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Academy Instructor Lieutenant Andrew Peters looked at the team of cadets. “You are clear as to your orders, Cadet Chekov?”

“Aye, sir. I am in command of the team, and we have two days to reach the rendezvous,” Chekov responded.

“And are you clear as to your orders, Cadet Salford?” Peters continued, a much colder note in his voice.

Salford managed not to scowl at the lieutenant. This was the next stage for those cadets who had achieved three crossings of the canyon. Chekov had done that without apparent effort while he was still trying to get his team over the first one, and Salford was tired of seeing their resigned expressions as he tried to find a solution. Despite the number of fails he was piling up, he was firmly convinced the Academy should have put him in charge of this expedition. “I am assigned to Cadet Chekov’s team, sir. Sir, when he makes a mess of things, should I take over?”

“What an insulting question, Cadet Salford.” Peters eyed the cadet sternly. “If Cadet Chekov experiences any difficulties, it is up to him to find a way out of them. That is part of learning to be a command officer. When he reports back to me on his return, I do not expect to learn you were one of them. Clear?”

“Clear, sir.”

“Do you have any orders for your team before you enter the shuttle, Cadet Chekov?” Peters asked.

“Yes, sir.” Chekov turned to face his team. Most of them he knew would not give him any problems; they were either friends of his or they were willing to give him a chance to prove himself. “Everyone, once we’re on board, check your packs to make certain they’re evenly balanced. One badly packed will prove very uncomfortable.” He waited for the acknowledgements, before turning to Peters. “Ready to board, sir!”

“In you get.” Peters gestured to the shuttle, as the other teams reported they were ready. Hundreds of the first year cadets would be out on this exercise but for many of them it would be only under someone else’s command; they had already opted out of taking any more of the leadership tests. Most of them had entered the Academy without ever intending to apply for the command track; for the ones who did, it was interesting to see how they fared.

“Aye, sir.”


The drop had been uneventful. His squad now assembled, Chekov consulted his tricorder and his map. “This way. Fall in.” He waited for them to get into position. “We’ve got to find a source of water, so only drink when we stop." He pointed a direction down the side of the canyon. "Move out.”

Even though he'd already led three other teams across the canyon before, Chekov quickly discovered it still gave him a very odd feeling to be leading a team under his command. Even though they were only trekking through the Rockies and he could summon help at any time, it made him realize for the first time just how much responsibility he would be taking on if he made it to graduation as a line officer. He pushed away the uncomfortable thoughts in favor of studying his terrain as he took in the beauty of the scenery. His spirits began to rise at the sheer grandeur ahead of them.

They had been walking for an hour when he called the first halt. As the cadets perched on the rocks, he smiled around. “Is everyone managing? Any problems?”

Salford gazed at him sourly. Every time he set eyes on Chekov now, all he seemed able to see were those two gold stars and think of all the demerits they would cancel. Even Howard Wykeham had one and for what? Giving a speech which frightened him so much he was sick afterwards. Salford could not see why the instructors had praised Chekov so highly for helping Wykeham but at least he had done something; Wykeham had only stammered his way through a speech and then thrown up. “I can’t think why they put you in command.”

“I know you can’t,” Chekov replied equably.

“Peters would understand if you gave command to me,” Salford persisted.

“Shouldn’t think so for a minute,” Caythorpe put in sourly. He did not enjoy the leadership tests under Salford, and he bitterly resented the problems Salford gave him with his own; Caythorpe was not looking forward to any expedition with Salford in command. “They’d think he’d gone mad! Tell me you’re not going to do that to us, Chekov! You don’t want to be thrown out for insanity, do you?”

“Don’t worry.” Chekov grinned as he rose. "Let’s go.”


Wh-what a b-beautiful morning,” Howard Wykeham commented as they stopped for their first break.

“Isn’t it?” Chekov agreed cheerfully. The night had passed without incident and another day’s hiking would see them reach their objective. He was about to order a move out when he paused.

“Now what?” Salford demanded. His suggestions over where to camp had been disregarded, as had his confident statement there was no need for anyone to stand watch. Chekov had simply ignored him, and the other cadets had backed the team leader.

“Quiet!” Chekov listened intently. “I thought I heard a child cry!”

Robert Chard grinned as he thought of their entrance tests. “With you, there was bound to be some sort of complication!”

“I can’t hear it now, but everyone scan around us,” Chekov ordered. “If there is a lost child by some chance, we might be the only ones who can find him or her.”

Even Salford had no objection to doing that. He was just annoyed it was Chard who announced moments later he had picked up a life sign. Chekov nodded. “That way.” He led the team down a defile. As they turned, they found a small girl sitting on a rock, crying.

She looked up as they appeared. “Oh, please help me! Mommy’s real sick. I was trying to find someone, but I couldn’t.”

“Of course we’ll help you,” Chekov promised, smiling. An inner voice was asking if he could cope with whatever he was about to face, but he silenced it. “Where is your mommy?”

“Down there.” She pointed.

“Let’s go.” Chekov took her hand. “What’s your name?”

“Sophie Green.” Sophie clutched Chekov’s hand tightly.

“I’m Pavel. Can you tell us what happened, Sophie?” Chekov asked.

“We live over there.” Sophie gestured vaguely. “Mommy was flying the aircar, and she got a bad tummy ache so she tried to land it, but it went down with a big crash.”

“Was there anyone else in the aircar?” Chekov asked.

“No, Daddy went on a business trip and he was supposed to come home yesterday but he got delayed,” Sophie replied. “We were going to meet him.”

Chekov already had his communicator out. He had been told he was only to signal for a medical emergency but that senior cadets would be at Centroplex to monitor communications; as far as he was concerned, this already qualified. “Chekov to Centroplex.”

Centroplex. Russell here. What’s the problem, Cadet?”

“We’ve just found a small girl called Sophie Green, Cadet Captain, and she told us she was in an aircar with her mother and it crashed. We’re heading to the scene now,” Chekov reported, and added his position. The cadets had been deliberately landed out of transporter range of the Centroplex facility, but they'd been told they could be evacuated by shuttle, given the need. “I need evacuation for two civilians, one probably injured.”

“I’ll get you some back up out there immediately, Cadet Chekov,” Russell promised. “Keep us apprised.”

“Aye, sir.”

“Russell out.”

Chekov smiled down at the child, who appeared to be about four or five. “Did you hear that, Sophie? There’s going to be someone to help your mommy very quickly and take her to hospital. We’ll see if we can do anything to help her until the shuttle arrives.”

Sophie beamed at him, before her expression changed and she pointed. “There’s the aircar! I can see Mommy!”

“So can I!” Chekov realized what the ‘tummy ache’ was: Mrs. Green was very, very pregnant. He ran over with Sophie, the others following to where she lay on the ground.

“Mommy! Mommy!” Sophie shouted. “I found someone to help us! Look!”

“We’re Starfleet cadets on an exercise, ma’am, and I sent for help just as soon as Sophie told us what had happened. Is there anything we can do for you now?” Chekov explained as he offered her his canteen. “Are you injured in any way?”

“No, just a bump on the head.” Angie Green drank gratefully, before she gave a cry. “I hope that help gets here very quickly!”

“So do I!” Chekov smiled at her. “But if it will make you feel any better, ma’am, I’ve done this before!”

“You have?” Angie looked at him hopefully.

“When he got stuck in an elevator with a lady who promptly had twins,” Chard put in helpfully; a few days earlier, he had laughed himself silly when he heard about that particular achievement of his new friend.

Chekov blushed as he heard the sniggers from his classmates. “I’m Cadet Pavel Chekov, by the way, ma’am.”

“Cadet Chekov, I don’t want to cause too much alarm, but I know I’m not having twins.” Angie gasped. “I’m having triplets, and I’m having them now!” She looked over as Salford thudded to the ground in a dead faint. “And a fat lot of good he’s going to be!”

“Two of you get Salford out of the way.” Chekov was already stripping off his pack. “How close to your due date are you, ma’am?”

“Call me Angie.” She gasped as another severe contraction gripped her. “Two days.”

“Then we shouldn’t have any problems a premature birth could cause.” Chekov had opened his sleeping bag and spread it on the dusty surface. He looked at the rest of the team. “Help me put Mrs. Green on here. It’s cleaner than the ground.”

The others moved forward, only too willing to help but even more pleased one of their number seemed to know what to do. “How close are the contractions?” Chekov asked.

“Too close; I can’t tell them apart!” Angie felt Chekov carefully strip her underclothing away.

“You’re well dilated. I can see the first head.” He nodded and looked up. “Cadet Chard, report in for me and see if you can hurry the transport. Cadet Wykeham, get out the medical kit. I need something to cut the cord. Cadet Caythorpe, organize something to wrap the babies.”

“Aye, sir.” Chard pulled out his communicator and brought an incredulous Russell up to date as the first triplet put in an appearance. Salford had come round by then, but as the tiny boy gave his first yell, he promptly passed out again. By the time the shuttle arrived with a doctor, Angie was cradling two baby boys, while a delighted Sophie was cradling the other.

Lieutenant Peters simply gazed at the scene, apparently lost for words, as the doctor checked over Angie and her babies. She paid particular attention to the third triplet, whom Chekov told her had been reluctant to start breathing, but she was soon able to reassure Angie she and her babies were all fine.

The doctor smiled. “This certainly makes a change from patching up cadets, Mrs. Green, but I just wish I’d got here in time to practice my obstetrical skills!”

She smiled at the physician. “Let’s get everyone inside.”

“What about you, Cadet Chekov?” Peters inquired.

“I’d like Cadet Salford med-evaced, sir, as he’s spent the last half hour passing out at regular intervals. As for the rest of us, if you’d kindly grant me an extension for the time allowed, I’d prefer to complete the exercise,” Chekov replied firmly.

Larry Dixon, who was one of the reporters on assignment at Starfleet Academy, smiled at the small girl. “You’ve had a very exciting adventure, Sophie. Would you like to tell me about it, so I can make a story for everyone all over the world and tell them what happened?”

“Ooh yes!” Sophie beamed at him. “Shall I start with ‘once upon a time’?”

“If you like,” Dixon told her. “Or you could start when you and your mommy got in the aircar.”

“All right,” Sophie told him sunnily. “Daddy was late back from his business trip, so Mommy and me were going to fly to San Francisco to fetch him, but her tummy started to hurt her very badly, and when she tried to land the aircar, it went down with a big bang. I was very frightened because Mommy wouldn’t answer me. I thought I’d go to San Francisco and find Daddy, but it was a long way, and then Pavel and his friends came, and I asked them to help me, and he smiled at me and told me he would, and I stopped being frightened then because I knew Pavel would look after Mommy and me."

The little girl took a deep breath. "Pavel signaled someone called Rusty and asked for someone to come for us, and then he asked me to show him where Mommy was so he could help her until the shuttle came, and I did, but when we got back to the aircar, Mommy was lying on the ground outside, and my baby brothers were just about to be born, but Pavel wasn’t even scared when Mommy told him she was having triplets. He helped Matthew and James come out of Mommy’s tummy, and they were all right but when Philip came out, he didn’t want to start breathing until Pavel cleared all nasty stuff out of his mouth, and then he hung Philip upside down and swung him and patted him on the back, and then he breathed in his mouth, really gently, and Philip started breathing too. Mommy was crying then. She cried and cried and cried because she thought Philip was going to die, but I held her hand and told her Pavel would make him better, and he did.” Sophie finished triumphantly.

“What an exciting day!” Dixon smiled.

“A lot more exciting than I’d bargained for,” Angie told him shakily.

“When I came round and found not only was I in labor but that Sophie had vanished too, and communications were out, I assure you, you cannot come close to imagining how I felt! Then those cadets arrived with my daughter in tow... They were all so young, but Cadet Chekov especially just got on with helping me without any fuss, and he somehow managed to be so reassuring... Two of my babies might have made it through without him, but I know I’d have lost Philip. I know the other cadets were also willing to help...”

“Not the big one called Salford, Mommy,” Sophie corrected. “He kept falling down.”

“What do you mean, Sophie?” Dixon asked as he watched a man exit a passenger shuttle pod, and rush toward Mrs. Green.

“When Mommy told Pavel she was having triplets and they were coming now, Cadet Salford made a funny noise and fell down, and Pavel told two of the other cadets to move him out of the way. He woke up when Matthew was born, but he only made another funny noise and fell over again. He kept doing that all the time,” Sophie answered scornfully.

“I... see,” Dixon answered carefully.

Angie was trying not to giggle. “As I was saying, Cadet Chekov managed to project this air of calm competence when the poor boy must have been feeling anything but after being presented with such a problem. It was very comforting, and I am eternally grateful to him.”

“So am I,” Peter Green, the man from the shuttle pod, added as he cradled one of his new sons. “I’ve uttered a few criticisms of Starfleet in the past, but not any more, believe me. Without those cadets, I might have lost my entire family.”

He grinned. “I don’t know if Cadet Chekov will appreciate this, but we’re going to add ‘Pavel’ as a second names for all the boys.”

“I’m going to marry Pavel when I grow up because he’s so nice,” Sophie announced.

“You might find by then Pavel’s off exploring space, honey,” her father told her.

Sophie considered that. “Then I’ll join Starfleet too, so I can go with him.”

Angie chuckled. “I don’t think that will be the problem, dear, but that you’ll find there are a lot of other girls who find him very attractive. I certainly did, and I’m a happily married mother of four!”

“I saw him first!” Sophie’s firm statement ended the news item on what she and Larry Dixon considered an eminently satisfactory note.


“Cadet Chekov, are you aware how many teams of cadets were on the exercise?” Academy Commandant Erich von Steuben inquired, his head in his hands. He loved his post and his cadets, though they would have been astonished to hear it. His years at the Academy had taught the commandant to recognize cadets who could be counted on to find every possible source of trouble. He knew he had one in front of him now.

“No, sir.” Chekov knew hundreds of his classmates had been involved but not the precise figure.

“One hundred and eight, involving twelve hundred cadets,” Von Steuben told him. “Would you, therefore, care to explain why it was your team who managed to find a lady who was not only in imminent expectation of giving birth but who was having triplets?”

As his team-mates tried desperately to keep the grins from their faces, Pavel Chekov blushed. “I’m just pleased we were able to be of so much help, sir.”

Von Steuben smiled. “Well I won’t argue with that, lad! With one exception, you all did very well!” He awarded bronze stars to the other members of the team, apart from Salford, before he pinned a third gold star on Pavel’s uniform. “Now, the downside to your adventure is that reporters from Federation News Network and Intergalactic News Service are waiting for you downstairs. They’ve already interviewed the Greens, by the way. I gather Sophie has decided to marry you when she grows up, Cadet Chekov!”


Larry Dixon smiled at the young cadets. “You all seem to have done very well this afternoon, boys.”

“We’re just pleased we were in the right place at the right time, sir,” Chekov answered.

“Not as pleased as the rest of us Cadet Chekov knew what to do though,” George Caythorpe added fervently.

“Starfleet officers and presumably its cadets are expected to cope with anything, Cadet,” Dixon teased.

Caythorpe blushed and grinned. “Well, I’d have done my best to help, of course, and I’d have been fine with the first two babies, because they started breathing the minute they were born. It was the last one. Trying to get Philip breathing would have thrown me but Cadet Chekov knew what to do.”

“Trained in first aid, Cadet Chekov?” Dixon inquired.

“Yes, sir, but what really helped was spending a week or two during the summer on Uncle Ivan's farm,” Chekov answered. “When you’ve helped with lambing and calving, you acquire the knack of getting newborns breathing!”


Once more, Pavel Chekov found himself greeted by an enormous cheer as he entered the mess; word of his latest exploit had spread, and all the cadets had seen the interview with the Greens. He was only too relieved to be able to sink into his place; it was not little Sophie’s plan to marry him he found embarrassing, but her mother’s comment. He was certainly hungry enough.

Cadet Anne Clarke shook her head at her quadmate. “How come with over a thousand cadets out in the field, it was your team who found the woman about to give birth to triplets?”

“The commandant’s very words!” Chekov grinned.

The many tentacled Salixa, Lethende, tapped his uniform. “Friend getting another gold star! Setting record!”

“Well that won’t last!” Chekov told it.

Chard rubbed his bronze star proudly. “Good-bye demerits, for a while anyway!”

Chekov looked around as there was another yell, but not the friendly one which had greeted him; this was a derisory raspberry, perhaps one of the loudest raspberries in the history of Starfleet Academy. Salford had entered, and from his face, he knew exactly why he had received it.


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