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D.G. Littleford


The shuttle Tycho pivoted while still airborne, presenting her starboard side to the length of the hangar bay, then touched down lightly upon the deck. Her pilot exhibited an experienced and deft hand, having maneuvered the Tycho just within the titanium alloy portal. The massive hangar doors drew together, and atmosphere was restored to that end of the bay. Once the air mix and pressure equalized with that of the rest of the bay, an infrequently-used forcefield was terminated.

Tycho’s hatch hissed open, and Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell joined a chief boatswain’s mate and eight boatswains standing at attention, ready to pipe the official party on board, as was done in times of yore when officers climbed from a barge onto a battleship.

At the opposite end of the hangar, a deep voice sang out and the ship’s company as one body came to attention. The chief boatswain’s mate turned to the audience. "Guests, please rise."

The shiny brass ship’s bell, brought down from the observation deck, rang out.

Clang-clang, clang-clang, clang-clang, clang-clang.

"United Federation of Planets Starfleet, arriving," the bosun announced.

An admiral of Japanese descent exited the shuttlecraft. His face, a leathery tan, wore the lines from many years of life and death decisions. Though a man of advanced age for a Human, his hair was still mostly dark, with distinguished rays of gray streaking through his mane like phaser fire. He strode confidently to the chief bosun’s mate. The mate saluted crisply and waited for it to be returned. It was true that Starfleet officers rarely saluted, except on formal occasions such as this, when the traditions were rigorously followed.

About two hundred civilian guests and interested Starfleet personnel stood in the stadium-style seating, watching as Commanding Admiral Heihachiro Nogura walked the length of a red carpet to a temporarily erected platform, today’s stand-in for the "quarterdeck" in times past. Behind it, on the shuttle bay bulkhead, was attached a twenty by thirty foot blue and white flag emblazoned with the founding member stars of the United Federation of Planets. Facing it on the opposite bulkhead hung twin banners: the Starburst emblem of Starfleet and beside it, the Shooting Arrowhead pennant of the United Star Ship Enterprise.

The bosun’s mate rang the ship’s bell once again, although two times less, communicating the officer’s level of rank who was next to appear.

Clang-clang, clang-clang, clang-clang.

"Sol Force, First Fleet, arriving."

Commodore Richard Barstow was tall and lean, his thinning hair peppered with the encroaching gray.

Clang-clang, clang-clang.

"United Star Ship Enterprise, arriving."

Christopher Pike, the newly-promoted fleet captain, was a tall, well-proportioned man, handsome by Human standards, with dark hair and brilliant blue eyes. In his mid-forties, Pike was graying a bit around the temples, which only enhanced his looks. The soon-to-be-departing captain strode down the carpet and exchanged both a salute and a warm smile with the bosun before standing beside Commodore Barstow on the dais.

Clang-clang, clang-clang.

"Commander, Starfleet, arriving," was announced with the utmost brevity.

James T. Kirk was last to step out of the shuttle. Not quite as tall as Barstow or Pike, Kirk’s figure was broad-shouldered and trim. His once sun-bleached blond hair was now on the darker side, after extended months in space under artificial lighting and alien stars. He was about to become Starfleet’s youngest starship captain. As Kirk paused momentarily in the frame of the Tycho’s hatch, whispered advice reached his ear from the shuttle pilot.

"Don’t trip."

A momentary smile graced his lips. Leave it to Gary Mitchell to know the right thing to say on such a formal occasion. Ramrod straight, Kirk walked the gauntlet of the honor guard to the chief boatswain’s mate. Kirk returned the salute and continued on to the quarterdeck.

The pre-recorded Anthem of the Federation was piped into the hangar. It was a lofty, ethereal piece, a patchwork of musical styles from each of the Founding Five worlds. At its conclusion, the audience resumed their seats and the crew relaxed somewhat their stance into parade rest. Commodore Barstow stepped front and center to address the gathered company and guests. Tiny but powerful directional microphones hung in the ceiling of bay amplified his voice for all to hear.

"On behalf of Starfleet Command and ComSol, I extend a welcome to all our guests, and in particular to the family and friends of our departing and relieving captains. Presiding over these proceedings today is the Commander-in-Chief Starfleet, Admiral Heihachiro Nogura, who will be making a few remarks to us shortly. Also with us today is Rear Admiral James Raymond Komack, Chief of Starfleet Operations. We wish to recognize the presence of the Andorian Ambassador Shras, a member of the Federation Council, as well as Federation Commissioner Joseph C. Grant.

"Joining us to see one of Iowa’s sons rise to command a starship, is the governor of that fair state of Earth’s North American continent, Judi Bell. Also making the trip from our relieving captain’s hometown of Riverside, Iowa, is Mayor Wade Campbell.

"To all we say, welcome aboard.

"Gentlebeings and honored guests. Starfleet ceremonies have their roots in the naval traditions of Earth, traditions whose origins draw from a rich heritage of ancient seafaring laws and customs going back even before the common era. As Humans began to voyage into space, these honored traditions were adapted and brought with us. The change-of-command ceremony is one such tradition, unique in that the passing of command, the total assumption of responsibility, authority, and accountability for a ship and its crew is transferred directly and visibly from one Starfleet officer to another. It was so established this way, and has been employed largely unchanged over time, so that it be perfectly clear to a ship’s company to whom they are to look as their commanding officer, and for them to know from whence his authority is derived.

"The change-of-command ceremony itself is a simple one. Starfleet Regulations Article 87 Section 3 requires, ‘At the time of turning over command, the commanding officer to be relieved will call all hands to muster, read the orders of detachment, and turn over the command to his or her relief, who will read the orders of relief and assume command.’ In years past, the ceremony surrounding it has sometimes become inflated and unduly lengthened. It has been the policy of Admiral Nogura, however, and I concur wholeheartedly, that we will remain focused on the true purpose we are here today, out of respect for the crew members required to stand throughout the proceedings, and knowing that many guests have come primarily for the food and drink afterwards..."

Laughter erupted from audience and crew members, particularly from those who could identify with the remark.

"We will begin with an Invocation offered by our presiding chaplain of ComSol, Captain Joanna Verde, and then proceed with remarks by Admiral Nogura. Would our guests please rise once more."

The petite chaplain stepped forward center-stage. As she bowed her head, the ship’s company and audience followed suit.

"For the expanding grandeur of Creation,
worlds known and unknown,
galaxies beyond galaxies,
filling us with awe and challenging our imaginations:

We give thanks this day.

For the diverse planets which constitute our homes,
their times and tides, their sunsets and seasons:
for family and friends who add meaning to our lives:

We give thanks this day.

For the joy of life,
its wonders and surprises,
its hopes and achievements:

We give thanks this day.

For our interplanetary community,
our common past and future hope,
our oneness transcending all separation,
our capacity to work for peace and justice in the midst of hostility and oppression:

We give thanks this day.

For safe vessels and humanoid ingenuity,
allowing us to visit the heart of Thy creations and admire Thy handiwork,
For Thy mercy in bringing us home again to share our wonder and our knowledge:

We give thanks this day.

For those who in Thy unsearchable wisdom do not return home with us:

We give thanks this day.

We pray that we may live not by our fears but by our hopes,
not by our words but by our deeds.
We give thanks this day. Amen."1

As Captain Verde sat down and the audience members again resumed their seats, Admiral Nogura rose and addressed the assembly. "Today we create a new entry in the ship’s log of the starship Enterprise. We would be remiss, however, were we to proceed forward without a glance to the past, and recount for you a brief history of the many accomplishments of the U.S.S. Enterprise, her officers and crews thus far.

"The Constitution-class starship Enterprise was launched from the San Francisco Orbital Yards and commissioned April 6, 2245. Her plank holder is appropriately Captain Robert T. April, whose current obligations as Federation Ambassador-at-Large unfortunately prevented the commodore from being with us today. The innovative warp engine improvements of the Constitution-class gave starships a leap forward in deep space exploration. The Enterprise under Captain April was in the vanguard of this renewed push outward for exploration and colonization.

"They were the first to perform a detailed mapping survey of the Hyades Cluster, and the first to study a supernova remnant at close quarters, the neutron star RXJ 185635-3754.

"The Enterprise under Captain April made first contact with the Algolians of Beta Persei, the Skorr of the Canopus system, the Gamma Centaurians, and the Caitains of Alpha Lyncis. They introduced the Federation to the Acamarians of Theta-One Eridani, and the Ardanans of Mu Leonis. April and his officers were the first Humans to behold the Cloud City of Stratos, certainly one of the modern wonders of the known galaxy.

"Captain April’s reputation as a humanitarian and ambassador of peace became synonymous with the Federation in his sector. The medical staff of the Enterprise cured the plague of Gamma Tauri, and he and his officers mediated a cease fire in the Gamma Canaris civil war.

"Closer to home, April’s distinctive brand of carrot and stick negotiations led to the pacification of the Vega Problem, convincing the Vegan Chieftains that the introduction of a Federation colony on Alpha Lyrae Nine would lead to a revitalization of their system and homeworld. In the years since, we have observed the tangible results of that solution, as Vegan raiders have found legitimate business and trade to be far more profitable.

"On Stardate 51.89.46, old-style calibration, the ‘keys to the ship’ were turned over to Captain Christopher Pike.

"During the two subsequent five year missions, the Enterprise under Captain Pike took the Federation to numerous new milestones in space exploration. They were the first to enter the Pleiades Star Cluster. They were the first to study its reflective Hind’s Nebula, as well as the dark Taurus star formation cloud, as well as other nebulae of the region. They discovered the archaeological ruins of Theta Cygni Twelve and were the first to see the dragons of Berengaria Seven.

"Captain Pike and the Enterprise made First Contact with the Mikulakans of Gamma Eridani Five, the Nihalans of Beta Leporis, the gentle people of Omega-Two Cygni, the Betelgeusens of Alpha Orionis, the Ooolans of Chi Carinae, and the Malurians of Omega-One Cygni. They were the first to explore and make contact with the distant and wonderously varied system of Beta Orionis, more commonly known as Rigel. The list of first contacts goes on: the Aurelians, Deltans, Grazerites, Gorlans, and Ktarians.

"Our starships continue to be the first ambassadors and diplomats for the Federation. In 2255, the Enterprise was instrumental in paving the way for the Treaty of Armens outlining a plan for co-existence between ourselves and the Sheliak of Beta Lyrae. The officers and crew of the Enterprise played a role in both the Axanar Peace Mission and thereafter the Vulcanian Expedition.

"Their patrolling of the Aldebaran Corridor and the quelling of Kzinti and Orion marauders in the region opened up that sector as a major trade route, with the potential for new markets and colonization for years to come."

As Nogura continued describing the many accomplishments of the Enterprise, Kirk looked out over her officers and crew, soon to become his. They stood at parade rest, approximately three hundred and forty of them, mustered at quarters in ranks, according to departments. The shuttle deck was the only place on board where all could be assembled at the same time. There should have been four hundred and thirty, of course; the sixty spaces in the ranks reflected the tragedy of their final mission. There would soon be transfer replacements, and in the down time while the Enterprise was being refit, many of these personnel would move on to other assignments.

They were, nevertheless, a beautiful sight in their dress uniforms of gold, blue and orange. He could pick out the veterans, the ones who had been tried and tested in action, by the ribbons and commendations they wore creatively arranged upon their chests. Only the relatively new were those whose uniforms remained shiny and undecorated.

Most were Humans, though the chief security officer was a Tellarite, and the acting executive officer was a half-Vulcan science specialist Kirk had known at the Academy, now Lieutenant Commander Spock. His upswept brows and pointed ears were those of his father’s race. It had been a long time since their paths had last crossed, and Kirk wondered how it would be to work with the dispassionate scientist once again.

His hazel eyes flicked side-long to the pilot whose talented hands had set them down perfectly on the shuttle deck. Lieutenant Commander Gary Mitchell would soon be standing at the front of the ship’s company, though his transfer had not yet gone through. Kirk had suggested including him in the party nonetheless as shuttle pilot.

Normally, Starfleet headquarters did not like to bring in both a new captain and a new executive officer at the same time. It was prudent to maintain some continuity in a ship’s command. However, Pike’s first officer, Number One, had died in the recent action, and it was determined that Spock did not have sufficient time as a line officer. Such an opening gave Kirk the opportunity to bring Mitchell with him from the Shenadoah. Kirk wondered momentarily how the two very different senior officers would interact.

Kirk looked next to the bleachers set up for the guests. His gaze was arrested by a dark- haired beauty sitting in the VIP section. His lingering pleasure was interrupted by a pang of guilt, until he reminded himself that he wasn’t with Carol Marcus anymore. She had sent him away...again. Finally tearing his eyes away from the magnetic woman, he picked out his mother and his brother Sam’s family also in the VIP section. It would be good to greet them again at the reception after. Sam and Aurelan’s two boys were with them. He had promised them a tour of the ship. Sam’s oldest and namesake, the ten-year-old George Samuel Kirk III, was just a year or so older than his own son, David, he recalled with a stab of anguish.

Jim had spent these last few weeks of required leave getting to know his son, and reacquainted with Carol. His hope was for a more permanent basis. Their last mission disaster on board the Shenadoah had shaken his confidence and caused him to re-examine his life priorities and career plans. The renewed relationships had been proceeding well until David had become interested in a Starfleet career. Carol panicked. His child’s mother would have none of it, and therefore, none of him. Jim salved the wounds with the memories of those few weeks of leave when he did his best to be a present father.

Kirk frowned by habit as he spied an old nemesis, Sheriff Wade Campbell, sitting near his family. "Mayor" Campbell, Kirk reminded himself. He must have missed that election. His permanent residence remained in the small Iowa town, giving him eligibility to vote in their elections, but mail was often delayed getting out to the Shenadoah during their deep-space assignments. In any case, hometown elections had been the last thing on the young officer’s mind in recent years.

Kirk felt a tad disappointment as he realized that Mandy, the mayor’s doe-eyed daughter and Kirk’s teenage flame, did not appear to be with her father. Of course, she was married now. He knew she had wed one of Wade’s deputies a few years back, somebody new to the county whom Kirk had never heard of. He knew they had a couple of kids, he remembered with another pang of regret. He knew Mandy had gotten her law degree and had passed the bar. Last he had heard, she was handling all the corporate law issues for her brother.

Kenny Campbell had turned out to be more than just a talented tech monkey. From fixing up Jim’s old Z12, he had gone on to acquire several higher degrees in Mechanical Engineering. Eventually returning home, Kenny had begun putting his own innovative ideas into action, designing a whole new type of hovercraft. Racing afficionados came to him from all over the continent, and then the planet, for his custom-built crafts. Eventually, he floated out a non-racing, every-day line. His company that started out of the back of his garage soon exploded into a thriving manufacturing plant, putting the sleepy agricultural community of Riverside on the map.

Kirk came out of his reverie as he realized Admiral Nogura had spoken his own name. "...we trust will continue this record of outstanding achievement. He comes to you a recipient of the Medal of Honor as well as the Silver Palm with Cluster. He is no stranger to the varied challenges of deep space, Commander James T. Kirk, recently commanding the Cochise-class destroyer U.S.S. Shenadoah."

Nogura then called for Captain Christopher Pike to join him, and also signaled for the mysterious beauty from the bleachers. Pike stood at attention while the woman presented him with his second Five Year Cruise pin, and the Starfleet Medal of Valor, as well as a kiss on the cheek. It was traditional for a family member, or someone significant in an officer’s life to present them honors. I should have known she was with Pike, Kirk thought. Nogura and the woman then were seated, while Pike stepped to the front of the dais.

The tall, dark-haired man stood quietly gazing over the ship’s company, taking in the moment to stand before the crew of the Enterprise as their captain one last time. Kirk had been through this recently in being relieved of command of the Shenadoah, and could relate to some degree what Pike must be feeling.

In the faces of the officers and crew there shone an unmistakable affection and devotion towards Pike. Even the half-Vulcan and Tellarite looked expectantly towards their commanding officer with an uncommon openness and interest. Kirk had the feeling that these people would yet follow Pike to the outer-most reaches of the galaxy, if he ever asked them to. These were going to be some awfully big shoes to try to fill.

"They say a commander’s failures are his alone," Pike began his address, "while his successes belong to his crew. I understand all too well, exactly what that means. There is no doubt in my mind that the list of accomplishments that Admiral Nogura has graciously described were the result of the combined efforts of every man and woman of the officers and crew of the Enterprise. I will take the memories of those accomplishments with well as the lessons of those failures that we don’t like to mention. Those memories will include memorials of our absent shipmates. I am proud to have been your captain, and to have served beside such fine individuals, the very pinnacle in your fields and the very best, in my opinion, in the fleet.

"As you know, I hate long speeches...and even more, long good-byes. So I’ll ask only this, that you offer your new captain the same degree of excellence and loyalty that you each have given to me. Until such time as we meet again, Godspeed to you all."

Behind him, Kirk was surprised that Pike’s farewell was finished already and instinctively collected himself, the excitement mounting. It was almost time.

Pike looked down as he unrolled an old-fashioned paper parchment and proceeded to read his Orders of Detachment. "Bureau of Starfleet Personnel Order Number 510842. To Captain Christopher Pike: When directed by reporting senior, detach in Stardate 1308.5 from U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC 1701)... Signed, Vice Admiral Knis, Chief of Starfleet Personnel." Having finished reading, Pike stepped aside.

Both Barstow and Kirk stood in unison. The commodore stood off to the side of the dais behind Pike, while Kirk stepped forward and crisply placed himself facing across from Pike. The departing captain saluted and pronounced, "Sir, I am ready to be relieved."

Kirk turned to the assembled crew and unrolled his own orders. Skipping the orders of detachment, he read what was pertinent. "Bureau of Starfleet Personnel Order Number 510843. From Vice Admiral Knis, Chief of Starfleet Personnel, To Commander James Tiberius Kirk: Proceed to the port in which U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701) may be and upon arrival on board report to Captain Christopher Pike, Commanding Officer U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701) for duty as his relief. Report to your immediate superior in command, Commodore Richard Barstow, if present, or other senior officer afloat, otherwise by message. You will assume command of U.S.S. Enterprise (NCC-1701) no later than Stardate 1308.5."

Kirk then faced Pike, saluted, and returned, "Sir, I relieve you." He then turned to the commodore waiting on the far side of the dais and saluted him. "Sir, I report for duty."

Commodore Barstow returned the salute and then said something utterly surprising. "You are in error, sir. Starfleet Command is not in the habit of entrusting a heavy cruiser to a mere commander." Kirk was momentarily dumbfounded. Members of the audience unfamiliar with Starfleet ways glanced about in puzzlement. Others smiled knowingly. Barstow, in any case, faced outward and called in his booming bass, "Computer, voice recognition, Commodore Richard Barstow in command of Sol Force, First Fleet."

The sound of the processing Enterprise computer could be heard throughout the bay. "Identity confirmed," the computer voice responded.

"Mark time. Captain James Tiberius Kirk, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise as of Stardate 1308.5 at 1133 hours."

Now Kirk smiled broadly. He understood. His promotion had been granted in spite of his being shy a few months as a full commander!

"Captain James Tiberius Kirk, commanding officer of the U.S.S. Enterprise as of Stardate 1308.5 at 1133 hours," the mechanized voice recorded.

Barstow smiled kindly as he addressed another individual in the VIP section. "Mrs. Kirk, would you please assist your son in getting properly dressed."

Marjorie Kirk beamed as she left the bleachers and walked up to the dais. Barstow handed her the appropriate insignia. She approached and mother and son exchanged a warm smile before she proceeded to apply a quick-stick captain’s stripe to each of his sleeves. She finished with a kiss on the cheek and a brief hug, and then the commodore indicated for her to stand beside her son.

All rose while an honor guard detached from the crew and lowered the old Enterprise ensign from the bulkhead and folded it ceremonially into a triangle. A new ship and mission pennant was broken out and raised in its place. The guard then marched forward and stood in a straight line extending towards the dais. The last in line held the pennant for the crewwoman before him. As the one in front laid hands to accept, the last in line intoned, "This pennant flew during the exploration of the Pleiades Star Cluster." The crewwoman then took the folded flag, turned 180 degrees in place and presented it to the crewman before her saying, "This pennant flew at Axanar during the Peace Mission." The ceremony continued, with each crewman in line stating a mission under which the pennant had flown. When the pennant finally had reached the head of the line, the last crewman crisply turned and presented the pennant to Captain Pike with a salute.

As the honor guard returned to their places, the dark-haired beauty once again came forward and presented a flower corsage to Kirk’s mother, pining it to her lapel.

The commodore, Captain Pike, and the two women then took their seats, while the new captain of the Enterprise made his way thoughtfully forward. James Kirk gazed out over the multitude in the bay, energized and humbled at the same time.

"It is an honor to be with you here in this august company today, to be given command of this great ship. Her history...her reputation... emanates from the character and deeds of her officers and crew, and it is my commitment... to add only credit and praise to her reputation. I wish Captain Pike well in his continued voyage throughout life, continued success in his distinguished career, as well as in all that he undertakes."

By tradition and necessity, Kirk knew what his first orders were to be. He turned specifically to the officers and crew of the Enterprise, now his officers and crew.

"At this time, all standing orders, regulations, and instructions remain in effect until further notice. Lieutenant Commander Spock, take charge of the ship’s company and once the official party has departed, dismiss the crew to continue their duties."

"Aye, aye, sir," came the reply.

The new commander of the Enterprise returned to his seat. Commodore Barstow stood again to explain that this concluded the formal part of the proceedings. He informed everyone present that following the benediction and departing honors rendered to the official party, all were invited to attend the reception, held in the Engineering recreation facilities.

The petite chaplain Joanna Verde again came forward. "All rise.

"Almighty and Everlasting,
the Protector of all those who put their trust in Thee:
hear our prayers in behalf of Thy servants
who sail their vessels into the vast reaches of space.
We beseech Thee to keep in Thy sustaining care
all who are in starships,
that they may be delivered
from the hidden dangers of the universe.
Grant them courage,
and a devotion to fulfill their duties,
that they may better serve Thee and our fellow citizens.
Though acquainted with the heights and depths of the galaxy,
deliver them from the heights of pride and the depths of despair,
and in the dark hours of the absence of friends,
grant them a good ship’s spirit.
Bless all their kindred and loved ones
from whom they are separated.
When they enter our orbits once more,
may they praise Thee for Thou art there
as well as in the cosmos.
Fill them with Thy Spirit
that they may be sure in their reckonings,
unwavering in duty,
high in purpose,
and upholding the honor of the United Federation of Planets.
We ask in the name of the One who rides as the unseen crewman on every starship.
Amen." 2 

Following the sonorous echo of "amen," all remained standing. An order came from the acting first officer, "Ship boys, stand to!" Another honor guard formed up to line the way out of the bay. The participating officers were clanged off the dais and out of the shuttle bay, in the same order as they had come on board. They would be leading the way to the reception area.

At long last, it was Kirk’s turn to cross the hangar deck that was now his. The ship’s bell was the most beautiful music he had ever heard.

Clang-clang, clang-clang.

"United Star Ship Enterprise departing," the bosun’s mate sang out.

Kirk had become one with his new command.


James Kirk wore his reception face, a polite smile that didn’t reach his eyes, and masked the torturous itch from the dress uniform collar that he suspected had been designed by Klingons. Commissioner Grant was regaling him with far more about a recent debate in the Council chambers than he really had any interest. He nodded courteously and glanced again towards the entrance to see if his family had made it to the rec room. They had not. He wondered what was keeping them.

He would have rather been speaking some more with the Scottish chief engineer or the elderly medical officer, or even the Tellarite security commander. In his periphery, Kirk noticed that Acting First Officer Spock had arrived. Captain Pike was introducing him to Admiral Nogura and Commodore Barstow. Kirk wished he could join them. Grant suddenly paused in his soliloquy so that Kirk realized that it was his cue to respond.

"Well...Commissioner, a... problem of that nature can’t be solved in a day. There are quite a few variables to consider..." Kirk hedged tactfully. Then his dimples deepened as he opted for a lighter tactic. "And you know, sometimes one hundred ninety thousand metric tons of starship is all the diplomacy you ever need."

Grant squinted back in a way so that Kirk sensed he had misspoken. The Federation commissioner finally half-grimaced. "Yes, yes, very amusing, Captain. has been a pleasure conversing with you. Good luck to you in your new assignment."

They shook hands. "Thank you...Commissioner."

Kirk let out a sigh of relief as the stuffy official walked back to the other officials. He had learned from the time he had become a senior officer, that the best way to survive these sort of social campaigns was to keep a smile on his face, let the dignitaries do most of the talking, and try not to stick his foot in his mouth when it was his turn to say something. He was not always successful.

"I agree wholeheartedly, Captain," Shras, the blue-skinned Andorian, floated into the commissioner’s vacuum. "There are times when a starship with phaser banks is the only diplomacy which the Federation requires."

Kirk had to concentrate to understand the exotic accent. "Yes...well, I did mean it as a joke, Ambassador," Kirk explained tentatively.

Shras’s mouth formed what Kirk wasn’t sure was a smile or a leer. "I find in the humor of Humans is much truth that they would not speak otherwise."

Up close, the ambassador appeared to be ancient, and Kirk wondered how long Andorians lived in Earth years.

"I see you are a recipient of the Grankite Order of Tactics, Captain," Shras observed, studying his medals. "Impressive."

"Thank you," Kirk intoned quietly.

"I desire at some time to discuss battle strategies with you," Shras stated directly.

Kirk was taken aback. "I...It would be my pleasure."

"Call my office while you are stationed on Earth readying your ship. My assistant will be expecting you."

Kirk nodded acknowledgment, but the Andorian did not seem to be one for small-talk. His antennae bowing slightly, the ambassador moved away as stealthily as he had appeared. Despite his years of cultural training and experience, Kirk still found some alien dignitaries difficult to fathom.

With still no family in sight, Kirk noticed his new science officer making his way towards him along the reception line, having just excused himself from Admiral Komack.

Kirk’s smile grew genuine. "Lieutenant Commander Spock."

"Captain Kirk." The half-Vulcan approached him stiffly.

"It’s been a long time. I’m glad to see you’ve done well for yourself." Kirk nodded to the science specialist’s commendations.

"I have performed satisfactorily. You, however, have exceeded expectations," Spock complimented.

"Whose expectations? Starfleet’s? Or your own?" Kirk inquired.

"I would not know the expectations of Starfleet admiralty."

"Of course not." Kirk’s smile grew. Something about the way the half-Vulcan expressed himself had always amused him. One never knew what he was going to say.

Kirk glanced back towards the rec room entrance. Other guests had begun to arrive, but still no family. "My mother and Sam are here somewhere..."

"And Mayor Campbell. Yes, I greeted them in the corridor."

"You saw my family? I wonder what’s taking them so long to get here?"

"They were looking for the...relief facilities. I assisted them in their search."

"Oh." Clearing his throat, Kirk led his new science officer away from the reception line. "Spock, let me ask you a question... One of the more awkward things about being on a fast promotion track, is that on occasion I find myself CO of former Academy classmates. I’d like you to tell me honestly if this will be a problem for you." He studied the pale, dispassionate face.

The lieutenant commander shook his head in puzzlement. "I know of no reason there could be a problem, Captain. I come to serve in my science specialty."

"‘Jim,’ Spock. This is an informal social occasion. It’s okay to call me Jim."

Spock considered the request. "I have never called my commanding officer by his first name."

"And I’ll wager you’ve never previously been a classmate of any of your former CO’s either." Kirk would not be deflected. "What about my bringing in Gary Mitchell as First Officer? Any problem with that?" he asked pointedly.

Spock considered the question only momentarily. "You forget I am a Vulcan, Captain. I have no emotions in the matter." Again Spock stared back blankly, yet Kirk’s instincts detected evasion.

Kirk squinted at his pointy-eared companion. "Has anyone ever told you, Mister Spock, it would be impossible to forget you were a Vulcan? Ah, Gary, speak of the devil!" Mitchell was another officer he was happy to see. "Nice handling of the shuttle."

"Thank you, Captain. Nice speech," Mitchell said with a hint of his characteristic irony.

"Do you know Lieutenant Commander Spock?" Kirk asked, introducing his two most senior officers.

Mitchell nodded courteously. "We had classes at the academy."

"Indeed," was the terse agreement. Kirk found the greetings to be little better than reciprocal glares. A yellow alert went off in the intuitive recesses of his brain.

"Say, Jim," Mitchell turned back, resuming his usual familiarity, "I’ve been doing some recon on Captain Pike’s squeeze." He gave Spock a side-long glance.

Kirk cleared his throat in warning, but Mitchell continued. "Look a bit familiar to you?"

"Familiar? No. Should she?" Kirk asked with a tad of impatience. He would remember a woman like that.

"Her name is Ariel Cord," Spock provided, slightly annoyed with the topic. "She is an actress."

Kirk shrugged as the name was still meaningless to him.

"Debbie Joins Starfleet...?" Mitchell prompted.

"What?!!" Kirk sputtered. He recalled the image of the woman who pinned medals on Pike, who gave his mother a corsage... Different hair color. But it could have been her now that Gary mentioned it.

"So, Spock." Mitchell redirected his remarks to the half-Vulcan. "Have you seen much of your former captain’s girlfriend’s ‘body’ of work?" he asked drily.

Spock fixed Mitchell with a gaze of superior diffidence. "The people from my planet do not require such modes of entertainment."

Mitchell turned back to Kirk with a wry grimace. Kirk was already convinced Mitchell and Spock went together like fire and ice, but no time to cogitate potential problems in his future shipboard family now. His real family had finally made it to the reception.

"There they are... If you’ll excuse me." The two lieutenant commanders stared at each other another moment before Mitchell followed after Kirk.

"Mom! Sam!" This was the first Kirk reunion since Jim had come home from the Shenadoah. There were hugs all around with his mother and brother, his brother’s wife Aurelan, and his nephews, George and Peter. There were lots of exchanges of how good it was to see each other and how well they all looked.

"It was a beautiful ceremony, son," his mother expressed sincerely. "Quite stirring."

"Yeah, I had shivers going up and down my legs," his brother added only half-jesting. "Congratulations on your promotion."

"Thanks," Jim said, admiring once again the additional braid on his sleeves.

"Your Uncle Jack wanted to be here," his mother informed him, "but he has a special mare in foal, and doesn’t trust her to anyone else."

"That’s all right. Those ‘special mares’ do come first," Kirk agreed sincerely, having learned his priorities at his farmer grandfather’s knee.

"Can we see the ship, Uncle Jim?" Georgie asked eagerly. Little Peter, half his brother’s age and size, beamed up at him with an expression of hope and pleading that was irresistible.

"That’s all they’ve been talking about for days," Aurelan revealed. With his sister-in-law now standing, Jim noticed the slight roundness of her abdomen where her and his brother’s third child now gestated.

"I’m sure that can be arranged," Jim replied with a wink, indicating it was already in his plans. Ruffling the little one’s golden hair, he instructed, "Fuel up on all this great food, and then we’ll get underway."

The exultant boys obediently sped to the refreshment tables, while the rest of the party followed at a more sedate pace.

"Geez, Sam, are you sure those are your boys? I don’t remember them being that big," Jim commented to his brother.

Sam laughed. "Yeah, I think they must grow a millimeter a day. And so does Aurelan," he added affectionately, throwing an arm around his wife.

"Sam—" His glowing partner warned, though she wasn’t too upset.

"They know what causes that now, you know," Jim teased.

"Don’t we know!" Sam and Aurelan exchanged a look that indicated they had no intention of changing their behavior. Aurelan gave her husband a squeeze and then slipped off to supervise little Peter at the refreshment table.

Sam and Jim waited patiently for the other guests to fill up their plates. Sam asked softly, "Have you heard from Carol or David?"

Jim winced. "No. And I don’t expect to," he replied curtly.

Sam studied his sibling for a moment. Looking off around the room for another subject, he declared, "Well...This is one big ship, little brother."

Jim recovered quickly. "Two hundred eighty-eight point six meters stem to stern, one hundred twenty-seven point one meters in overall beam, seventy-two point six meters in overall height, with one hundred and ninety thousand metric tons," Jim reported with pride.

"Like I said, it’s a big ship," Sam repeated, with admiration.

"You must be Jim Kirk’s sister," the soon-to be first officer greeted Jim’s mother Marjorie in the line ahead.

"I must be," Marjorie answered tongue-in-cheek. "And a handsome charmer like yourself could only be Gary Mitchell," the mother retorted, pulling him into a hug. As she looked up at him again, she told him, "I was glad to hear you will still be working with Jim on the Enterprise. How are your parents?"

"Well...They’re back on Earth for the moment," Mitchell explained. "Dad retired last year. They’ve been taking an extended vacation down in Cabo San Lucas."

"Have them call me while they’re here." The Kirks and the Mitchells had known each other many years ago in Riverside.

"I sure will."

"Gary!" Sam greeted their once childhood friend, shaking his hand. "I never would have pegged you for a starship driver."

"And I never would have pegged you to snag such a beautiful wife, Junior," Mitchell returned, smiling admiringly at Aurelan. Taking her hand, he explained, "You must be a woman of great compassion. George Junior was such an awkward child," he explained to her in mock sympathy. "I could tell you stories..."

"I’m sure you could," Aurelan chuckled knowingly. She had been warned about Mitchell’s reputation with women.

"So could I," interjected the deep voice of a familiar tall man.

"Sheriff Campbell—Well, well, this is quite the Riverside reunion," Mitchell quipped. "It’s like a wedding."

"Mayor Campbell," Marjorie corrected.

"Yes, what was that all about?" Jim asked. "Not getting too old for police work, were you?" he teased, eliciting a hearty laugh from his brother.

"No," Campbell replied a little too sharply. "Blame it on Kenny. He brought all that business to Riverside, and now all the city folk keep wanting to re-make our once-sleepy little town in their own image. I got into politics to try to preserve our agricultural roots and balance this new tax base, along with the influx of tourism."

"Tourism? From what?" Jim asked.

"The cave, of course," Sam informed him.

"The what?"

"Didn’t you hear?" Campbell asked. "After your friend Dixon completed his rehabilitative obligations, he contacted the North American Geological people to survey the lower level of Kirk’s Cave. He got conservation protection for it, donors to fix it up with pathways and stairs, and..."

"K-Kirk’s Cave?" Jim stammered.

"It’s been drawing tourists like manure draws flies," Sam jumped in. "And Dave tells everyone about how the two of you re-opened the lower level when you were kids, and how you figured out that bad guys were using it as a cache. I learned a heck of a lot more about what was going on from him than you ever told me," Sam said pointedly, slugging his little brother in the arm.

"You’re famous, Jim," Aurelan said simply.

"You’d know that if you ever came home for a visit," his mother added.

Jim was too dumbfounded to speak, as he rubbed his bruised arm. The cave had once been his private refuge. But the last time he had gone inside, it had almost become his tomb. He hadn’t been back. How ‘bout that Dave Dixon; he finally found a positive direction for his life.

"You said they surveyed the lower level," Jim said out loud. "Did they find an alternate way to the surface?"

"Not yet," Sam explained. "The tours are just through some of the main chambers. They figure it will take years to map it all. The underground river system is quite extensive."

"Don’t I know," Jim murmured, having wandered countless miles through it himself.

"Funny thing," Campbell mused. "They never could find that chimney you said you and Spock shimmied out of."

"Well, it was back up beyond the cave-in," Jim pointed out.

"They re-opened that. Partially, anyway. Only the survey team and a few spelunkers go up there."

"Tell them to backtrack the main branch of the river to the siphon wall. The chimney was in the ceiling of that chamber..."

"Yeah, well, I understand they never could locate that siphon chamber either..." Campbell explained.

"What?" Jim couldn’t believe it would be all that hard to find again. "I’ll have to come over and check it out while I’m here."

"Let me know when you do, little brother, and I’ll join you."

Jim nodded to Sam, then noticed an odd glance between his brother and Campbell. He was suddenly suspicious of the enigma, and wondered whether it was just a ruse to get him back to Riverside for a visit...

Their party formed out along the food table, lapsing into silence as they loaded up from the beautiful spread of victuals set out for the occasion.

As Jim chowed down on the diverse Human and exotic finger foods, his attention was suddenly arrested by the gorgeous dark-haired woman whom Spock had identified as Ariel Cord. She walked gracefully across the rec room and took Captain Pike’s arm. Some guys have all the luck, Jim mused.

Tearing away his gaze, Kirk noticed his mother was now speaking with someone he hadn’t noticed before. There was something familiar about the medium-sized Hispanic in the civilian leisure attire. Finishing off the Centauran canape, Jim realized who it was.

"Commander Rodriguez! I didn’t know you were here."

"Jim!" The retired academy instructor turned a brilliant smile to his former student and they shook hands. "I just heard about the ceremony. Hope you don’t mind a party crasher."

"Not when you’re the ‘crasher’... It’s good to see you! It’s been a long time."

"I don’t drop in on just any of my former students, but...I figured Marjorie would be here," Rodriguez said with a wink. Then nodding across the room, he noted, "I see you’ll be teamed up with Spock once again." The instructor’s mouth formed a devilish grin, remembering the Physical Readiness class where things had gotten out of hand once and the two midshipmen had ended up in a scuffle.

Jim also remembered. "Hopefully it’ll work out a little better than before," he said a bit sheepishly.

Marjorie picked up on the vibe. "Why? What happened before?"

"You know the ‘code,’ Marjorie," Rodriguez reminded. "What happens at Starfleet Academy, stays at the Academy." And to Jim, "And what happens in space..."

"...Stays in space," the two officers repeated together.

"Right," Kirk’s mother agreed dubiously. Knowing nothing more would be forthcoming, she asked, "How are your kids doing, Raf? All grown now, I imagine."

"Almost... My youngest turns eighteen this year." Rodriguez frowned. "He wants to go into the Interstellar Service, of all things! Become a diplomat. Where did I go wrong?" the old commando asked with angst.

His mother laughed like Jim had only rarely seen her do. "I’m sure you did the best you could. Maybe it’s a phase he’ll grow out of," she suggested lightly.

"Ojala," the Bolivian native sighed, scanning the group of dignataries across the room. "Jim," he began, still looking at the diplomats, "a little friendly advice, eh? Now that you are in the Big Leagues, with a ship of the line... You’re going to have to watch your back."

"My back? What do you mean?"

Rodriguez turned cagily to his one-time student. "I mean politics, my young friend, can de-ship a captain faster than hostile fire. Your mother can tell you. There are two kinds of Starfleet brass or Federation officials: there are competents and warriors... and then there are credit crunchers, interested in punching their tickets and advancing their own careers. Take Grant, for example..." The veteran nodded towards the commissioner whom Jim had thought was boring. "Never saw a peace treaty he didn’t like, even if it puts Federation interests at a disadvantage and Starfleet personnel at risk."

Jim Kirk re-considered Grant’s earlier topic of conversation.

"But not Shras," his mother interjected.

"No, Shras, on the other hand," Rodriguez re-directed, "can be an important friend on the Council. He used to own a small fleet of merchant ships. He’s gone up himself against Kzinti and Orion raiders. A few drinks and he’ll tell you the most amazing stories."

Jim caught Rodriguez in an inconsistency, "I thought you didn’t drink," he needled.

"I don’t," the instructor clarified.

"You think Shras is the real deal?" Jim grew serious, remembering the ambassador’s invitation to come see him.

"Oh, yes."

"Listen to Raf, Jim," his mother counseled. "He knows his warfare, in its many forms."

Jim marveled at his mother’s comment.

"Shras’s beverage of choice is Saurian brandy," Rodriguez informed matter of factly. "But like William the Conqueror, he never drinks more than thrice, that he not lose control."

"Of course, sometimes it can only take once," Jim quipped, remembering a certain blue ale.

Rodriguez smiled broadly and his eyes twinkled. "Now, you sound like your father."

"Incoming," Marjorie suddenly injected quietly, an unusual sparkle in her own eye. Both men turned to see Commander-in-Chief Starfleet making his way directly towards them.

"Red alert," Rodriguez added softly, and Jim’s mother chuckled again at some inside joke.

"Marjorie! It’s been a long time." Admiral Nogura took Jim’s mother’s hand in a gesture of familiarity.

"That it has, ‘Chiro," Marjorie returned, employing a nickname. "I notice you still haven’t worked the bugs out of a Universal Stardate System yet."

"It’s...complicated," the admiral admitted with an abashed smile. "But we think we’re close this time. Good to see you, Raf," the C-n-C turned to the ‘Black Ops’ officer. "I owe you one for that little job you handled for us a few weeks back."

"You owe me more than one, Admiral," Rodriguez replied with a civility that almost camouflaged the edge. "But who’s counting, eh?"

Jim turned to Rodriguez. "I thought you were retired."

"That’s what you’re supposed to think," Nogura and Marjorie both said at the same time.

Jim noticed his brother was tentatively on approach. "Admiral, I’d like you to meet my brother, George Samuel Kirk, Junior," he said, drawing Sam in.

"George...if I may call you that. It is a pleasure to know you," Nogura greeted warmly.

"Admiral," Jim’s brother greeted amiably.

"You look so much like your father."

"Both of his sons do," Rodriguez added.

"Very true," the admiral agreed.

"They could almost pass for twins if George didn’t have that awful moustache," Campbell opined, as he and Governor Bell joined the group.

Jim squinted at his brother, who was now smoothing his moustache as though soothing it from the offending remark. "I never thought we looked that much alike. Did you, Sam?"

"Naw-- I’m much better-looking," Sam joked.

"Captain," Governor Bell interjected, "I hope you will introduce me to your mother."

Marjorie didn’t wait for an introduction, but put forth her hand. "Glad to know you, Governor. I was happy to see there was someone who can govern within a budget. Maybe you can give Wade a few pointers," she added with a wink.

Campbell’s mouth dropped opened. "Now just a darn minute, that was the Council’s doing not mine!"

Iowa’s governor chuckled. "Budgetary juggling is not easy, I can tell you. Do call me Judi." She then turned again to Jim. "So, Captain, I understand you are acquainted with Mayor Campbell’s son."

"Oh yes, I know Kenny."

"You know that old Z12 Kenny’s got on display in the lobby?" Campbell asked. "That was originally Jim’s, back when I used to burn out my compuclipboard writing speeding tickets."

"Riverside’s a small town," his brother Sam reminded. "Or used to be."

"The Kirks and the Campbells are old family friends," the mayor explained. "I grew up with Jim’s dad."

"Ah, I see."

In the lull, Campbell turned to Jim. "I’ve been meaning to tell you, Mandy says to tell you ‘Hi’ and ‘Congratulations.’"

Jim beamed. He had a lot of questions about his old flame, but they would have to wait for a more private moment with her father. "My greetings and compliments in return. We’ll have to talk..." Jim added softly. The old family friend nodded agreement.

"Mayor," Rodriguez had become all but invisible during the last exchange of pleasantries, but now queried, "did you say your name is Campbell? Wade Campbell?"

"Yes, that’s me."

"Oh, ho!" Rodriguez brightened. "I feel like I know you! George used to tell us the most amusing stories about the trouble the two of you and his brother Jack used to get into... I recall one... where the two of you were involved in some sort of club initiation?"

Campbell reddened and pulled out his credit chip. "All right. How many credits will it cost me to keep these stories buried where they belong."

"I’m sure whatever the price, Jim and I will beat it," Sam declared.

"You could become a rich man, Raf," Marjorie quipped.

"Knowledge is power," grinned Rodriguez with a glint in his eye.

"Captain. Excuse me." Captain Pike drew alongside. "I hate to interrupt your visit with your guests, but we do have some business to complete, and I’ve just learned that we can catch a transport that leaves in an hour."

"Oh...yes, of course."

"Uncle Jim, can we see the ship now?" His two young nephews came thundering up just then, ready for their tour.

"Hold on boys." Their father’s tone of voice reined them in. "Your uncle has some business he needs to attend to."

Jim felt torn. He had promised the boys a tour, and he really, really wanted to hear these stories about his dad and Wade Campbell. Duty could be such a demanding mistress.

Pike seemed to perceive his dilemma. "May I make a suggestion?"


"Mister Spock!" Pike called over the science officer who was followed by his actress beauty.


"Spock was just going to show my friend Ariel Cord around the ship," Pike explained to Kirk and his company. To the lieutenant commander, he asked, "Would you mind including Captain Kirk’s party in your tour, while the captain and I complete our business?"

The dark Vulcan eyes seemed ever so briefly to register an alarm at the large party before him. It passed quickly, however, and only a dispassionate poise returned. "Of course, Captain."

"Does that meet with expectations?" Jim asked Georgie and Peter. They nodded wide-eyed, staring at their exotic looking guide. "Good." He looked then to Pike.

"It shouldn’t take us too long. We’ll catch up with you when we’re finished," Pike added, in particular to his lovely companion.

Jim gave quiet instructions to his brother. "I want a full report on all of Rodriguez’s stories."

"You got it," his brother reassured. "Just like the ‘full report’ you gave me about the cave," Sam razzed.

Jim and Pike nodded their ‘by your leaves’ to the governor and C-n-C, then departed to their final duty in the change of command.


Pike and Kirk stood together in the turbolift as the flashes of lights clocked off the passing decks, each man lost in respective thoughts of the future and past.

Pike cleared his throat. "I heard your last mission was a rough one."

"Yes..." Kirk offered, not inclined to talk about the disastrous end on the Shenadoah. "Yours as well," he returned courteously.

"Any mission where you lose crewmen is rough," Pike concluded the obvious.

Kirk nodded agreement, and the two men again stood silently. The turbolift slowed its horizontal run through the engineering hull to begin its vertical climb. It was only now that Jim experienced viscerally just how big the Enterprise really was.

"I hear you and I have something else in common," Pike tried again.

"Oh..." Kirk looked up at the more senior captain. "What’s that?"

"We both like to ride."

Kirk’s brow furrowed. "I beg your pardon..."


"Oh...yes," Jim chuckled. He hadn’t seen a horse in years. "Grew up with them. Had my own back in Iowa."

"Me, too," Pike added. "Out in Mojave. I had a big saddlebred—Tango was his name."

"Mine was a little Morab cow pony," Jim explained, a smile growing with the memory. "He had an instinct for cutting out cattle better than I did."

"They say there’s nothing better for the inside of a man than the outside of a horse... I mean to test that theory for myself," Pike declared as the turbolift arrived at Deck Five.

Kirk’s smile faded a bit as the two captains walked down the hall. There it was again, a revelatory admission of the pain that must have been smouldering inside the other man. Jim admired Pike’s self-image, his self-confidence that would allow for that kind of confession of weakness. He doubted he ever would.

They entered the captain’s quarters. Pike’s name had been removed from the identification plate, though the new name had not yet gone up. Kirk scanned the cabin, sleeping area separated from work space. It seemed spacious compared to his quarters on the Shenadoah, another indication of his career progression. Rank hath its privileges, he recalled with satisfaction. And also more responsibility...

Pike squatted down and opened the safe. Kirk made note of the combination. Pike withdrew a folder, rose, and handed it to his successor. "The Enterprise command packet. It’s all there: the ship codes. The keys to the ship."

"The keys to the Enterprise," Kirk repeated the archaism as he received the command packet.

"Per regulations, I’m to remind you that you’re required to change all codes..."

"...Within seventy-two hours. Yes, of course." Kirk knew well the obligatory instruction. He opened up the packet and browsed several computer tapes. Setting the folder down on the table, he held one up. "This is the current inventory?"


Kirk slipped the tape into the computer input slot and brought the information up on the screen, scrolling through it with a knowledgeable eye. Their stores were greatly depleted, as expected. Re-supply would be keeping Mitchell busy and off the streets, Kirk thought with satisfaction.

Pike picked up a second tape. "This one is your personnel files."

Kirk glanced over and nodded, before turning back to the data lists. He would study that one soon enough.

A moment later, Pike asked, "Have you worked with a Vulcan before?"

Kirk began to shake his head negative and then realized who Pike was referring to. "I knew Spock back at the Academy."

"Oh?" Pike studied his successor sidelong, trying to gauge how amiable that relationship might have been. "I think you might find him changed since then."

"How so?" Kirk asked hopefully, wondering if the half-Vulcan had ever embraced his Human heritage.

Pike pondered while answering. "He’s more seasoned..."

"Well, I would hope we all are," Kirk blurted out.

Pike smiled. "I know you have your own Number..." Pike caught himself, and pushed aside the sudden painful memory. "...Your own Exec, but I think you’ll find Spock a valuable asset on your staff. He’s got a remarkable memory for useful data, and his cool head has made him a ‘go to’ guy in a crisis. You might not always like what he has to say, though, because he’ll never sugar coat the bad news."

"Not unlike the Spock I remember. I was a bit surprised to see he’s a line officer now."

"My philosophy is that a senior officer who spends that much time on the bridge needs to know the protocols and have the authority. In Spock’s case, I just made an honest man of him. He’s been telling us what’s what since he was a j.g," Pike quipped.

Kirk chuckled, not surprised to hear that at all.

"He says he’s not interested in command," Pike continued, "but just between you and me and the bulkhead, I think his stint as acting first officer gave him the bug. He’s still a little rough on the interpersonal, but I think he’ll get there."

Kirk was pleased to know that Spock had found a mentor in Captain Pike, who seemed to have an almost fatherly interest in the half-Vulcan’s welfare and career. Not unlike how he remembered Captain Garrovick. "I’ll keep that in mind," Kirk said out loud.

"Mister Scott, on the other hand, went to command kicking and screaming. I had to bribe, threaten, and twist his arm to get him to take the protocols. But I would trust the ship to him before I would some of the command trainees they sent me."

"Mister your chief engineer?" Kirk recalled the pleasant Scotsman.

"No. He’s your chief engineer," Pike reminded good-naturedly. "He knows the ship better than those who designed her, and deserves the title of resident Miracle Worker. Oh—but don’t let him snow you. He tends to pad his estimated repair times so that he’ll look good when he comes in ahead of schedule. Mind you, I’ve never told him I figured out his little scam."

Kirk laughed. "I’ll keep it on the QT."

"He’s also a pretty good drinking buddy, if you go in for that sort of thing."

"I’ve...been known to indulge...on occasion."

"You’ll likely be losing your other senior officers. Doctor Piper’s retiring. Commander Grek is considering an offer from ComTel that I think he’ll take to be closer to his family."

"I’m sure we’ll be sent adequate replacements," Kirk opined confidently.

"Make sure your CMO, or at least one of your medical officers, has a background in psychology. I’ve found that helpful."

Kirk had a vague memory that his doctor acquaintance, Leonard McCoy, had some sort of training in psychology, along with his medical expertise. He hoped to get McCoy on to the Enterprise somehow.

"And one last piece of advice, if I may..."

"Certainly," Kirk replied, giving his full attention.

"Take your leaves. You won’t be doing your people any favors if you get burned out. Take it from someone who’s been ready to walk away."

There it was again, Kirk thought.

Pike looked off. "I don’t know whether they’ve done you any favors... Fifteen years ago, I was their fast-tracked prodigy." He looked back suddenly, hoping he wasn’t misunderstood. "Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure their confidence is well-placed," he reassured. "It’s just..." The handsome man’s brow furrowed in thought, but he couldn’t seem to express what was on his mind.

"...I should take my leaves?" Jim deduced.

Pike’s blue met the hazel eyes again, and the older man finally chuckled. "And Ariel will kill me if I’m late for mine."

Kirk scrolled the rest of the way through the starship inventory, with Pike’s only comments about sections or departments, or replies to Kirk’s questions. With a last glance at the chronograph, Kirk reached the end of the inventory.

"Well... It looks like it’s all there," Kirk concluded pleasantly. He recorded his obligatory acknowledgment of having reviewed and received the inventory in the ship’s log, turned off the viewer, put the tape back in the pouch and the pouch back in the safe.

Pike punched the intercom and called for an update on Spock and his party’s location in the ship.

The Vulcan’s face appeared on the screen, "We are heading now to the bridge, Captain. Would you like us to meet you at your location?"

"No. That’s fine. We’ll join you on the bridge."

Just then, the playful Ariel suddenly draped herself over Spock’s shoulder to get into the viewing frame. Spock flinched at the contact, quite nonplused, but she kept him from getting away. "I want you to know, Chris, that your Mister Spock is an excellent tour guide."

Pike hesitated, just as startled as Spock by her action. "I’m glad to hear it, Ariel. Er... We’ll be up there shortly. Pike out." Pike took a deep breath, a mixture of consternation and embarrassment, but also with a hint of a smile apparent on his face. "Ariel’s a bit of a free spirit."

"I noticed," was all Kirk chose to say.

"We’d better get up there and rescue Spock," Pike added. Kirk grinned his agreement and followed Pike to the door. The new fleet captain paused and took a last nostalgic look around the cabin, then he and Captain Kirk headed for the bridge.


Captains Kirk and Pike stepped out of the lift onto the circular bridge. The two men acknowledged the guard posted to prevent unauthorized access, a precaution with so many civilians on board, then scanned for a "feel" of the situation, as was the habit of each.

This command and control hub of the starship was traditional drab grey, relieved only by blinking lights and colorful nebula or charts on overhead displays. Jim’s brother Sam, Rodriguez, and Campbell stood in a triangle near the engineering station, laughing at the punchline of one of Rodriguez’s conjured tales. His nephews, Georgie and Peter were playing captain and helmsman in the center of the room, unconcerned that they were employing sound effects incongruent for the powering of a starship. And across the way, Spock was explaining the science station to his mother, Aurelan, and Ariel, who were taking turns peering into the gooseneck viewer.

Earth, from their orbital station, appeared on the main viewscreen in all of its blue-white magnificence. Jim suddenly felt light-headed, experiencing a confluence of time, an intersection, as it were, of his past and future in this moment and in this space.

Pike’s caution was still weighing on him, resurrecting the regret that Carol and David were not here with him, tempering Jim’s native optimism and passion for life. There was a chilling memory of the disaster on the last bridge where he had commanded, and almost a premonition of disasters and tragedies yet to come. Even so, what was it the chaplain had prayed? To live not by one’s fear but by one’s hopes. It was indeed how he would live; how he had always lived.

Spock was the first to note their entry, and his glance induced the women to turn also. Rodriguez and his companions now turned and gave greeting as well. Ariel and Chris walked to meet each other, while Aurelan hissed at her boys to leave the bridge equipment alone. But Jim just stood, remaining in this blessed momentary state of space-time, reviewing his life thus far, and anticipating a no doubt challenging but glorious future.

End Notes:
(click back to return to the story)

1. Adapted from a prayer by o. eugene pickett.

2. Adapted from The Submariner’s Prayer (traditional)]

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