Title: Reap What You Sow
Author: longbeachtrekstar (email@example.com)
Series: TOS (AU)
Code: K, Khan
Rating: PG (angst)
Beta: Farfalla (the KhanFester herself)
Disclaimer: Paramount owns Star Trek. This is not for profit, just for fun.
Archiving: KhanFest, ASCEM, others please ask.
Feedback: Yes please, here or by email.
Note 1: Written for the Fall 2003 KhanFest
Note 2: Since TWOK never happened in this AU, a lot of what followed it never happened either.
Summary: What if Ceti Alpha V hadn't been decimated?
It would be interesting, Captain, to return to that world in a hundred years and to learn what crop has sprung from the seed you planted today. -- Spock, "Space Seed"
Truth be told, Kirk hated being an admiral. Truth be told, most former starship captains hated being admirals. Except in times of war, an admiral's job was mostly political, and no one ever accused Kirk of being a politician. There being no wars right now, and not having a ship of his own to push the limits of, he was relegated to wearing uncomfortable uniforms and visiting boring backwater systems to show the Federation colors.
Nevertheless, the heroic captain settled dutifully into the role of admiral for better than fifty years. Now, he was finally beginning to think that those around him who said it was time to retire just might not be the crackpots and conspirators that he always considered them to be. He decided it was time to step down, so he set an official retirement date for the summer of next year -- because Lord knows Starfleet needed at least six months' warning before they could pull together a cake and some balloons.
He might very well have never left Earth for the intervening time if a certain bulletin hadn't crossed his desk. It seemed another backwater planet was interested is establishing relations with the Federation. First contact had been established, and survey teams had made their reports. It was time for a diplomatic visit, and when Kirk saw the name of the system, he knew he would be the one to make it.
The admiral's shuttle made a ceremonial loop around Singh City, the capital of Ceti Alpha V, and came gently to rest on a landing pad before a welcoming honor guard. Wearing his dress uniform with the red jacket and most of his medals (no need to be ostentatious), Kirk came down the gangplank and was ushered into a ceremonial chamber. His ninety-plus years had given him a bit of a stoop, and a few age spots revealed themselves where his wrinkled forehead was exposed by a receding hairline. But no amount of time could wear away the aura that he had created about himself and which now followed him wherever he went. Inside the chamber, waiting to greet him at the other end of the red carpet, stood another powerful leader, with an aura all his own -- Khan.
Khan Noonien Singh. He stood before the Starfleet emissary in colorful robes -- mostly red and orange, reflecting the leader's Earth India cultural heritage. Like Kirk's, the better part of Khan's life was behind him now, but perhaps due to "superior" genetic make-up he seemed to be standing up against time a bit better than his former adversary. Nevertheless, one could read a long and difficult history in the lines of his face. His hair was not nearly as thin as Kirk's but was thoroughly white. It was every bit as long as the last time Kirk had seen it, and pulled back in a braid. A herald announced their meeting: "Mahatma Khan. The representative of the United Federation of Planets -- Admiral James Kirk."
Expressions of recognition were exchanged between the two, and their eyes were filled with a thousand questions, but the needs of tradition and diplomacy came first. Official greetings were made, gifts exchanged, photos taken. Finally, they moved into a private room, and their combined entourages were left behind.
The two aged leaders were now alone. The room was enormous around them, but their attention was focused only on each other. Two overstuffed chairs sat nearby with a small table between them. On the table was a silver tray, on which sat two fine crystal goblets and a crystal decanter filled with a crimson liquid. Khan gestured to one of the chairs, and Kirk sat down. Khan sat as well, with a loud exhalation, as if the short ceremony had thoroughly exhausted him.
"So," began Khan, "Captain Kirk! Now an admiral! Did either of us ever think that we would actually see each other again?"
Kirk smiled. "I must say, if I ever thought I'd be coming back here, I half expected it would be with phasers blazing."
At that, they both laughed an old man's laugh. "Hmph, hmph!" As much a cough as anything.
" 'Mahatma' ?" asked Kirk. " 'Great spirit,' if I remember correctly."
Khan smiled slightly and shrugged. "As good a title as any..."
"May I ask about Marla?"
"Of course, Admiral. I have no secrets. Marla and I enjoyed many wonderful years together, but alas, she left our mortal world sixteen years ago. But not before giving me three strong sons and a beautiful daughter. They all have families of their own now -- I am a grandfather! And you?"
"A son, David. A scientist, just like his mother."
"His mother. Your wife?"
"No. Carol and I... well, we're better together as friends. Besides, our careers took us in two different directions."
"You gave up your wife, your family... for a career? You gave up too much."
Khan leaned over and poured two drinks from the decanter. "This is brandy, made from a type of grape native to our little world here. Very smooth." He picked up both glasses, handed one to Kirk, and raised his own in a toast. "To family... and friends." Kirk nodded politely, and they drank. "Kirk, all those years ago... It was a brave thing that you did. A weaker man would have locked me away. A smarter one, perhaps, would have killed me."
Kirk smiled. If he didn't know what he knew of Khan, he could easily like him very much. As it was, he still liked him. "Have you done anything to prove me wrong?"
Khan smiled. Let the chess game begin. "You tell me. What do you think of my little kingdom?"
"Impressive, Khan. Truly impressive. What you've done in a mere sixty years..."
"We did what we had to, nothing more. Do you remember what you said to me aboard Enterprise?"
"I offered you a choice -- prison or exile."
"You asked me if I could tame a world. I told you that I would build an empire -- and I have. It was difficult, of course. Brutal. I lost half my crew the first year alone. But we are a strong people."
"Yes, your people, Khan. Certainly all the current inhabitants here aren't descended from your original crew."
"No. As fate would have it, there is a race of nomads who frequent this sector -- the Maderins. Ceti Alpha V was simply a stopover for them, but when they found us here, we established a rapport. In time, still others settled here."
"Rapport? Is that what you call it? You realize, of course, that the Federation has already sent surveyors here. Scientists, sociologists, to study your society. Khan, you captured the Maderins -- enslaved them. Not all of them, just a few here and a few there. Enough to fill your work camps, but not enough to raise alarm among a scattered race with no central government. Your world isn't a miracle of leadership, but a harbor of oppression!"
"Is this why you came, Admiral? To insult me in my own house?"
"The Federation will never admit a civilization that condones slavery."
"Admit? We are not trying to join your exclusive little club. One day we will most likely conquer it! We were only seeking contact, after being ignored for so long. Earth is our heritage, after all."
"Yes, I remember your heritage! You and your fellow supermen -- your death tolls surpassed Hitler, Stalin. Is that your view of the future still? Killing and oppressing until your ego is sufficiently fed! Until... until..." Kirk suddenly fell back in his chair, gasping for breath, his righteous anger outpacing his aged body. Khan seemed about to speak, but then paused to study the emotions playing across his visitor's face. Kirk's voice was sullen now, defeated. "Did I make a mistake in letting you live?"
"So, that is what brought you back after so long. You grow old, and feel compelled to make peace with all your mistakes. Well... I am not one of them! I was the leader my people needed, and history will always be made by those strong enough to make it."
"Yes," agreed the admiral. He helped himself to another glass of brandy. "You're quite right, by the way. This brandy is excellent." He drank half the glass and held what remained up to the light. The crystal sparkled, and rays of crimson light flashed from the sweet liquid. "And you're right as well that history is made by the strong. King Arthur believed in 'might for right,' but the truth is, it's always been 'might makes right,' and no amount of history will ever change that."
Kirk rested his glass on the armrest and looked directly at Khan. "You are a slave too, Khan -- a slave of your own advanced genetics. Even if you wanted to, you could never sit still, never truly enjoy a peaceful evening in front of the hearth." He whispered harshly, "Not while there were still worlds for you to conquer!" Kirk returned to studying his glass as he spoke. "I'm sure Marla did an excellent job raising your family. Were you there, Khan? For your sons' first words? Their first steps?"
Khan's eyes began to smolder. "Again you insult me, my family. I invited you here in good faith..."
"Did you tell your daughter how pretty she was before she went out on her first date? Or were you too busy torturing some poor peasant for some infraction only you could discern?"
"Enough!" Khan pounded his fist down onto the arm of the chair. "Purge your demons elsewhere, Kirk! I will listen to no more!"
"Yes, Khan, my demons. Because I'm just like you. I wasn't there for my son either. I don't know if he hated me, but he certainly didn't love me. How could he -- he didn't know me. And there's no fixing that now, because David's dead. Dead, and I'll never..." Words failed him.
"How did he die?"
"I don't know, some kind of... 'I don't know.' Isn't that funny? Ten years now, and I still don't know how my only son died. Some kind of reactor accident. Every time someone starts talking to me about it, I just shut down."
"It's always difficult when a child dies before the parent."
Kirk took a deep breath. He stood up slowly and with a bit of effort. He picked up his glass and drained the last of his drink, placing the goblet carefully back on the table when he was done. "Sixty years ago, Khan, I was just like you. I decided to play God and mete out justice as I saw fit. Poetic justice too, banishing a tyrant to a deserted planet -- like Napoleon to Elba. I didn't even remember that Napoleon returned to start anew. I'm glad you don't want Federation membership, because you won't get it. There's not much I can do anymore, but I can see to that.
"I've never been a terribly religious person, and I'd have a hard time believing you were either. But I do believe a man pays for his sins -- one way or another. You were born two hundred years before me, Khan, and you'll probably keep living long after I'm gone. I only hope you can realize your own mistakes before it's too late. I wish I did."