No Longer; My Heart Feels Cold Inside Me; I Shall See My Brother No More."

The chime-buzzer sounded.

"Enter."

Perhaps prophetically, it was Spock.

"Captain, I sincerely hope that I am not disturbing you."

Kirk shook his head.

"Spock, after a month of comatose relatives, walking dead and dealings with Admiralty Hall, any ship's business is welcomed."

Spock nodded.

"In that we are agreed, Sir. But this business is of a personal nature. Your young nephew has been involved in an altercation in the main galley."

Jim listened, but did not understand who Peter could have gotten into an altercation with. To his knowledge, only Ensign Chekov and a bare handful of others were even within ten years of the boy.

"Go on."

"Captain, given his brooding and general intensity, three of our more junior crew somehow mistook him for an overly young cadet, on a so-called 'feet-damping' cruise. Seeking amusement, they demanded he 'drop and give them fifty'. As one might imagine, Peter refused to do so. Attempting to ignore them, however, only made the three in question more strident and recalcitrant."

Kirk saw where this was going. Plebes risked death by ignoring upperclassmen. But for a perceived cadet to ignore a graduate was grounds for eternal damnation.

"What did they do when he ignored them, Spock?"

Spock seemed to be having difficulty with a situation that had no small resonance with his own childhood. But since the Captain did not yet know this, he thought the pauses merely odd.

"They overturned his food tray and one pushed him, lightly. This one then said, 'Hey--Baby Brother--I'm talking to you.' The next time he shoved the boy, instead of merely giving him a light push."

Jim winced, and looked down. 'Baby Brother' was something graduates said to haughty plebes, as part of a dressing down. But few used that phrase--there was still such a thing as fighting words. This truth was multiplied by the baby brother Peter had cared for and lost on Deneva.

"How is he, Spock?"

Spock related a fact that was surprising to him, but not to his Captain.

"Peter is fine, Sir. He had to be peeled off the other three. They claimed to have punched him, but he shows no sign of having been injured. Captain--I have kept the names of those three quiet--and have yet to inform them who they were harassing. While not possessing emotions myself, I had thought that you might derive pleasure from relaying that piece of information."

Kirk stood up.

"Mister Spock--if my nephew is all right, please lead the way. There are some rather large roaches that need squashing."

"Indeed, Captain? I had thought that the Earth Species Blattidae Cucaracha had been made extinct by an Andorian virus."

Kirk followed his First Officer.

"They're a virulent breed, Number One."

Once inside the larger Brig, Kirk looked at the three, and shook his head.

"You picked a fight with an eleven-year old boy, and you lost. You intended to give grief to some nameless cadet. Instead, MY NEPHEW nearly cracked your heads open. Gentlemen, from now on you will be on above best behavior. Way above. Slip up again even slightly, and not only will I put you off my ship--but I will make very sure that everyone finds out about what you did and who you lost to. Now go on duty. You've each picked up an extra shift per week. Starting now."

They left, and later proved to be stellar officers, through no choice of their own.

Jim then signaled the guest quarters where Peter was staying.

"Peter?"

"Yes, Uncle Jim?"

"Son, are you all right? Spock told me about the fight."

"I'm fine, sir. Can we talk later? I'm working on a project."

Jim remembered a very old, very sad song about a son who eventually became as distant as his workaholic father.

"Peter--how would you like to see my Bridge?"

Silence on the other end.

"Peter?"

"When can I come up, Captain?"

Jim smiled at the enthusiasm he heard in his boy's voice.

"Finish what you're doing--then take the lift all the way up. I'll introduce you around."

"I'll be there."

Three hours later, the Turbolift doors opened. But a young boy's eyes were open wider than any door. For this was The Bridge Of The USS Enterprise. He felt like gravity had tripled. Jim took note of this, and indeed had hoped for it.

"Young man, you look like you need a place to sit."

Kirk pointed towards not just a chair -- but to The Chair. Greedily and happily, Peter Kirk took the center seat, and stared out at the viewscreen. Infinity beckoned him, as it had his father and grandfather before he was even born. Then, something flitted past the viewscreen. Something gargantuan. His voice cracked.

"Red Alert! Shields Up! Recalibrate Tractor Beams to the following modu--"

Amused, gentle laughter took him back to reality. Uncomprehending, he laughed along with them.

"Er, sorry. I couldn't resist. Guess it'll be a while before I sit here for real. But at least I can be around this ship."

Uhura looked at Kirk. She had liked the boy since meeting him on Deneva, seven years back. But his words made no sense. So she asked him to clarify.

"Peter, The Enterprise rarely travels anywhere near to Earth. We're primarily a deep-space vessel. I'll look forward to seeing you, though, when we do."

Peter shook his head, and took care to address even ‘Aunt Nyta' by rank.

"No, Lieutenant. You're wrong. You'll see me here--because I'm staying on with you."

He turned to his uncle.

"Captain--Crewman Kirk, reporting for duty. I've checked your personnel allocations, and found the tasks no one likes to do. Well, I'll do them, till I can prove to you that I deserve better. Plus, we'll be together, Uncle Jim. Just like I've always dreamed. Maybe I can even help out on missions, sometimes."

Jim put a hand on either shoulder of the young man whose heart he desperately wished not to break any further.

"Peter--the answer is no. I love you, but I can't have a child aboard my ship. Regulations forbid it, except for times like right now. And even if they didn't, this is a very dangerous life. I've lost crew. I'm going to deliver you to your grandmother - but I won't deliver your corpse. If anything were to ever happen to you, I'd be lost."

Peter tried to be calm. He failed.

"I ---love--Grandma Bri. But please let me stay with you. I want to explore strange new worlds, and seek out--"

Jim shook his head.

"Peter, the answer is no."

The son looked up into his father's eyes.

"Let Me Stay."

"Peter, not on my Bridge."

"You can't just leave me behind! How can you just leave me behind like that?"

Spock, who had often heard a young girl ask him the same question in horrid, half-conscious nightmares, reacted strongly to the boy's plea.

"Peter, you are embarrassing your Uncle. It would be best for all if you left."

The boy turned to Spock in a teared daze.

"What little girl? Who are you talking about?"

Spock's face drained of color. His eyes grew cold. Peter had pushed The Button.

"Leave, or I will be forced to call Security and have you removed."

Peter left and only then did a Kirk as thrown off by Spock's behavior as by Peter's find himself able to speak. Uhura's gaze met his, and he nodded.

"I'm going after him. Mister Spock--I could have handled that myself. Next time, you will allow me to do so. Am I quite clear on that?"

Spock, too, wondered at his tone of voice with Peter.

"Indeed, Captain. My lack of experience with the volatile emotions of a young human have not served me well here, it would seem."

But when Jim went down, Peter was already sound asleep in his quarters. It was again a fitful sleep--and it would not last.

------------------


It was a ship that had seen everything. But it had yet never seen anything like Peter Kirk.

The USS Enterprise was a place of wonders, light and dark. There were First Officers and Psychologists who had designs on God's Creation. There were weddings shattered by foes no one had seen for over a hundred years. There were monitor lizards that turned back into young women when psychotic young gods were banished. There were young bigots weeks away from being put off the ship, in an age when those creatures were thought dead. There were gods and goddesses who dwelled on The Olympian Bridge who coupled but never spoke of it.

Despite all these things and more, the Captain's nephew was extraordinary. If you told him you were busy, he took the hint. He listened like an El-Aurian. When missions came up, he kept to his quarters. Those things he had been asked to participate in, he excelled at. Perhaps the most amazing thing of all was--he was human. By that, no one meant his species. No, they referred to his stumblings. The things that made him a real boy.

The three who had picked a fight with him had earned their thrashing and complete humiliation. But the fact that Peter would not let their comments go meant that he was a typical eleven-year old boy, not some wunderkind whose only thought was his own future career.

The incident aboard the Bridge had confirmed that he was quite wonderfully immature, reacting badly to the news that he could not stay. He wasn't one of them. He was a wounded kid, who wanted to stay aboard a magic ship that even he knew really wasn't magic.

Finally, the boy who had lost his family had gone crazy. Dreaming he was a superhero, he stole the dead body of his beloved baby brother, intending to restore him to life by beaming down to quarantined Deneva. Sobbing when reality came back at him, he apologized repeatedly to an uncle he felt he had embarrassed three times over. But James Kirk loved his son, and saw no problem with a young man in immense pain acting like it. His crew was actually relieved, in an odd way. It meant that the old tale of Mary Sue Johnson was not replaying itself here. For no scenario was ever more despised. The exception being Captain Kirk's current activity.

A joke in Starfleet went that the difference between talking to a brick wall and talking to Admiralty Hall was that at least the brick wall conducted sound.

"Admiral Komack--what concern is it of The Hall's where my nephew keeps his cap? He has no one except me or my mother to care for him, now. Mister Spock assures me that we can keep him safe. And I've given you my reasons for not sending the boy to Iowa."

Komack shrugged.

"Frankly, Jim, I feel those concerns are no longer valid. The court-appointed psychiatrist at her trial later found your mother cured of her extreme disciplinary tendencies. As for our concerns-I am Personnel. When I came to The Hall, so did that aspect of Starfleet. You might do well to stop questioning that realignment, Captain. The Hall may have the trappings of a social club, but it's where Starfleet is being remade. Request for civilian waiver denied. Admiralty Hall out. And Jim--wish your nephew well for us."

The screen went blank. Kirk thought of Admiral William Komack.

"Bill--how the hell did they get to you? I know you don't believe in their agenda."

So it was that Peter Kirk was quietly informed that the rules could not be set aside for him. This time, he took it well. The fact that his uncle had reconsidered at all seemed to make this easier.

"I understand, sir. But while I'm still here, may I have access to all non-classified scan-files? I'm working on a project."

So again the remarkable boy proved how he could be unremarkable. He had ditched the fantasy, and found something to better occupy his time. Exactly as young people tended to do.

As he wandered the ship, he would ask questions. Questions about gravity. About relative directions in space. About energy fields of every type and size. About phantom images from dead stars. And most of all, about how to separate legends from their historical basis.

"Well, now that I think about it, you could call the tractor beam a kind of gravimetric lightning. That's why it's hard to get a lock sometimes."

"If pure void existed, it could be traveled through in a ridiculously short amount of time. But anything created in this universe automatically leaves a trace of itself. To leave pure void behind, the object would have to pre-date the Big Bang--which is both a paradox and a complete impossibility."

"It doesn't matter how large it is. If it has the right mixture of energies and some skill or genetic predisposition, it can hide right until it's on top of you. That's why they call it a cloak."

"In theory, whole galaxies could undergo heat death and we wouldn't even know until that light from that event traveled here. Picture a bubble. It looks solid enough. But pop it and you find that the solid mass you thought you saw was all empty. The whole universe might be nothing more than a trick of the light, waiting on the day the news of its death reaches our eyes."

"You have to ask yourself. How wide-spread is the legend? The legend of the Flood, for example, stems from the very real end of Earth's Ice Age. The lights in the sky surrounding the births of Christ, Surak, Arendydt, and others are parts of now-known astronomical patterns. The more people speak of it in similar terms, the more likely it is to have a real basis, instead of just being a local variation on a theme like Creation or Salvation."
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Old December 14 2009, 11:39 PM   #3
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Peter's Christmas, TOS-Ancient Destroyer, PG, 1/1

So Peter Kirk asked his questions, and got his answers. Patterns were projected and re-projected based on new findings. A map of a legendary monster's path was the most telling clue. Much of it coincided with the projected origin path of the neural parasites that had so recently assaulted and basically destroyed Deneva. Finally, he was ready.

"Computer, given the images of three great mouths that I have described, plus the path I have calculated, give names of all legendary three-headed monsters spoken of in the literature of this sector."

*Working...Done.*

"That was fast. How many results?"

*One.*

Peter shook his head.

"Not enough. Expand search to the twenty surrounding sectors, as well."

"Working...Done."

"How many results?"

*One.*

Peter dreaded having to start from scratch, and so asked a final question.

"Scan all banks, including classified. Leave out all other info or references, merely names. I am not seeking access to operational or tactical data."

The computer mused over the well-worded request, and complied, reading even the classified files only for specific names of presumably non-existent creatures.

*Working...done.*

Peter breathed in.

"How many results?"

*One.*

The boy punched the wall, and cursed every search engine since the days of the primitive internet. Managing to calm down, he asked the obvious.

"Computer, what is the name of the creature in your result?"

*Name: Ghidorah. Also known as The Ancient Destroyer. A common myth on over seven hundred known worlds and forty vanished civilizations. All concur it is part of the same legend. The legend states that a great, three-headed dragon came and brought untold death. It will return, again as The Ancient Destroyer. When it is beheld, the universe will die. Majority of scholars have concluded that King Ghidorah is only a myth.*

"Not to me he isn't."

Peter felt as though he saw the creature. Images of people, planets, quadrants, galaxies all falling to it began to assault him. Leaving his quarters, he wandered the decks in a daze. Though later he would recalibrate his search parameters, the results would be no different, and his daze did not pass. For the boogeyman was now clothed in scaly flesh.

All who passed him noted the daze. They called him, 'Peter with the haunted eyes'. Haunted, they thought, by the ghosts of Deneva. But there were many other ghosts besides the boy's family. And all brought a story with them.

Sulu saw him eating, and nodded to Uhura and Chekov.

"Poor kid. He looks like the devil itself is coming to get him."

Chekov shrugged.

"Why not? It came and got his family, didn't it? I may not have a brother. But if I lost one--I would also lose my mind. Piotr has my admiration for holding up at all."

Nyota Uhura smiled. She had known the way to put a smile back on that boy's face since he was three weeks old. She knew then as well.

"Gentlemen--how about a guest of honor at next week's Christmas party? Let's put the nepos back in nepotism. We still need a theme, though."

Sulu nodded.

"We'll do like the old song. What happened on Deneva was one scary ghost story. So we'll go for tales of the glories of Christmases long, long ago."

Chekov looked over at Peter.

"There is too much of our Captain in that young face to allow its sadness any longer. I'm in."

Uhura got up, and walked over to Peter.

"Yes, Aunt Nyta?"

"Peter--would you mind doing us all a big favor next week?"

"Of course not. What do you need?"

She lightly held his hand.

"We need for you to learn how to smile again--by next week. Because you are our guest of honor at the Holiday Celebration. Would you like that?"

The boy's reborn smile was the best response. Perhaps he could lose himself in the joy of the season. But he suspected that this was not the case. Still, he would try to enjoy Christmas aboard the Starship Enterprise.

"Count me in."

DECEMBER 25th, 2266

"Personal Journal, Peter Claudius Kirk."

"I don't want to leave here. Ever. But I will not embarrass Uncle Jim by asking again. Maybe it's all those antiquated chores back on Deneva, but I have a sense of duty towards him and these kind, gracious people. Going to live with Grandma sounds good - but neither of my Dads ever talked much about growing up with her. Now that I think about it neither did Mom and she spent years in that house. But maybe I'm reading too much into it. I usually do. Sam--Dad--used to say I saw conspiracies around every corner."

"I've decided to keep quiet about my parentage, till Uncle Jim decides to tell me himself. Right now, he might see it as a ploy to keep myself aboard--and he might be right. Let's face it. No matter how stupid it is, the fantasy of being a teenager in space is a vastly compelling one. Almost as compelling as being a son to my two favorite people at last."

He calmed his breathing at that fantasy, and anything else that needed calming.

"It's funny. I may not physically be Sam Kirk's son, but I am definitely Aurelan Sorel's son--except I'm not. I see her face in mine--but I see nothing else of her in me. She talked often of her days as a Slayer, but acted like her responsibilities ended when her role did. I guess what I'm saying is--my Mom was a bit of a flake. She and Sam were perfect for one another."

"When Nyota, Jim, and Gary visited when I was three, they thought I couldn't tell. But I saw Gary hitting on Nyota almost at will, to the point where I know Jim punched his lights out. When he was cleaning himself up, I asked Gary why he had a tattoo on his arm of a dragon. I thought he was going to kill me. His ultimate fate came as no surprise. In one of my dreams, I saw the gravestone tumbling on his stupid head. I'd have decapitated him to be sure, but that's just me."

"I have to leave, not long after the New Year. I will miss this place, this Enterprise. Almost as much as I miss Marc. It's funny. I go on and on about him and the only people on board who really understand my pain are those who have children. Until you rise and sleep at an infant's agenda and make producing their smile the whole of your life--you just don't know either real exhaustion or real joy. Problem is--I resented him. Him, and the parents who screwed their lives away while I fetched breakfast--and everything else. Sometimes, I would imagine that I was The Hidden Prince, reduced to servitude by false parents until my father The King arrived to take me home to his palace in the mountains--and to my Mother, The Queen. They just didn't understand how tired I became. How close to cracking up I really was. I try not to hate them all--but I fear for my soul at some of the things I contemplated doing."

He stopped, and again calmed himself. Until his two months aboard Enterprise, he had forgotten what a decent night's sleep was. As he rested, his rage rose in waves. Rage at his parents, for working him. Rage at his little brother, for needing him. Rage at Jim, for not permitting him to stay. Most of all, Peter felt rage at the being he more and more knew was the cause of his pain.

"Ghidorah. A creature that everyone agrees is a myth. But I know he's out there. I can see him, three great heads, gray, gold, and silver. I can smell the sizzling flesh of the dying. I can feel living worlds rip apart. I can feel the stars exploding and imploding, their energies being used to feed an unending hunger. But more--I can feel him coming for me. Either I have some kind of destiny to fulfill - or I have really gone mad. Just as mad as the elf-princess I dream about. She's a beautiful distant relative--but every time I try and tell her how pretty she is--she belts me. God help me if I ever fall for someone like that."

Peter checked the time, and saw that the Christmas party would not begin for another hour.

"I finally cornered Janice Rand, and asked what I had done to offend her. She's been avoiding me like the plague. Turns out she had been avoiding me. But not for anything I'd done. When she told me the story of Charlie Evans, my blood boiled. God, I'm a newly horny eleven-year old and I don't obsess the way this character did. So he didn't have a normal childhood. Who has? This kid had problems. The girl he transformed into a lizard left Starfleet. The people whose faces he erased had to go into rehab, because of the severe oxy-deprivation their brains suffered before The Doctor could help them. The girl I mentioned? Almost stepped on, almost eaten by a plant, and awoke naked in one of Sulu's glass cages in botany. Evans is dead if I ever get my hands on him. A woman like Janice shouldn't have to worry about a moronic obsessive. My gut tells me that Evans would have been like that, powers or no."

He got up and got ready, but continued recording as he did.

"I made a batch of rolled walnut-almond cookies for the Bridge Shift that can't attend the party. M'Ress was suspicious of anything that didn't contain meat, but then ate a whole plate herself. She's wild. In dreams, I saw her wielding an immense sword with an eye at its hilt. Damned odd. Arex is funny. When he tells a joke, he makes use of every limb and you never see the punch line coming."

Leaving his quarters, Peter Kirk joined the Christmas Party where he was the guest of honor. Trying to shake off his worries of a Blue Holiday, he remembered that the day at its core was about the promise of better times to come.

Captain Kirk took the small podium first.

"Why is Christmas celebrated on so many worlds whose peoples would never dream of abandoning the faith of their ancestors? Why is a holy day which is specifically dedicated to one faith on one world held in such high regard all over The Federation? There have been Non-Terran converts to Christianity, just as many Terrans have declared for The Path Of Vulcan, and countless other faiths, as we sentients stumble through and try to figure this existence. But that alone cannot explain how so specific a celebration took root in the galactic soul. For what of the embrace by some Andorians of Islam? What of The Medusan Scholars who study the Talmud like a star chart? Do we merely say, Oh well? This one caught on, and the others didn't? That is an insult to all faiths."

Jim had everyone's attention, and most specifically that of his young son, Peter. He wished he could tell the boy about Sam's sterility, but his life was in enough turnaround as it stood. So he would remain Uncle Jim, and nothing more. He continued.

"This wasn't even the holiday that the early Christians really celebrated much. This wasn't even the date most scholars believe The Nativity occurred. So how does a day that many feel is crass, commercialized and secularized beyond redemption manage to capture so many hearts and so much continued interest? I would say that it is The Promise that Christmas symbolizes, but that is again specific. My guess--my best guess--is that this day is an exhortation to look past our pains and think of the joys of others. There is joy in everything, if we merely choose to see and feel it. Sleigh bells ring, but are you listening?"

Allowing that to sink in, Jim then finished up.

"Eleven years ago, I visited Deneva and got my soul back, after the Farragut disaster. Sitting with us tonight is the one whose tiny eyes and gentle smile helped me to hear those sleigh bells ring. I only pray that one day they will ring again for him. Peter--I can never get a better Christmas gift than the one Sam and Aurelan gave me that year. For that gift was you."

Jim sat down, next to his boy, and put his arm around him. Jim had failed to say that his timeline had been a bit off, but since the actual timeline involved Peter's true parentage, this was understandable. In fact, it had been the loss of the USS Farragut that placed young Jim in a pliable mood for Sam and Aurelan's request.

Uhura took the stage, and both Father and Son felt that she could keep it for as long as she liked.

"In Earth's First World War, a soldier could die at the hands of the enemy. A soldier could die of disease, or nerve gas, or friendly fire. Perhaps most disturbingly, a soldier could be killed by his own government for daring to complain about the antiquated military structure that sacrificed their lives while the sons of the wealthy learned how to command from a safe distance. Then came The Miracle Of The Trenches. On that one Christmas, the soldiers, like ghosts, rose from those stinking pits and erased all the imaginary borders. They ate and drank together, and sang songs to drown out the memories of the guns that were then silent. There were no French, nor English, nor Germans. Just people, acting like people, in the midst of hell on Earth. The peace did not last. But the memory of how war itself was for once defeated stays with us. The really good memories always do."

As she sat, she looked at the son of her heart as if to tell him that the bad times always pass, no matter their duration.

Now, Pavel Chekov spoke.

"This is an old Russian fable. A man named Sergei Bailovsky was the heart of his town of Bedforadesk. But he despaired that his life had made no difference. On the verge of suicide, an angel named Vladmir Oddbody appeared and showed him what his town would be without him. An evil Cossack named Potorovich ran the entire place. The one life affects so very many others. Refreshed, Sergei returned to his family, a man reborn. It's a wonderful story, don't you think?"

Sulu looked at his friend as he sat back down.

"Pavel--you are a man without shame."

Hikaru rose and took note that Chekov's self-satisfied smile was having a beneficial effect on their young guest. That almost made the story worth bearing.

"I speak of the Christmas of Nineteen-Forty-Five. The Second World War was over, at last. But not all of The Japanese-American internment camps were yet closed. Stung and bitter, but never despairing, my ancestors chose to sing in front of an imaginary Tannenbaum. The legend goes that one of the bigoted guards was so changed by this sight, he told the story to his cousin, a children's author named Theodore Geisel. For in the end, no one can steal Christmas."

Peter agreed with the theme of releasing bitterness, and this too was a help. Perhaps he thought, it might be wise to simply forgive his parents. Some day.

Now, Scotty rose.

"I know of no better story than that of a late Twentieth Century man who returned to his hometown in Scotland, many years after his presumed death. Finding he had become a local legend in that time lightened his heart not at all, for it was heavy with recent sorrows. Then, he saw a Lantern-Crier, proclaiming the message of the Angels over Bethlehem. This gladdened his weary heart. He thanked the town for hiring this crier, only to find that the man he saw--was himself a legend, not seen for over a century. They say in Glenfinnan that Duncan Macleod returns to see the Angel every year--to this day!"

There was just something about a good spirit story, and this one lifted Peter's very nicely. Now it was Doctor McCoy's turn.

"Lots of wars in the Twentieth Century. Loud, crude barbarians, the lot of them. One such war was on the Korean peninsula. A man was dying. The doctors treating him at a frontline medical unit fought a losing battle to keep him alive past the holiday. Not wishing his family to associate Christmas with his passing, the healers deliberately falsified the records, so that he died on the Twenty-Sixth. Two of those healers were later the ones who ended The Eugenics Wars. In the one instance, they lied and kept silent to protect a family. In the second, they dared speak up to genetic tyranny and saved the world. Then as now, we do what we must to scrape by."

There was some applause as McCoy sat back down, and Peter recalled that one legendary Doctor, who never let anything stop him for very long. Spock would be the final one to speak.

"I have found a correlation between the de-emphasizing of The Slaughter Of The Innocents in Twentieth Century Lore and the growth in casual and explosive violence among the young in the late Twentieth Century. Perhaps by not speaking of that early violence, certain ones found it easier to act such behavior out. That is all."

Spock caught glares as he sat, but merely raised an eyebrow in response, and grabbed his lyre. Jim spoke.

"Happy Christmas, Peter."

"Happy Christmas, Uncle Jim."

Taking that as their cue, Uhura began to sing while Spock strummed his lyre. Slowly, all joined in the three-centuries-old Carol.

"And So, This Is Christmas, And What Have We Done?; Another Year Over; And A New One Just Begun; And So Happy Christmas; I Hope You Have Fun; The Near And The Dear Ones; The Old And The Young; A Very Merry Christmas; And A Happy New Year; Let's Hope Its A Good One; Without Any Fear."

When the chorus came up, though, Peter Kirk was strangely silent, for he knew that war was not over. Past the edges of The Alpha Quadrant, he felt it approach. No, war was not over.

It had begun.
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