II: Into the Looking Glass
The heat rose off the cracked desert floor in blistering waves. In the distance the illusion of water tempted any life that could see it. The sun hung high in the sky and only the most virulent of life dared it.
Today was a good day to die.
The fiery plane was filled with warriors, hundreds of men and women engaged in a mass confrontation the likes of which would frighten any civilized being. Each combatant was rage personified: born to be here, born to die in battle. Trained from birth with nearly ten thousand years of collective experience. Each of these killing machines was the finest culmination of effort, experience and form. Each blade that was swung was a lifetime of skill, each parry a leap faith of one or a thousand gods. Only the strong would survive this conflict, but none here were weak.
Amanda T. Kirk lifted up the Lurpa of her adopted family and brought it down and through a Vulcan knights' sword and armor. She pulled back as green blood splattered across her face, the dying warrior still lashing out. Another quick movement, a thrust forward with the angry weapon and the knight fell. There was no time to gloat over her enemy, but her body was near its physical limits. She paused over the dead Vulcan mentally steeling herself for the next fight.
A mounted warrior plowed through the sea of Vulcan's and spied the lone human fighter. She turned away-by luck-just as his lance tore into her side.
Kirk rolled with the strike as the long spear ripped open her armor. She was saved from being skewered, but not from the inertia of the blow. She was spun onto the ground and lost her weapon. She reeled in pain, her already fractured rib crying out as she hit the ground. She had lost some blood and was sure that she had an internal organ giving out, though she didn't know which one. She thought that maybe it was time to end this, that she had taken it too far, but the lives of her former crew burned into her heart and spurned her onward.
Rising with pure adrenal strength, she moved towards a nearby soldier. It didn't matter which one, any would do now. All that was important at this point was the fight.
The Vulcan was wearing thin armor and held a horrific black metal mallet. Like her, the man was badly injured: two short arrow shafts protruded from his back. She rushed forward to strike him, but he was too fast. Before she could bring up her arms to strike, he back handed her and dropped young Kirk to the green-soaked field. She was dizzy and confused. She couldn't see her opponent, her eyes were stinging with blood and sweat. She tried to roll away, thinking that anywhere was better than where she was. A heavy metal blow dug into the ground where she had just lain.
She turned to face the Vulcan warrior and saw the by the ever-burning sun. The ugly metal mallet eclipsed the light of the burning Vulcan star and rushed towards her head.
The warrior was too fast; her injuries were severe. Kirk knew it was over, and she knew that she was about to face death once again. Shouting out now wouldn't help, she would have to take the hit and hope the safety protocols engaged. But the steel mallet never hit. Having never closed her eyes she watched as the head of the club, a rather ugly spiked ball, floated mid-stride. Not missing a beat she backed away, shifting amongst the frozen warriors. Then she understood; somebody had paused the holodeck. This wasn't a good thing, without a successful knock out the auto programs wouldn't engage.
"Com..." Kirk bit into her fluttering endurance, she only had to say a single sentence to make it all right, "Computer, run Zimmerman Prototype..."
The Bloody green fields faded and the familiar yellow grid appeared around her. Replacing the murderous Vulcan warrior was a rather plain human in a Starfleet medical uniform. He was medium height and average appearance.
"Please state the nature of the Medical Emergency."
"Grrall..."Kirk muttered as she fell on her back, the pain and injury finally taking her.
The hologram looked at her curiously and repeated its greeting.
"Run a medical diagnostic" a voice rang out, but it was not Amanda's or the holograms.
The hologram looked at the new presence on the holodeck, and then he looked around somewhat helplessly.
"Computer, replicate an away team medical kit," said the voice.
Amanda strained to look towards the entrance of the holodeck, but she was in too much pain to arch around. She didn't need to see the face, for she knew who it was.
The holographic doctor grabbed the medical kit as it 'appeared from thin air' on the deck. He pulled the tricorder stowed on the side of the kit and kneeled by the fallen woman, then began to recite his diagnostic aloud.
"Multiple lacerations to the epidermis, six serious contusions. Cranial trauma and a minor concussion. Broken fourth rib, internal bleeding...."
"Amanda, you're an idiot."
"Save your breath. Let this, whatever it is, do its job," said the voice with compassion.
The hologram then began to wave several wands over the patient as the stranger kneeled down beside the two. The woman was young, maybe twenty-seven or twenty-eight. Strong features, yet with supple curves. Her hair wasn't quite brown, a bit of red highlighted what would otherwise be a plain boring color, and her face was identical to Amanda T. Kirk's.
Elizabeth Kirk pitied her sister. Amanda had a classic case of survivor guilt. It was forged two years ago in the depths of unexplored space when her ship was captured and half its crew killed. The only officer to survive was Kirk. And though she brought home the rest of her crew, she could not shrug the culpability that she felt from death of her Captain and friends. So much had been lost out there in deep space, so much destroyed.
Elizabeth stood tall over her fallen sibling and felt a degree of separation. This was not the sister that she had grown up with, but a pale replica of that lost girl. It was fitting: the broken body to lay with the broken soul.
The holographic doctor stood up and stepped away.
Kirk sat up and checked her body. Her clothing, a traditional Vulcan female warrior armor, was shattered and hung broken from her limbs. Its brass-like metal appearance betrayed its ceramic nature. The first synthetic metals came from Vulcan forged not by logical scientists, but by men and women who strove to stay back the weapons of their opponents.
Her ribs were in pain, and her head was still spinning. The medical hologram was made to fix the wounds, but had no concept of pain relievers.
"I could have you removed from duty." Elizabeth said, adding a sting of threat to her words.
Kirk pulled herself up and lumbered to the Lurpa that sat on the ground several meters away. She picked up the weapon and inspected it with greater care than she had done for herself. She didn't reply to her sister. She only looked over her shoulder, listening to see what else her sibling counselor might say.
"What you're doing here isn't healthy, and what is this thing?" Elizabeth crossed the grid and waived her hand at the hologram.
"Computer deactivate Zimmerman Prototype." was Kirk's only reply.
The doctor faded away.
"Amanda, you're not well. Let me help you." Her tone was true, and she empathized for her sister.
"The Emergency Medical hologram is a proposal for Starfleet. It's in the initial stages, but promises to be very useful."
Elizabeth stared back at the space where the hologram had stood.
"I didn't deactivate all the safety protocols. If you wouldn't have paused the program I would have been knocked out and the EMH would have revived me."
"Sounds like good solid thinking. I'll recommend you for service... In the Klingon Empire!" Elizabeth reeled herself back in. She regained her composure and smiled at Amanda. It had been too long to start it off like this. She wanted to heal the wounds not dig in them.
The two women starred at each other for several seconds, then a strange thing happened to Amanda Kirk. Something that wasn't native to her face began to form. Her lower lip tightened and a smile edged up as a tear dropped from her cheek. Elizabeth mirrored the emotions and the two women embraced in the darkened holodeck.
"I missed you so much, Lizzy." Kirk whispered.
"Amanda, I am so sorry."
Kirk held her sister at arms length, to see the sibling that she had grown up with. The two hadn't really spoken in years. Separated by conflicting duty assignments, but here in the face of her most sacred friend, she could not control the emotions of their sibling bond. Two years of silence broken three decades of love.
The two Kirk's began to walk out of the holodeck hand in hand.
"Why now?" Kirk said to Elizabeth.
"I have come to ask you to come back to Vulcan." Elizabeth spoke slowly knowing that her intentions might be misinterpreted by her short-fused sister.
"So you have come to take me away again?" Kirk stopped at the entrance to the holodeck. The peaceful light of the corridors of Utopia Planetia on her right, and the dark cold room on her left.
"I have come to ask you to return home. Savvik has grown ill. She may not make it."
Kirk paused. When she had brought home her crew from deep space she wanted nothing more that to return to duty. But the counselors had ordered her to take some time off. It was the last thing that she wanted to do. It was a betrayal to her crew. Elizabeth should have understood why Kirk didn't want that sabbatical, but she instead argued in favor of it. It had been a point of contention between the sisters since.
"Savvik has asked that you be present. She wishes to read her will aloud."
"I do not need to be present for the law to recognize me," said Kirk with all the coldness of a lonely mountain peak.
"No, but she has requested it."
"I cannot. I have my duty here."
Elizabeth sighed. She had expected this. There was nothing more to say...perhaps before that ill-fated mission she would have made a plea on behalf of Kirks' humanity, but now she knew better. There was no arguing with Amanda T. Kirk. Elizabeth placed her hand on Kirk's shoulder, "I understand." She then smiled and quietly walked away.
Kirk stood alone in the portal. Half her face was bathed in the soft glow of the outside world, the other in the darkened and empty shadow of the holodeck. She was caught between two worlds and unable to embrace either as her own.