Sulu had been looking anxious all shift. "Is it Thursday today? I kind of lost track of the days."
"Friday. Vwhy?" The end of Sulus anxiety, to the mind of Chekov, usually meant the start of his own.
"I promised Id spend an hour or so at the Hobby Barn, after I get off-duty. Helping with a bit of instruction, that is."
The "Hobby Barn" was the nickname the crew had for the Morale, Welfare and Recreation offices on Deck 12. The idea was to keep the officers and crew of a starship thoroughly entertained. In the offices were a number of activities for off-duty personnel, many of which were starter-kits for various hobbies.
"Hikaru, you are a vwalking Hobby Barn all by yourself. Who did you promise?"
"Uh, Scotty. He kinda talked me into doing it. You know how he is."
"And how you are, as vwell. Got vwolunteered, did you?"
"Well, sort of. I dont mind giving a hand, really. But what I prefer is relaxing with a bit of fishing on my day off, thats all."
"Vwhat do you mean fishing? Vwhat do you do? Cast lines out the shuttlebay doors?"
"No! I sit, and I errcontemplategoing fishing back on Earth."
l"You know, it is your time off, not Meester Scotts. If it had been me, Id have had a vword vwith Mister Spock. I think that Scotty is imposing on you and is plainly in the wrong."
"I told you: I dont mind," shrugged Sulu.
"Okay, if you say so, but I still vwonder about the legality of such a request. Its your time off, do vwith it vwhat you vwill." Chekov hoped his would be the last word on this matter, but the cynic in him somehow knew better, and it would not be proven wrong.
Later that day, there was a message for Sulu.
"Uhura to Sulu."
"Sulu here. If its my promotion, just sock it to me, pretty lady. I can take it."
The tone in Uhuras voice indicated a suppressed groan. "Stand down, Admiral. You are to report to Mister Spocks office on Deck 13 in ten minutes."
"Any idea what he wants?"
"He didnt say, and I didnt ask. Uhura out."
Sulu thought through things he had done recently, and couldnt think of anything questionable.
"Mister Sulu. Please be seated."
As always, the Vulcan was all business. The captain and perhaps McCoy might be able to discern his nuances of emotion easily, but most times, he was unreadable to Sulu.
When the executive officers door had closed, Spock began, "I have been made aware that you have been non-forcibly coerced by Chief Engineer Scott into spending some of your off-shift time to give instruction at the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office."
"The what? Oh, the Hobby Barn!" Sulus mouth dropped open and his eyes enlarged with surprise. "Sir, there was no coercion, either forcible or deceptive in nature. This was a request that Scotty made of me, and then persuaded me to accede to. I have no complaint against him. I might have a problem with whoever made you aware of what I consider to be a private matter. I really only told Mister Chekovwas it him?"
Spock, likely as not keenly aware of any show of open emotion, showed that he heard the fury building in Sulus voice. "Regulations state that I am not at liberty to disclose that information, but I will strongly suggest that you tread carefully in such speculative matters. It cannot serve you well, and you are bound to arrive at a poor conclusion. It may well not be the individual you imagine."
But as Sulu was dismissed, Spock could not be at all certain what the helmsman heard, and what he did not.
Sulu bounded down the corridor, skipping past several of his crewmates but denying them his usual acknowledgment. He was making straight for Chekovs quarters. When he reached there he pressed the door access chime and got the usual enter reply. He almost entered with fists clenched, but forced his hands open at the last minute. The attitude he presented upon entering, though, was decidedly two-fisted.
"You squealer!" Sulu snapped. "I thought you were my friend. What were you trying to do?"
For his part, Chekov merely sat there, looking astonished. "Vwhat vwas that for? Have you lost your mind, calling me a squealer? Thats how rumors get started, and I mean the kind you spend months shaking off."
"Admit it! You told Spock about the Hobby Barn thing. That was personal. I didnt expect you to blab about it all over the ship. I thought you were a friend."
"Vwell, I vwas a friend, before you likening me to Vyacheslav Molotov. How can you call yourself a friend, running in here vwith vwild accusations like that?"
As the argument was met and joined, there were muffled voices from the corridor outside. Somebody called "Security."
Neither Sulu nor Chekov noticed. "Look, just admit you blabbed, and Ill forgive you."
"Ahh. Is most gracious of you to do so, considering I have done no such thing. Back off, Lieutenant."
Sulu cocked his fist, and pulled back. "Chekov, tell me the truth, or I swear Ill..."
Chekov did likewise with his fist. "Or youll vwhat?"
"Youll both stand down and surrender yourselves. NOW, Gentlemen!"
Security Chief Giotto and two of his larger men took both the would-be combatants into custody, despite Sulus rather illogical explanation that "Hes a friend of mine, and we were just about to bash each others heads in. That was the noise you heard. Ask him."
Pavel Chekov responded, "Vwith friends like that who needs..." The words trailed off.
The security detachment decided the red-faced Chekov should go directly to Sickbay for a quick examination to determine whether or not he'd actually been struck by the helmsman while Sulu was marched off to the brig to cool off.
Half an hour or so later, Sulu received a visitor in the person of Commander Spock.
"I tried to tell you that you had reached the wrong conclusion. Were I in your position, I would find my time best utilized organizing these events in your own mind. By your own admission, you entered the quarters of a fellow crewmember, angered and quite ready to strike him. Mister Chekov maintains he raised his hand in self-defense. This is borne out by witnesses who saw your agitated state as you proceeded towards his quarters. Neither your presumptions nor your actions can be deemed logical."
Sulu shrugged, though not at all dismissively. "It all seemed logical enough for me, at the time. Sir, I will need to call you as a defense witness. I did what I did because of what you told me."
"I can be of no aid to you, Lieutenant. If you will recall, I never mentioned Ensign Chekov by name or inference."
"But I came straight from your office to sock Chekov!" said Sulu, with a hint of a smile. "Theres logic enough there."
Spock raised an eyebrow at this, and Sulu caught his own words.
He sat back down. "I am in soooo much trouble."
At 0950 hours next morning, after the most meager of breakfasts, but without his usual work out, Sulu was led from the brig to the main briefing room on Deck 7. At 1005 hours, the charge was read: Unwarranted threat of physical violence against a fellow crew-member.
Kirk looked like he plainly did not wish to be there, but at least he looked less angry than Sulu had feared. The case against him began with a brief statement giving the basic tenets and facts in the case. Their mere recitation made Sulu feel a chill, more than once, making him realize how foolish he had been.
Then, Chief Engineer Scott gave his testimony. "I am nae shy about seeking skilled instructors for this program. Tis a hands-on education on the ins and outs of various hobbies, and like it or nae, Mister Sulu is probably more familiar with these hobbies than any other crewman aboard. He took some persuadin, to be sure, but in the end, Sulu freely offered his time to assist me, when free time would come his way."
Next, Commander Spock told how he discussed with Sulu the question of employing Enterprise crewmen on off-duty days for approved Starfleet programs, in this case the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office. He outlined the possible misuse of personnel during their off-duties hours but did not state how the protocols would resolve the situation.
Kirk had not said much during Scott and Spocks testimony. He was notably less silent during Chekovs.
"Mister Chekov? You realize you are under oath, Ensign?"
"Vwery much so, Kyptin."
"All right. Mister Chekov, did you tell Mister Spock about your admitted concern that Mister Scotts request to Lieutenant Sulu was an improper one?"
"Nyet, sir. I did not speak with Commander Spock on that matter."
"No words, gestures or motions of any kind, sir. Nor did I direct anyone else to speak with Meester Spock, nor did I even mention it at all to anyone!"
Kirk raised a hand in the air, letting the flustered Chekov catch his breath before he continued. "Mister Chekov, when was the next time you discussed the matter in question?"
Chekov shook his head. "Vwhen Sulu barged into my quarters. I vwould like to swear to that, and yet"
Kirk half-frowned. "Yet what, Ensign?"
Chekovs face fell. "Sir, I believe that I did not tell anyone about vwhat I discussed vwith Meester Sulu. And yet, it must have been me! No one else vwas present. I dont know how I did it, but I must have given him away."
Kirk saw Sulus pain at this self-flagellation on Chekovs part, and in effect called a halt to matters. "Mister Spock, on my authority, I order you to reveal the name of your informant. I accept full responsibility for any consequences that may result."
"Under those terms, Captain, and owing to these confused circumstances, the informant in this case was Ensign Theodore Hubbert."
Kirk shook his head. "Who?"
Glances at Sulu and Chekov showed no signs of name recognition. Everyone looked enquiringly at a neighbor. No one seemed to know this crewman. The captain called for Ensign Liann Po, the ships personnel officer to take the stand.
Once seated, Ensign Po quickly checked her records, and read out, "Ensign Hubbert is a janitorial supervisor, Decks Eleven through Fifteen."
Kirk called Uhura on the bridge and issued orders for Ensign Hubbert to be found and brought to the hearing.
At the resumption of the hearing, all eyes turned as a seemingly surprised Ensign Hubbert entered the court and the witness box, where he was sworn in.
Kirk still looked at the man as though he were difficult to see, and he was not the only one doing so. "State your name and rank for the record, please."
"Theodore Hubbert, sir. Rank: Ensign."
"Did you discuss with Commander Spock the matter of Helmsman Sulus plans for activities at the Hobby Barn?"
"I did, sir."
"Sir, I believe off-shift times are for crew to relax, and no other purpose. It is my understanding that Starfleet regulations specifically say as much."
"I see. Mister Hubbert, are you an expert on Starfleet regulations, regarding a starships crew?"
"I read the regulations in my off hours. Before I signed on with Starfleet, I had been a union boss on Regulus Five, sir."
A slight giggle went round the court. Hubbert would only learn much later the low regard his prior job was held by Starfleet personnel. Regulus V was renowned for its rather inefficient union system which allowed for officiousness to become the order of the day. The derogatory term, "Herbert," had been coined on the planet.
"I will have order in this hearing, people. Now, Mister Hubbert, who told you about Helmsman Sulus activities?
"Nobody did," admitted Ensign Hubbert.
Kirk kept calm, but did not look pleased. "Obviously, someone must have, Ensign. Or did it come to you in a dream?"
"I...overheard Helmsman Sulu talking to Ensign Chekov, sir."
In the ensuing silence, several deep sighs could be heard. Sulu tried to look at Chekov, and to his surprise, his gaze was met, not with anger, but with relief.
Kirk and Spock conferred momentarily.
Kirk lightly glared at the recent witness. "Mister Hubbert, you are directed in the future not to act on overheard conversations, unless the matters discussed might endanger this ship and its crew. In matters such as these, I believe the interested or aggrieved parties themselves should be the ones to come forward, again barring the instance of criminal activity. While well-meaning, your efforts have disrupted this crew and in particular, the friendship of two of my senior officers. One it seems, was apt to jump to all manner of conclusions."
Kirk looked at Sulu. "Lieutenant, I need to bring home a point about such half-cocked efforts at confrontation. Ive already been spoken to about such tendencies on your part by a fellow captain. Just force yourself, if you must, to be a little calmer about learning what you believe to be the truth, because it isnt always. I would have thought I wouldnt have to bring that point home, but apparently I do."
Kirk drew a deep breath. "The defendant will stand. Hikaru Sulu, I find you guilty of the charges brought forward today. I sentence you to fifty hours assisting Mister Scott in the Hobby Barn, er, the Morale, Welfare and Recreation office. Hopefully, youll learn not to jump to conclusions."
"Kyptin? Unless you object, I vwill join Mister Sulu in his punishment time at the Hobby Barn."
Kirk nodded. "You did nothing wrong, Ensign. But I think I see why youre doing this, so no objection at all. Case is dismissed; this hearing is over."
As everyone left, Sulu turned to Chekov. "Look, this is my punishment. Like the man said, you did nothing wrong."
Both men cast a grimace at a retreating Hubbert before Chekov responded. "Is no sacrifice. Like the man also said, he saw vwhere I vwas going."
"Is this to repair our friendship?"
"Nyet. Vwas repaired by sheepish look on your face. Plus, at one point, I really thought I had done it, somehow."
Sulu was confused. "Then why join my punishment?"
Chekov chuckled. "Lets just say that I have come to realize that it is a vwery good idea that you know vwhere I am as often as possible. If I am right in front of you, I cannot be squealing, da?"
Sulu would, as Kirk predicted, grow tired of the Hobby Barn duty. But it would not be a result of the work itself, nor the free time lost. It would be from Chekovs constant digs, informing the helmsman of his whereabouts so often, he came to wish the soon-to-be navigator would just get lost.
And yet, they became the closest of friends...
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