gaila: played myself

Fic: Throw Your Rock and Hide Your Hand (Gaila, Pike, Kirk - gen)

Title: Throw Your Rock and Hide Your Hand
Author: igrockspock
Rating: PG
Characters: Gaila, Kirk, Pike
Summary: Gaila wants command for all the wrong reasons. Pike's not letting her get away with that.
Notes: For the prompt "Bible's broken. Contradictions, false logistics - doesn't make sense" at where_no_woman's latest drabble fest. Title from a Johnny Cash song if you're curious.

Admiral Halverstaff whacks the screen at the front of the room with her pointer. The sound resonates across the silent classroom.

"This is your Bible," she intones. "Read it, memorize it, know it, love it."

Automatically, their personal padds begin downloading the data on the central screen. Starfleet Regulations for Space and Planetary Personnel, it says in crisp block letters.

That night, she and Jim sit on her bed and try to make sense of it. They need all of five minutes to see that Starfleet's bible is broken.

"How could you ever expect to notify Starfleet Command if you're kidnapped by hostile forces?" she asks, tapping regulation 240.9 with a neatly filed fingernail.

Jim doesn't answer, just hands her a padd open to Hostile Ground Engagement Regulation 3409.2.

"All vehicles must be searched at ground security checkpoints. If a vehicle does not stop, first fire a warning shot into the air. If the vehicle stops, two security personnel shall step outside the security barrier to commence inspection," she reads.

"There's no way," Jim says. "People would die if they did this. Any real hostile would ignore the warning shot and plow straight into the barricade."

"Or shoot you while you were busy firing into the air," she adds.

"I'm taking this up in class tomorrow," he says, determination in his eyes.

"I'll help," Gaila offers even though she is new to this world, and she'd prefer to size up her opponent longer before she strikes. But life has taught her that to prosper in a new place, she must first cultivate allies, and Jim would be a good one. She calculates that offending Admiral Halverstaff is worth Jim's friendship.

They don't get a chance to argue with the Admiral till they both fail the afternoon's simulations: her because she tried to follow the rules and everyone died, him because he saved everyone by breaking them.

"Permission to speak freely, sir?" Jim asks, clearly expecting her to grant it.

Halverstaff spins on her heel, disdain dripping from her face.

"Do you think you know more than us, Kirk? That in your two weeks at Starfleet Academy, you will dazzle us with your superior wisdom and expertise? You over-estimate yourself."

"So I take it that permission is denied?" Jim asks, jaw clenched, while Gaila watches warily on the side.

"Most perceptive."

Jim, of course, speaks freely anyway, and Gaila follows him because she promised she would. The conversation ends with raised voices and red faces all around, and Gaila and Jim spend the night cleaning the faculty lav with toothbrushes. "Till I can see my face shining in the goddamn toilet bowl," the Admiral had commanded with none of her usual composure. The next night they repeat the task, Gaila because staying up all night cleaning the bathroom had made her fall asleep in class the next morning, and Jim because he'd sneaked in so she wouldn't have to do it all herself. Gaila smiles; their friendship is sealed.

This is how the semester goes, worse for Jim than for her. Every losing battle makes Jim fight harder, but Gaila is practical; she knows when she's beaten. She, along with the other 99% of their class, follows the rules, loses the simulations, and plans to do it differently if she gets her own ship one day. Jim beats them with solutions the brass doesn't want to admit they'd never thought of before, and they deduct points for breaking petty rules because they can't admit their black sheep cadet knows better than they do.

The night before finals, she sits up with his best friend, waiting for him to come home from running a hundred laps around the quad.

"He should stop doing this," she says.

"He needs it," McCoy answers. "Does the kid good to care about something once in awhile."

His eyes look a little hollow when he says that, and Gaila looks away to watch Jim's solitary figure sprint in the distance. He's running as fast as he can, just to prove a point, and she wonders how much longer he can hold out. Earlier, security had had to clear the quad; everyone had known the admiral was wrong, and six cadets had been running with him while twenty more cheered him on.

"I can't do it," Gaila says. She feels like a traitor, watching Jim run while she stands in the warmth of the dorm. She should be there with him; she'd known that he was right. But she is weak. She has been ever since that first confrontation with Halverstaff, and it pains her to admit that two nights cleaning a bathroom is all it takes to break her. But the facts are clear: however precarious Jim's position is here, he is not a former pirate. Her admission had been controversial enough -- Starfleet had no reason to believe she'd entered her profession unwillingly, especially since she'd been so good at it -- and she cannot afford to give them an excuse to expel her.

She must have sounded more despairing than she intended, or McCoy guesses more about her than he lets on, because he looks at her with compassion in his eyes.

"The admiralty's a bunch of idiots," he continues. "You want out, I don't blame you."

"I'd rather not answer that," she says, and she's grateful that he doesn't push her.

Later that night, she sneaks into one of the engineering bays with a fake identicard she'd made at the beginning of the term. In the last two months, this place has become her sanctuary. The rules here are physics and math, and unlike the thick tome of Starfleet regulations, they work with her instead of forcing her to fight against them. She feels peaceful here; the clear and elegant solutions, and her facility with reaching them, makes her feel free.

"You can take the girl out of the pirate ship, but you can't take the pirate ship out of the girl," she murmurs to herself as the doors hiss open. There'd be hell to pay if anyone caught her here, but the admiralty's all asleep at two a.m. She powers up the simulator, tapping in the authorization code she'd hacked back when she made the card. She sets it for third year simulations, one after another. Warp containment breach, emergency core ejection, photon torpedo hit to main engineering bay. The first she solves easily -- it's just a matter of diverting a strong enough ionic pulse from the axillary generator to make a temporary static containment field. In the second sim, the ejection mechanism won't engage, but she'd seen that coming, and she manages to beam out the most dangerous bits of the warp core in time. The third one she has to run a few times before she figures out she'll have to crawl inside the warp core and shut it down herself. The gamma radiation kills her seconds after her fingers press the button, but the ship's safe. According to the computer, she figured it out faster than most of the third years, but she chastises herself anyway. If this had been a real battle on a real ship, they'd all be dead because she'd been too preoccupied with saving her own skin.

The doors whoosh open just as she's erasing her scores from the main computer bank, and she jumps a mile in the air before she spins toward the intruder with a phaser in her hand. Then she's left staring speechless at Captain Pike, who doesn't even bother to put up his hands.

"Fuck," she says. It's the only word she can think of.

"That's not an explanation, Cadet, and your weapon's still drawn."

She puts the phaser down, swallows, and pulls herself to attention.

"I...I was planning to do some extra weapons practice tonight. Sir." A bead of sweat trickles down her neck. This was not the truth; she has been armed every moment since her escape, even though it's against regulation. Every time someone startles her when she's alone, she thinks it's one of them coming to take her back.

"You don't seem to need much by way of weapons training," Pike says, "and the targeting range is closed. Not that that matters to you."

He saunters past her and picks up the identicard she'd left lying carelessly on the console.

"You got in here with this?" he asks, leaning against her abandoned chair.


"And you put my authorization number on it?"

"I didn't realize, sir." She's shaking a little now. Her thoughts move with dizzying speed. She's been in far worse danger than this many times in her life, and she's fought far larger men than him. In her other life, she would have shot him and run away, but she can't do that here; she cares about people in this life, and she respects him. Inwardly, she laughs, and it's a faintly hysterical laugh. She's never respected people before. It limits her freedom.

"So if you had known it was mine, would you still have used it?"

"No, sir," she says. "I would have picked someone less smart."

"Are you sucking up to me, Cadet?"

"No, sir. I have a problem with honesty. I was beaten for it often at home." This is the truth, though she laughs a little when she says it. Lying is against her nature, and she'd always preferred to tell the truth and take the consequences, no matter how painful. But now that she has a life and people to care about, she lies every day. She'd weighed it in her head after her first two nights cleaning the bathroom -- tell the truth or keep her life here -- and she'd decided her life was worth more. She had nowhere else to go.

"Am I meant to be amused or disturbed by how casually you just mentioned that?"

"Both, sir," she says, still holding herself rigidly at attention. "I'd rather laugh than cry myself."

"I can respect that. At ease, Cadet. Have a seat." He perches on the edge of the console and kicks the chair toward her.

She grasps the back of it with shaking hands and takes a deep breath.

"If I'm about to be kicked out of the Academy, I'd rather stand."

"And if you're not about to be kicked out of the Academy?"

She's so relieved she wants to faint, but she doesn't sit down. She'd learned a long time ago that she's more powerful when she can look people in the eye. He nods at her decision, and she can see that she's won his respect.

"So. You like the truth so much that at one time in your life, you risked physical pain to tell it?"

She nods.

"And now you are breaking about twenty Starfleet regulations and Earth laws to hack your way into an engineering simulator in the dead of night even though you are a command cadet?"

She nods again.

"Does that make sense to you?"

"No," she whispers because she assumes he wants her to sound confused and scared, but he just looks impatient.

"Obviously it does, or you wouldn't do it." His voice is harsh now, and she can't look him in the eye. "If the answer is some truth you can't face up to, you'd better start facing it now. You have no business being in command if you can't handle self-reflection."

"I can handle self-reflection, sir," her voice is sharper than she intends. "I am always honest with myself."

"Just not honest enough to do what you actually want."

"With all due respect, sir, I am performing competently in all of my courses and simulations. I fail to see the relevance of these personal inquiries, and I don't know why my selection of concentration is under scrutiny."

"This is serious, Cadet. You can't blow off questions about who you are if you want to take charge of four hundred lives. I am only going to ask this one more time before I do my utmost to have you drummed out of the academy. Why are you on the command track when you would clearly rather do something else?"

Gaila draws a shaky breath. The truth shames her, but this is what she'd said she wanted: for telling the truth to protect her life here instead of destroy it.

"Because I wanted power. As much of it as I could get."

"That's ugly, and it's a shitty reason to want to be in command. It's a dangerous reason to want to be in command."

It's true, and Gaila has nothing to say.

"Cadet, I'm going to give you the benefit of the doubt. I'm going to assume that you came from some place where the only way to protect yourself was to have as much power as you could, and you haven't learned to let go of that yet." He takes a step closer to her. "I need you to look me in the eye and tell me if that's true."

"Yes," she whispers. She debates whether she should let out some of the tears she's holding back, whether the impression of vulnerability will help her or hurt her. She hates herself for this old reflex to manipulate, but it's so deeply ingrained she can't let go.

"I'm not asking you to tell me anything else about your past. Quite frankly, I don't care. But I am asking you to have the courage to believe you live in a better world now. If you can't do that, I'm telling you to find the decency to recognize that you have no right to let hundreds of men and women entrust their lives to you just so you can feel strong." He slides the identicard into his pocket. "I'm taking this with me. I will not ever see you in here again unless you change your concentration, and you will not misuse any commanding officer's authorization number again. Are we clear on that?"

Gaila nods mutely.

"I asked you a question, Cadet."

She wills herself to make her voice strong.

"Yes sir, we are clear. About the identicard and everything else."

"Good. Then the rest is up to you."
My G-d, I freaking love this. Your Gaila is so awesome, and I love her friendship with Jim. The interaction with Pike is great, too.

I just, guh. Such a good fic. Thank you for sharing. <3
Thank you! I was experimenting with a different characterization of Gaila, so I'm really glad it worked out :)
aaaaand you did it again! :D every time you write about gaila it adds a little more to my idea of her to the point where sometimes i can't remember what is actual canon and what's just stuff you've written about her. :3 awesome job, as usual. <3
Thank you! I think the really fun thing about Gaila is that there is no canon about her, really. We know that she was Uhura's roommate and she slept with Jim, but that's about it. That's what makes her so awesome to play with.
That was perfect. Next read, when I'm less exhausted, more commentary! But I had to at least say, that was perfect.
Thank you! I was really stressing about whether it made sense for Gaila to be kind of passive here, so I'm glad you felt it was believable.
Great look at Gaila and Pike, especially. Loved the way Pike takes her to task about her dishonest actions. It really feels like a day of change for her.

I'm pretty inarticulate today, but this is made of hooray.
I did not know I needed this fic in my life until I read it.

Oh, Gaila.

Oh, Pike.

Oh, Gaila.

Everything - everything about this is note perfect and has entered into my personal headcanon because it is - you are - just. that. awesome. ♥

ETA: ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ "God's Gonna Cut You Down" is possibly one of my all time favorite songs of all time ever.

Edited at 2009-09-22 11:08 pm (UTC)
Fantastic. I love how you make all three of them human and fallible but also likeable people as well, beyond any caricature, and how you make Starfleet Academy like a real school or military instead of holier-than-thou.
Thank you so much! I'm really glad it felt realistic to the way the military functions - a lot of it actually came out of soldiers' accounts of Iraq that I read last year.
*happy sigh* That was spot on, and perfect. I love the way you write Gaila. *goes back to reread*
Thank you! This is a different characterization of Gaila than I've explored before, so I'm glad it was still believable.

"How could you ever expect to notify Starfleet Command if you're kidnapped by hostile forces?" she asks, tapping regulation 240.9 with a neatly filed fingernail.
See, this right here? That's why Gaila was on the Enterprise and not on any of the other ships that got blown up. BECAUSE WE LOVE HER (and they never specified in the movie)!!!

She is just so strong and yet vulnerable at the same time--using what she knows to make it in a new place. Loved the easy friendship with Jim. They just seem like they would be good friends. Also, liked McCoy's view on Jim:

"He needs it," McCoy answers. "Does the kid good to care about something once in awhile."

Excellent job!
Thank you! I was nervous exploring this more vulnerable and trapped version of Gaila, so I'm really glad it worked for you.