June 12th 2267
With a stony face, Chekov stared at the configuration of wood, hemp and fabric moving subtly before him.
"Youve got to be kidding...sir," he added, but there was neither deference nor respect in the tone.
"Chekov," Kirk smiled charmingly, hazel eyes sparkling. "Im putting you in command."
"This is not how I pictured spending my leave," the younger man retorted. Admittedly, he had felt honored when he was invited along on shore leave with the Enterprises senior officers. At first. Now he realized there was far more enticing things on Earth for him to do. He hadnt a clue that his captain planned to hurl him out onto the vast Pacific Ocean.
Of course, he was also considering the fact that hed be locked in a deathtrap with these people that hed only known seven months. Hed actually imagined he might live through an entire year in Starfleet.
Or at least have the dignity to die somewhere in deep space.
"Permission to speak freely, Captain?"
"Frankly, sir, I think you have a problem with competition," he blurted out.
"Mister Chekov!" Kirk proclaimed. "Think of this as a team training exercise. Youre Assistant Chief Navigator now; that makes you an essential part of the ships senior command team."
Brown eyes wide, the younger man stared at him quietly. "Starfleet recommends that Assistant Department Heads on starships be at least Lieutenant junior-grade officers. I dont recall receiving the final approval for my posting yet, and while Im not that green, I"
The captain scowled elaborately. "Ensign, are you saying that you have no confidence in my persuasive abilities with Starfleet Command, or with my judgment of my command personnel?"
"No, sir. Im saying Id rather spend the rest of my life in Kolymar."
"A former Soviet gulag," Sulu supplied helpfully from his position standing next to the navigator, arms folded patiently across his chest.
A wry grin split Kirks face. "You see, Chekov? Youve already managed to make great strides in the confidence level you have in confronting your commanding officer with conflicting opinions."
"You cant order me to spend my shore leave with you," the navigator maintained stoically.
"No," the captain agreed, nodding deeply. He gestured at the people assembled around them. "But I can appeal to your sense of loyalty to the Enterprise. Do you actually want the command team of the Valiant to beat your own ships team?"
"Why cant you just challenge them to war games?" he answered sullenly. "You know...in space."
Like a normal Captain Chekov didnt say it, but James Kirks hazel eyes reflected that he had definitely heard it anyway.
"You spent several summers on a sailing ship before entering Starfleet Academy. With you in command, we can win."
"Who told you that?" the navigator demanded.
"Its in your file."
"Who reads those things?" he muttered.
Chekov jammed his arms across his chest tightly, his dark eyes moving back to the ship docked behind his captain. "Sir, we never raced anyone."
"But you know how to sail," Kirk insisted.
The younger man paced up to the edge of the wharf. "Shes a schooner; I spent my time on a square-rigged ship."
The captain stepped up next to him, folding his hands behind his back. "You were on the Nelzya. Shes a bark; her mizzenmast is fore-and-aft rigged," he stated without looking at the man. "I own a sailboat. Between the two of us, well be unbeatable."
Captain Kirk has far too much time to read, Chekov decided darkly.
Kirk reminded him, "Youve already got a trained helmsman. Sulus been out sailing before!"
"I cant steer a wooden sailing ship," the Enterprises helmsman blurted out, himself alarmed now. "I can barely walk on one, sir!" Sulu was flustered.
"Pavel," Kirk entreated warmly, using the mans given name for the first time since they met. "Havent you any of the sea left in your blood? Look at her! Doesnt she still call to you to tame the wind and the water? To venture out on her in the footsteps of Horatio Hornblower?"
"Hornblower was never a sailor, Captain!"
Kirk glanced over at him sharply, blinking in mild surprise. "What do you mean?"
"I mean just what I said, sir. Horatio Hornblower was an officer. He never served before the mast; he didnt actually work the ship. He was an officer," Chekov repeated curtly. "You know...like you!"
The captain straightened, understanding full well that hed just been insulted by the navigators reasoning.
Besides, Chekov thought morosely, Hornblower and all his adventures are fictional. Does Captain Kirk actually not realize the difference?
"You see that," Uhura added, moving up behind her young friend and slipping both her arms around his waist. "Havent you any sense of responsibility for keeping your shipmates alive, Pavel?"
He glanced back at her and she let her long lashes flutter over her dark eyes several times.
"Besides," she drawled. "Youre not the only one here who reads Russian, you know." She patted his chest significantly.
Chekovs eyes glanced down at her hands and he paled noticeably. In the most casual of civvies, he was dressed in athletic shoes, jeans and a T-Shirt. Theyd all seen the shirt on the Enterprise occasionally; his grandmother had given it to him and it was one of his favorites. Across a compass, several Cyrillic words were scrawled on its front. When asked, he always said It says what I do.
"Whatever yanks your chain, ëþáîâíèê."
"What does it say?" Kirk asked now, craning around to peer at it again.
Chekov tightened his arms around his body, color flushing into his face.
Uhura giggled, undraping her arms and sauntering away. "Oh," she drawled lovingly to the captain. "It does describe what he does for a living." She turned to the navigator. "Ill tell him," she shot back at Chekov, eyes bright. "Unless you help us win this race."
Sulu smirked and glanced away.
"I think were being left out of something," McCoy rasped.
"I know were being left out of something," Kirk retorted.
The captain also knew his assistant chief navigator had been studying his prospective command while he stood there. "So, youll accept this command assignment?" He gestured to encompass Chekov, Uhura and Sulu. "With the three musketeers, the doctor and myself, we cant lose. Youve got a winning crew."
Ive got a migraine Chekov corrected mentally.
"We can alter her as necessary?" the navigator inquired aloud as his eyes continued to move over the schooner.
"Yes," Kirk responded in victory. "Yes!"
Chekov snorted, turned on his heel, and strode toward the land end of the dock.
"Where are you going?" McCoy demanded in outrage.
"To get scuba gear," the navigator retorted. "Im not getting on that thing without checking her hull."
Sulu paused, eyes fixed on the two thin ropes he had stretched vertically on the board he now balanced on his up-turned thighs. Lines of frustration burrowed their way out from the corners of his eyes. He growled under his breath and began to tear at the horizontal rope twisted around them.
"What are you doing?" Kirk asked curiously as he paused next to the helmsmans seated form.
"Im making a lanyard," the helmsman explained.
McCoy stepped up on the other side of him and eyed the board. "Whats that used for?"
Pausing again, he twisted his head and peered up at the doctor. "Its used to make myself look busy," he smirked. "So Pavel doesnt find me any real work." He gestured to the navigator. "Havent you ever noticed that our navigator is always busy? You never see him just sitting around doing nothing."
"He has a very driven personality," the captain agreed.
"Pavel Chekov can be exhausting," Uhura observed emphatically from where she stood, arms draped leisurely over the ships wheel.
"It has nothing to do with his personality," Sulu elaborated. "Its training. Sailors are never allowed to just lounge around; they have to keep busy." He shot a warning glance at the communications officer. "No talking, Penda."
"I dont know," he declared. "Its just tradition...superstition. The boat steerer isnt supposed to talk while at the wheel."
She rolled her dark eyes dramatically. "Well, fiddle-de-dee."
Kirk spun the roll of adhesive tape he held around his fingers. "It did take me time to get used to my assistant chief navigator drumming his fingers on the console in boredom."
Chuckling with abandon, Sulu went back to twisting the loose ends of rope around the ones fixed on the board.
The captain shifted his jaw, eyeing the younger man carefully. "Hikaru?" he prompted knowingly.
"Hes not drumming his fingers," the helmsman commented without looking up. "Hes practicing piano pieces."
"Piano..." Kirk stopped and straightened. "Piano pieces?"
"Yes," Sulu said. "Spock knows; hes even corrected Chekov when hes hit the wrong note."
The image of his first officer tapping on the console flitted through his mind. Hed always assumed he was recalling the navigator to his duty. "Well," the captain commented. "The only down time Chekov does seem to allow himself is while hes on duty at the navigation console."
An explosive burst of laughter erupted out of the helmsman, and he stopped his knotting as his whole body shook with amusement. "Captain," he asked when hed regained the ability to speak. "You dont actually still think Chekovs the fastest navigator in Starfleet, do you?"
Kirks jaw hardened, realizing full well he was at a disadvantage. "Hes the fastest Ive ever seen."
Sulu smiled broadly. "Chekov plots every possible course he can imagine you might ask for when he comes on duty, and at least one for his own amusement. He refigures them constantly as time goes along. He says it keeps him well trained. And while I dont know if its fair to say our assistant chief navigator is the fastest in Starfleet," the helmsman added, "hes certainly the most prepared."
The captain sighed, feeling as though hed been completely removed from his own bridge crew. "Hikaru," he prodded. "What course exactly does Chekov plot for his own amusement?"
"Oh, that." For the first time, Sulu showed hesitancy. He cleared his throat and looked around furtively.
Kirks eyes followed the helmsmans gaze. He was obviously checking for his friends location.
He cleared his throat again. "Lets just say it wasnt a teddy bear he slept with as a child." A smile swept over his face again. "His friend was of the rodent variety."
Chuckling in understanding, the captain shook his head in amazement. "Ah, yet another Russian invention."
"I dont get it," McCoy rasped with obvious irritation.
"Disney," Uhura supplied light-heartedly. "He plots a course to Disneymoon, Doctor."
Sulus dark eyes shot over to her in surprise.
She smirked and shrugged luxuriously. "Ive been in his cabin, honey. Mickey Mouse is in his closet."
"Doesnt he have the two of you doing something?" the helmsman questioned suddenly, scowling up at Kirk and McCoy.
"What he has us doing is sticking tape all over the ship," the doctor rasped, rubbing the back of his neck vigorously.
The helmsman gestured up at the spiderweb of hemp lines above their heads. "He has you labeling the lines. How else are you supposed to figure out which rope does what? Havent you heard the expression learning the ropes? Youre pretty useless on this ship until you know what each of them do."
"Hikaru, weve been up all night and its dawn. Im exhausted and starving," McCoy complained. "I hereby resign from busy work."
Sulu ducked his head down, trying to hide the fact that he was laughing again. "Were you in the rec room last week when Riley threw his latest fit?"
"He was having a problem with Chekovs supervision style," Kirk commented with a wry smile. "As well as having issues with an ensign giving him orders."
McCoy scowled in concern. "I was under the impression that Navigation liked the assistant chief navigator. Even Lieutenant Commander Riddle likes the boy."
"Larry likes everyone. And hes Pavels senior officer. But everyone else has the same problem with Chekov that Riley has," the communications officer elaborated. "Riley screwed up a repair, and Chekov was an utterly patient mentor. They just wish hed get angry once in awhile, or even dole out some old-fashioned discipline."
"Ive never known Ensign Chekov to have a problem expressing his anger," McCoy observed.
"Hes hot-headed," Sulu agreed. "He doesnt get angry."
The doctor rolled his eyes. "Im afraid I dont understand what their complaint is."
Sulus eyes drifted past the doctor as he spoke. He hurriedly went back to knotting the ropes in his lap. "You will," he muttered.
There was a thud as Chekovs bare feet hit the deck behind them in the bow of the ship.
McCoy twisted around, steel blue eyes narrowing as they shot from the ensign to the rope ladder hed just jumped off of. "Thats how you damaged your hips!" he declared. "You told me you used to jump out of a tree as a child!"
"No, sir," Chekov replied, scooping some items off a nearby hatchway and trotting up the short companionway to join his shipmates. "You came up with that one, Doctor. I just didnt argue with you."
"Well, stop it!" McCoy protested. "Im not repairing your hips again."
Pausing by the doctor, the younger man was shaking his head. "No one climbs off the shrouds; it takes too long. You jump."
"I dont plan to go up them to begin with," McCoy retorted.
"Well, here," the navigator continued, shoving more tape and markers into the doctors hands. "I notice that you and the captain seemed to have run out of marking supplies," he observed, a note of chagrin in his voice. "Im sorry your work was delayed by my inefficiency."
Sulu coughed reflexively.
Scowling, McCoy glared at Chekov. "Why dont you just say get back to work?"
Soulful brown eyes stared at him innocently. "You were doing such a good job; Im sorry you had to stop," was what Chekov said. "Forgive me. You only made one mistake," he continued, pulling a piece of yellow tape off a nearby rail. He pointed up. "See? There are no blocks on this line: its standing rigging. It gets labeled with red tape. Yellow tape is for running rigging."
"I dont see the difference," McCoy shrugged.
"The difference," Chekov said patiently, "is that standing rigging is holding the ship together and if you ever untie a line labeled with red, Ill kill you."
The doctor glanced at Sulu ruefully. "He seems to be working on that discipline problem."
The helmsman laughed.
"I dont see any air between your ass and that deck," Chekov commented, glaring at Sulu sharply. "Sailors dont sit."
Sulu scrambled to his feet, but was relieved from further attention by Uhuras giggle.
"Luft," Chekov warned her.
She glanced up at the sails to see the flutter in them that Chekov had only heard. Panicked, she quickly adjusted the wheel she held. There was a loud crash overhead followed by an endless stream of snaps.
With two quick strides, Chekov reached the wheel and grabbed it. He pulled it toward him until the sails roared again, screaming against the wind with the strain.
Uhuras graceful hand touched the base of her neck as she tried to catch her own breath. "Sorry," she gasped. Her dark eyes looked up at the stretched canvas, echoing with sound. "I always thought sailing was peaceful and quiet."
"Everyone does," the navigator commented, turning around to open a door on the console in front of the wheel. He studied the machine it hid.
"What is that?"
"It shows the course weve sailed," Chekov answered. He shifted so that she could see it.
She looked chagrined. "Not very straight."
"Neither is the wind," he smiled warmly. "Were right on course, Penda."
Uhura straightened and regarded him curiously. "I wouldnt mind having you for a boss."
"Tell me that in a week," he commented as he closed the door. "Hikaru, get over here and take the wheel."
"No," the communications officer protested. "I can do this, really!"
"I know; you did," the navigator agreed. "Youve been here two hours, though. A trick at the wheel is only thirty minutes. Its stressful. Besides," he winked at her knowingly, "Sulu can use a break from talking."
"I dont know how to do this," his helm partner insisted as he stepped up beside them.
"You can learn; Uhura will teach you. He who pilots ships knows all a heart can know of beauty and his eyes may close in death and be content," he quoted eloquently.
"Im perfectly happy not being prepared for death at the moment."
"You have no keys; theres no hurry to finish that key ring youre making. Go ahead, Penda; pass on the skills."
"Its a bracelet," Sulu called after him as he left them.
"I stand corrected," Chekov drawled, gesturing elaborately without turning back. "You can certainly use the ornamentation." He turned to McCoy. "Are all the lines labeled?" he asked the doctor, who was still standing watching his shipmates.
"Why dont you just call them ropes and sails like normal people?" McCoy rasped irritably.
"There are only seven ropes on a sailing ship and that line youre holding isnt one of them. Feel free to label the bell rope as well, if you care to."
"Listen," the older man continued, anger creeping into his tone. "Youve had us up all night. We had to put that damn wood on top of the sails..."
"Gaffs," Kirk interrupted. "He gaffed the sails, Bones. It increases the acreage, makes them handle easier and requires less people to handle them. Its a pretty important modification with so many green sailors aboard," he observed.
"Well, all this other busywork...cleaning the decks..."
"You swabbed them," Chekov corrected patiently. "It keeps them wet so they dont shrink, and we wont have to caulk them. If you were cleaning them, youd be on your knees with a brick and sand. Ill show you how to holystone later, if you like. I plan to avoid paying any of the seams while were aboard."
"Labeling all the ropes?" the doctor charged.
"What does the line youre holding do?"
McCoy scowled, his irritation growing visibly. "It controls the peak of the mainsail," he retorted.
"You didnt look," the navigator commented with bright eyes.
"Fine. Fine," the chief medical officer retorted. "But I dont see why we had to do all this in the middle of the night. A sane person would have left in the morning!"
Chekov stopped, soulful brown eyes widening as he regarded the doctor. He shifted after a moment, deep lines of concern furrowing across his brow. "I sorry," he said with a thick accent. "I make mistake, I think."
Kirk struggled with himself, but then just let go and outright grinned. His new assistant chief navigator had just confirmed what he long suspected. The breadth of his accent and his command of the English language varied by the situation Chekov was in.
"What day this?" Chekov was asking the doctor.
McCoy shrugged. "Well, its Wednesday."
"Oh," the navigator replied, blinking in confusion. "Sorry. I mistake again. What da.." he hesitated. For a moment, he looked almost panicked, gesturing as if trying to pull words out of the air. "Date," he finally pronounced. "What date?"
"What?" the doctor demanded in confusion.
"The twelfth," Kirk answered. "Its the twelfth, Pavel."
"Oh," the younger man said again. He thought for a moment. "Day race begins, no? In Russia, day starts at night. Not so in America?"
The captain laughed out loud. He couldnt help it. "The day officially starts at 12:01 a.m. everywhere on Earth," he confirmed. He had followed Chekovs lead on the schooner without questioning it as the doctor had. Now, however, Kirk realized something. Chekov had given a great deal of thought to his first command, as it were. And he showed skill at it.
"And during a race?" the young man was asking intently. He didnt wait for an answer. "Is not the goal to get there first?"
"Of course, and you certainly know it," McCoy rasped, shifting in irritation. The navigators contrived innocence had long since passed the point of being cute.
"Ah," Chekov mused. Dark eyes bright, he smiled brilliantly. "I think who leaves first, gets there first. No?"
McCoy screwed up his face and looked away, rolling his eyes. He shoved his arms across his chest to contain his embarrassment.
The navigators smile twisted into a crooked, wild grin, and he laughed. It was a kind laugh, however.
"Doctor," he explained warmly, his accent fading as he spoke. "This is a sailing vessel. We were only allowed to use the engine to get out of harbor. We rely on wind and water to move. When we left there was a strong tale wind and the tide carried us out to the current."
He gestured toward the back of the ship, his eyes taking in the empty expanse of water behind them. "The tide is coming into San Francisco this morning, and they have a head wind. You have to pilot a sailing ship to actually understand what that means to someone trying to leave harbor and set sail."
Brown eyes shifted to take in the acres of canvas straining against the wind above their heads. He shrugged, downright cocky. "Theyve already lost, Doctor."
"Well, can we at least eat breakfast now?"
"Of course," Chekov replied amiably. "Just as soon as you cook it."
Kirk stepped back and eyed his handiwork. The brass compass that hed been polishing gleamed in the sunlight. Satisfied, he turned and regarded his helmsman. Although reluctant to accept the responsibility at first, Sulu had quickly slipped into an age-old union with the helm of the sailing vessel.
"Hikaru," the captain drew out, his eyes on mans feet casually resting on the spokes stretching out of the hub of the wheel. "Should you be doing that?"
"Sure," he replied and turned a page in the book on his lap. "Ill show you pictures of Pavel steering the Nelzya when we get back to the ship. Besides," he added, eyes glancing up at the limp canvas stretched above them. "Its not like were going anywhere."
"True," Kirk agreed. They hadnt any wind in hours. His eyes shifted to his assistant chief navigator who stood leaning against the main companionways housing. Even though the man was figuring something in a notebook the captain was edgy to be doing something constructive about their situation himself. If the other schooner had wind, they were quickly losing ground. He reluctantly grabbed the brass cleaner and moved over to the hinge on the rail at the gangway.
Uhura took a seat on the housing behind Chekov, draping her long, ebony legs over the edge and allowing them to hang on either side of him. The assistant chief navigator had changed into white cotton pants that clung to his firm hips and thighs but swept loose mid-calf: exposing his ankles and bare feet. And his upper body.
She took to work kneading the knots out of his neck and upper shoulders. "Has it ever occurred to you that I might have a thing for men in power?"
He muttered at her in Russian, and she laughed light-heartedly.
"Dont make me hurt you," Sulu grinned, dark eyes glancing over at Kirk as he supplied the translation.
"I knew youd been home with him, Hikaru," the captain noted with mild surprise. "But I didnt realize you knew how to speak Russian."
"Just a few helpful phrases. You know...like how to proposition a woman."
"Like my mother," the navigator growled, his eyes closed as he churned his shoulders under Uhuras helpful hands.
"Sulu!" she gasped, pausing in her task. "You made a pass at his mother?!"
"Shes a beautiful woman," Chekov commented easily.
"I didnt know what I was saying at the time," the helmsman insisted and jabbed a finger at his younger friend. "He put me up to it!"
The man shot a glare at his helm partner. "I didnt expect you to do it with my father standing next to her!"
McCoy turned instantly. "What did the man do?"
"He hit Pavel," the helmsman shrugged. "Andrei knew I hadnt learned that particular combination of slang on my own."
The laughter swept around the group, and Chekov averted his bright eyes as color flushed through his cheeks.
Uhura took to swabbing his exposed back with sun block and came around the front of him, letting her hand trail luxuriously down his already darkening skin. She let one finger swirl in his glistening chest hair.
"Sweetheart, youre lucky Im the only woman on board."
"I stand relieved," Chekov assured her. He moved away then, hopping down to the lower deck and moving toward the bow of the ship.
"Penda," Kirk murmured, glancing over at her furtively. "What is your relationship with the other two musketeers?"
"Oh, please," she rolled her eyes as Chekov grabbed onto a tarred rope and swung himself up into the rigging. "I wouldnt have a shot if I wanted one. They think Im their big sister."
Grinning, Kirk moved over to the brass fixtures near Uhura. "So whats the tattoo?" he murmured without looking at her.
She shrugged and began smoothing the sun block on her own arms. "A blue X with a nasty looking two-headed bird on it."
"Imperial Eagle," Sulu said from where he sat, glancing up at them. "Its a Saint Andrews flag, the Russian Navy symbol." He looked to the navigator. "Pavel," he called out louder, baiting the younger man with amusement. "They want to know why you have a tattoo."
Kirks eyes widened in horrific embarrassment, but Chekov continued climbing without hesitation.
"Because teenagers are idiots."
Sulu grinned and went back to reading. It was obviously the answer he was expecting. "His father told him he didnt want his son to be the first twenty-third century sailor with a tattoo," he drawled in observation. Pausing to glance back up at Kirk, he flashed him a grin. "So he talked his friend into getting one first."
"Oh, good God!"
McCoys outburst interrupted the captains chuckle. "Bones, are you alright?" he asked with concern. The doctor was shoving the heel of his palm against the bridge of his nose.
"Im praying this will cause me to go blind, Jim," he declared.
"Wh..." he froze, pivoting around as McCoy shot another horrified glance into the sky behind the captain. Chekov was casually standing on the cross trees, the small platform of wood surrounding the foremast near the top. Leaning against the topmast, the navigator had a terrestrial telescope and was scanning the horizons surrounding the ship.
Kirk smiled warmly and turned back to his friend. "Bones, its okay; hes in his element. Chekov is probably more comfortable up there than on land."
"I doubt it," the doctor insisted. "Oh, I cant watch this. Hell fall, break his back, and then Ill have to spend hours in surgery patching him back together."
"Hes coming down," he assured his friend as the young man grabbed onto a backstay and slid down to the deck.
McCoy growled. "Im not cut out for this, Jim."
"Captain," Chekov intoned as he approached them. "Drop the anchor."
The captain swung around, eyes searching the water around them. Pointing to white caps off to the starboard, he asked, "Cant we make it there somehow?"
Chekov stared dismally at the spot the older man indicated. "Why?" he questioned dryly, turning back to Kirk. "Did you want to go fishing?"
The captain glanced back at the spot. "Isnt that..."
"No. Its not wind; its fish. There is no wind." The Navigator moved past him. "Its bad luck for sailors to fish," he added, his accent thick. "Drop the anchor."
"Where are you going now?" McCoy demanded.
"To my cabin. To sleep."
Sulu sighed in thought, carefully moving aside items as he rummaged.
"Whats that?" McCoy asked.
The helmsman looked up from where he squatted. "Its the tool chest."
"What are you looking for?"
Sulu stood up and brandished a large metal tool in the air. "A wrench."
McCoys eyes widened and he straightened, swallowing hard. "Why do you need a wrench?" he asked, his voice strident with alarm.
"Doctor McCoy," the younger man marveled. "Youve seemed quite on edge since you came aboard."
"Im that way when my life is in imminent danger," he rasped.
A smirk crossing his lips, Sulu bounced the wrenchs head into his palm several times. "You need to work on your trust issues," he said and pointed the wrench at him for emphasis. "Pavel knows what hes doing."
"He doesnt appear happy about doing it," McCoy insisted. "Whatever it is."
"Im working on it," the helmsman observed. He grinned easily and clutched the wrenchs handle for emphases. "Trust me."
Eyeing the lieutenant suspiciously, McCoy followed as he strode over to the unmanned ships wheel. "What...what are you doing?!" the doctor gasped in horror. "Jim!"
Kirk appeared by his side instantly. "Bones?"
"Jim," the man rushed, panic in his voice. "Theres something wrong with the steering wheel!"
The captain moved around the doctor so that he could see his Sulu. He was, in fact, loosening the main nut at the center of the wheel. "Whats the matter with the wheel?" he asked, forcing his tone to level through McCoys alarm.
"Chekov," the helmsman stated.
Kirk straightened. "Whats wrong with the wheel?" he repeated.
"Pavel Chekov. Ask the doctor," he advised and pulled the nut off with a flourish.
"Hes lost his mind!" McCoy declared. "Jim, stop him!"
Sulu chuckled, a glint in his dark eyes. "Doctor, you said so yourself. Chekov needs an attitude adjustment. Im adjusting his attitude."
He tossed the massive, loose nut at Kirk, who caught it reflexively.
"Penda," he called out to the woman who was standing at the chart table. "Is he still asleep?"
She twisted to peer down the companionway and into the captains cabin. "Still asleep," she confirmed.
The helmsman hesitated. "Are you sure hes not just laying there awake?"
Uhura shook her head and shrugged at him. "He looks like a corpse."
"Asleep," Sulu confirmed. "I just have to hedge my bets that hes going to stay asleep a little while longer," the Enterprises helmsman added.
"I dont understand what youre doing with the wheel," Kirk said, studying the large chunk of metal in his hand.
"I told you: attitude adjustment," he stated, latching onto the upper spokes and yanking. "Watch the master." Sulu stumbled back as the wheel broke free and flew off, hovering in mid-air in his hands.
"Oh, good God!" McCoy gasped.
"Sulu!" Kirk exclaimed, this time echoing his friends alarm.
"Put the nut back on, sir," the helmsman urged. "Tight...we dont want it to get lost."
"Where are you going?" the doctor demanded, his alarm growing as Sulu hoisted the wheel onto his shoulder and trotted quickly toward Uhura.
"Hikaru?" the woman questioned, alarm lacing her voice as well now.
"Just make sure he stays in that cabin, Penda," he urged. "Ill be right back."
He disappeared down the companionway with the wheel and left the other three officers looking dumbfounded.
Kirk shrugged in acceptance of his confusion and reaffixed the single nut which should have held the wheel on its pivot. "I have confidence in the officers of my command team," he reassured the doctor.
"I dont get it," Uhura insisted, wrapping her arms around herself.
"You will," Sulu smiled as he reappeared on deck without the wheel.
"What happened to the wheel?" McCoy demanded. "How are we supposed to get out of here without it? Jim, can we steer without a wheel?"
"Actually," the captain mused as he watched Sulu replace the wrench and close the tool chest. "The wheel is attached to a tiller, which moves the rudder, like on my sailboat. We could expose the tiller and steer her from below."
"Relax," Sulu chuckled in amusement. "Were not going anywhere yet."
"Shhh!" the helmsman scolded the doctor. "Patience!"
Uhura eyed him curiously. "So what are we supposed to do now?"
"Drink coffee," Sulu declared, sidling up to the constantly warm pot on the main companionways housing. "Were on a break. Believe me; we wont get many. Here," he prompted, pushing a cup toward Uhura.
She accepted it, looking satisfied with her utter confusion.
"Captain?" he continued, holding out another cup.
Jim Kirk smiled as he took it. "Far be it for me to question a scholar of the topic."
"What topic?" McCoy asked, accepting his own cup as he joined them.
"Why, Pavel Chekov, of course. You knew him before he posted to the Enterprise, didnt you?"
Sulu nodded. "He was assigned to my company at the Academy. Normally plebes arent assigned to share quarters with firsties, but allegedly thered been a major computer foul-up. I had to live with him the last year I was there."
"And now hes in the cabin next to yours, and you have to share a bathroom with him," McCoy observed, pity in his tone.
"I dont mind. Im a slob; he cleans up after me." A grin flashed over his face and he laughed. "Pavel says Im just organizationally challenged."
"Hes very gracious," Uhura agreed affectionately.
"Whats he going to do when he finds the wheel gone?" the doctor demanded.
"Shhh," Sulu scolded. "Hell be up here any minute."
McCoy scowled. "I know you two are close friends, but now youre telepathic?"
"No. The wind has picked up."
"What difference does that make?"
"The ship is moving again," Kirk explained knowingly, pointing at the deck beneath his feet. "The movement will wake him up."
Sulu turned and poured another cup of coffee, holding it out to Chekov as he reemerged on deck as predicted. "Weve got wind again," the helmsman commented.
"I noticed," the younger man said, taking a drought of coffee as his eyes glanced up. The canvas above his head was fluttering as the wind toyed with its limp sheets. He shuddered, his face wrenching in disgust.
"This is foul," he insisted, handing the back the cup to Sulu.
"I didnt tell you it was tea."
"Captain," Chekov instructed, "shorten the anchor chain."
The navigator hesitated, glancing over at Kirk. "I dont know," he commented. "Do you need help?"
"What do you mean I dont know?" McCoy blurted in alarm again. "I thought you were the expert here!"
"The Nelzya and the sailing ships like it are living history museums, Doctor. There arent any motorized wenches aboard them."
"You used a capstan," Kirk concluded.
"Hours of walking in circles," Chekov agreed. "Cant beat the exercise."
"Bones, help me."
"Belay that!" the navigator blurted suddenly, his eyes fixed on the stern of the ship.
"Something wrong?" Sulu asked light-heartedly.
The younger man glanced at him sharply, then let his gaze travel over his other shipmates. They all seemed studiously ignorant, except McCoy, whose face had noticeably grayed.
Chekov paced slowly toward the stern. His gaze fixed on the wheel house, he paused at the side of the binnacle and simply stood there, staring at where the wheel should have been. He fiercely turned back to level dark eyes at his helm partner.
"Pasha?" the man asked innocently.
A low growl emerged from somewhere deep in the navigators throat as he strode methodically back toward his friend. He stopped only a foot from the man and they stood there, dark eyes locked in silence.
In a testament to the reaction time the Alpha watch had developed between themselves, Chekov lunged at the exact moment Sulu bolted. Throwing his cup over the rail, the helmsman flew toward the bow of the ship, leaping over hatch covers and life boats with the younger man in close pursuit.
Sulus hand grabbed onto the foremast, and he spun himself around it. He raced back to the foremost companionway and dropped down it, disappearing from sight. The navigator passed it and threw himself down the second companionway. The sound of him tackling the other man echoed up onto the upper deck.
Only seconds later, the sound of running feet could be heard again as Sulu obviously broke free. He was tackled again moments later. Kirk buried his face in his coffee cup and laughed as he listened to the sounds of the two young men wrestling in the great room just below them. He had no idea what Chekov was yelling at his friend, but it didnt sound complimentary.
It was almost a disappointment when the sound stopped and the helmsman and navigator simply dissolved into peals of laughter which filled the expanse of the great room. Chekov was still grinning when he reemerged on the main deck, eyes shining and skin glistening from the exertion. Sulu followed close behind with the wheel over his shoulder again. He was trying his best to look sheepish, but it wasnt working.
"Whered you put it?" Kirk asked curiously as he passed.
The helmsman winked. "Your bunk."
Chuckling, the captain finished his coffee. He and McCoy were each assigned one of the two large cabins at the far end of the great room; both of them had double bunks. They still had no head room and the most distasteful of bathroom facilities, but he realized now it was about the only place the wheel could have been hidden out of sight without access to the locked bilge.
"Go ahead and weigh the anchor now," Chekov said easily to the captain as he passed.
"Aye, sir," he responded and gestured to McCoy to follow him. Sulus the master, he agreed silently. The assistant chief navigators irritated, tense exterior had dissolved completely away.
"Go fishing, Hikaru," the young mans voice was saying. "And be quick about it."
"I thought it was bad luck for sailors to fish," Uhura commented.
Chekov shook his head as he opened one of the doors in the housing before the wheel. "Not when its for the good of the planet." He shot at glance at the helmsman, now leaning over the rail with a net. "We dont trash the element that gives us life."
Sulu looked suitably chagrined when he produced the coffee cup he had thrown. "Its bad luck," he said.
"Sailors certainly seem superstitious," Uhura observed.
"They know the nature of the universe," the helmsman drawled elaborately, humor tugging at his lips as he replaced the net. A sparkle in his dark eyes was taunting when he glanced at his younger friend, but he hesitated when they fell on the navigators form.
Chekov had his hands balanced on the edge of the binnacle box and his head was down as soberly he listened to an ear piece that he had placed in his ear.
Sulu shot up a hand, silencing Uhura as his eyes stayed frozen on his navigation partner. His face went gray.
Immediately alarmed, the communications officer shot her own dark eyes over at the young man. The warm, boyish charm Sulu had managed to re-install in him had already disappeared. His flesh had become stone and an opaque film covered his dark eyes as he stared down at the open binnacle box.
"Anchors aweigh," Kirk called out from the bow.
"Get it up!" Chekov yelled, eyes wild and bright as they shot up. "Get it on the cat!! Neatly! Man the mainsail now!!"
The captain hesitated, but only momentarily. "Go!" he ordered McCoy. "Ill finish here," he declared even as he jammed on the wench again. The tone in Chekovs voice did not belong to a man just seven months out of the Academy.
The deep, resounding force of urgency struck immediately and resoundingly into the very soul of everyone around him. It held no panic. It held no fear.
But it clearly signaled danger.
"Anchors apeak," Kirk declared as he grabbed onto mainsail line and swept it off its wooden cleat.
"Not the braces!" the navigator bellowed as he scrambled up the mainmast. "Man the peak! Get the sail in!"
The captain quickly took a turn around the cleat to secure the line and grabbed for the other line without thought. He threw it back to McCoy.
"Arent you going to sing?" asked the doctor brightly. Every other time theyd worked on the sails the navigator had shouted out shanties to coordinate their work.
Chekov jumped up and grabbed the first mast hoop, yanking it down before theyd even begun to pull the sail in. "Shut up and get the sail down!" he retorted. "Heave! Smartly! Smartly!"
The captain pulled so hard and fast, the rope shredded the skin off his palms, and he accidentally punched the doctor in the face twice.
"Vast peak!" the navigator yelled.
Taking a single turn around the cleat, Kirk dropped the line and dove for the sail. He threw the gaff rope around the peak of the sail, quickly securing it tightly to the boom before Sulu and Uhura were even finished hauling in their end. It was down by the time he reached it, and he used a foot against the thick boom to jam home the gaff rope and throw an iron hard knot into it.
"Get the mizzen sail down!" Chekov ordered, running away from them and toward the bow of the ship. He scrambled out along the bowsprit and yanked down the foresail by himself.
The mizzenmast sail was secured by the time hed returned, and Kirk had set to ballentining the loose ends of line.
"Screw the ballentines," the navigator said, grabbing the line and quickly spinning it into a coil. He jammed it down on the cleat. "Batten down the hatches! Secure the ship! Captain Kirk, man the wheel!"
Chekov quickly coiled the rest of the loose lines, getting them off the deck and out of the way as the others scurried to follow his orders.
"Pavel," Kirk said evenly. "The wind is up. Were not going anywhere unless the sails are set."
"I quit this job!" the ensign roared, spinning on his captain with fury blazing in his eyes. "I quit this job!" he yelled again, thrusting his face within inches of the man who now stood at the wheel. "Do you understand?! I sit on my ass eight hours a day and stare at the stars! And I like it!"
"Chekov!" Sulu spat out in warning, grabbing onto the side of the binnacle.
The captain stared at his assistant chief navigator, honestly stunned. And outright amused, he was wont to admit. After all, he had strong-armed Chekov into his current position. Kirk had become so used to the easy camaraderie and friendship of his Alpha watch team he had allowed himself to forget the assistant chief navigator didnt really feel their equal yet. Hed pushed him on the assumption the young man would push back if he honestly objected; only his absolute deference to his captain was the most blatant fault Chekov had to work on. At least the Enterprises captain considered it a fault in a command officer.
The man needed to learn to talk back. Kirk fought back a grin. He seemed to making great headway on the skill.
Kirk waited for him to spin away and throw his arms up in frustration. Lacing his fingers, Chekov pressed them into the back of his head and growled deeply. "Pavel," he said tolerantly. "Were not going to win this race unless we take advantage of the wind now to start making some headway."
"Race?" the navigator retorted, spinning back to glare at him. "Race?" he demanded. "There is no race!"
The captain stilled, his hazel eyes seeking out the mans dark ones. "What are you talking about?" he asked thinly.
Chekov shook his head violently and threw his arm out at the sea behind Kirks back. "They never even left port, Captain. Were not racing anyone!"
The older man shot a quick glance backward. "Now why would you think they didnt even leave port?" he asked with a patient look at his ensign.
Shaking his head, the navigator paced up to Kirk slowly. There was deference in both his brown eyes and movements now. "Because they," he said quietly, "werent being cocky little shits trying to impress their captain. They checked the weather report!" he roared.
What could have occurred to Kirk was that the other major thing Chekov had to work on was how impossibly hard he was on himself. Only what his eyes had seen suddenly registered somewhere deep in his brain.
He jerked his head back toward San Francisco, hazel eyes hardening as they saw the horizon. The sea behind them was a monster churning beneath an opaque ceiling of black rock. The captain looked back at Chekovs somber, knowing eyes before they shifted briefly to the barometer in the binnacle housing with a sense of building doom.
Kirks heart stilled as he felt the winds icy fingers streak across the back of his neck. It was nearly triple the strength since Chekovs re-emergence on deck only a short time ago.
"Its getting cold," McCoy complained.
"Bones," he said, glancing at him quickly. "Go below and grab the foul-weather gear. Grab Chekov a shirt and some shoes, too. Hurry."
The doctor hesitated, but knew his friend well enough to follow his orders without comment.
"Pavel," Kirk insisted, turning his attention back to the young man. "You can do this. We can do this. You must have encountered a storm like this before, havent you?"
The navigator stared at the captain in silence a long moment, his dark somber eyes downright eerie. "Yes," he finally answered in a thin, quiet voice. "I have."
"Than you know you can do this."
"I wouldnt say that," he replied stoically. "I died."
Kirk watched him walk away and sighed quietly, hands twisting around the wheels spokes. "At least he always seems able to keep his sense of humor," he commented with an edge of admiration in his tone.
Sulu stood up from jamming the locks into the hatch cover next to the wheel house. Dark, unreadable eyes fixed on Chekov at the chart table a long moment before returning to his captain.
"Hes not joking, sir."
The rain drove in sheets against him, its icy fingers piercing through his rain gear in volleys of daggers from every direction. Kirk had never considered the possibility of actually drowning while standing upright. It now seemed not only possible, but downright probable. His fingers bit fiercely into the wheel he held.
Chekov was bent over the chart table, a sextant in one hand and a flashlight in the other.
The captain didnt know what he could accomplish in the dark and in the pouring rain, but if there was anything to be accomplished, it was this young man that could do it. Chekov was simply the best navigator he had ever met.
While still in the Academy, Chekov had successfully developed a system to navigate a starship with a sextant and his paper detailing the technique was what had intrigued the captain in the first place. Kirk was determined to learn the skill. The method necessarily involved bringing the ship to a complete stop, however, and the captain hadnt found the opportunity to try it yet. He was now more determined to do so than ever.
When the Enterprise had recently encountered the worst ion storm Kirk had ever seen, Chekov had guided them through safely using only the starcharts burned into his memory and an innate talent that was astounding. He had done his job without bothering the captain with the details of how he was doing it, leaving Kirk free to handle the crisis at hand. It was only afterward that the captain had discovered how extensive the damage actually was.
The maturity that Chekov had shown in the situation earned him the assistant department head posting.
Chekov swept the water off the chart table with his hand. "Haul her to port," he ordered Kirk, glancing briefly into the darkness behind him. "Were drifting to starboard."
The captain leaned his weight into the wheel, fighting the pull of the tempestuous water beneath them. Pulled toward what? Frankly, he didnt want to know.
A deep crack split the air. Uhura screamed, diving into a ball onto the deck and shielding her head with her arms. McCoy instantly followed suit.
"Just the flag," Chekov identified the sound and glanced toward the bow to confirm it. A stunted piece of jagged wood jutted out from the top of the foremast. "We never took it down."
Kirks gaze followed the navigators and saw that the string of signal flags that had once flown at the bow had been swept away as well. A quick check of the mainmast told him the house flag that identified the ships owner was missing as well. Small losses, he considered.
Another, more ominous sound, followed. The eerie straining, creaking noise built into a deafening crescendo until a sharp snap split the air.
Chekovs face went white.
The mainsails gaff rope shot outward, whipping into the air with unequaled fury and slicing through the air in a vicious slingshot as it wrested itself free. Kirk winced as the writhing cable came within a breath of tearing the navigators face open. He wasnt sure it didnt until the man spun around to look at the main boom.
The sail flew upward into the night and threw itself out in the darkness, furiously straining to capture every bit of the raging wind that it could. The captain stared in horror at the massive sheet of canvas, luminescent with light reflected off the deluge of rain that pelted the small ship.
"Thank God," McCoy said. "Maybe well get out of this storm now."
"Were going to die," Kirk declared.
The mainsail had reset itself.
Tearing off his rain gear, Chekov scrambled up the mainmast and ran out to the center of the gaff. He leapt up into the darkness. Gravity jammed more than his body weight onto the narrow wood plank, and the sail inched downward.
"Bones!" Kirk shouted. "Take the wheel!"
"I cant steer!"
"Dont steer!" the captain declared. "Just hang on!"
Sulu was already at the base of the mast, straining to wrench the mast hoops down as soon as they were in reach.
Kirk swung himself up onto the boom as Chekov continued jumping. The heavy, wet fabric laid open the new calluses on the captains hands as he struggled to push it into folds so that it would lay as flat as possible on the wood. Uhura instantly climbed up onto the other end of the boom to do the same.
They worked on for eons. Every minute held an hour of fighting with the struggling beast. With the last hoop finally down, Sulu swung around, sat on the end of the gaff, and clutched the mast desperately.
"Uhura, get more rope!" Kirk ordered. He lay down on his end of the gaff, hugging it to the boom fiercely to keep the sail down. "Here!" he called, grabbing the rope from Uhura when she reappeared. He wrapped it around the boom, sail and gaff, wrenching them all together tightly and knotting it despite his frozen, bleeding fingers.
He quickly shimmied backward then, lashing the sail down as he did so. Chekov jumped off to let him pass before continuing his own task of rebinding the original gaff rope in the opposite direction.
After securing the other end with another knot, Kirk lay spent and exhausted on the gaff; his cheek pressed against the wet wood as the rain drove into his back. His heart was pounding so hard he could feel the vibration in the lumber beneath his body. "Pavel," he growled. "Im giving you a medal."
"Medal, hell," Chekov retorted as he ran past to take the wheel. "My name is not going down in history as the man who killed James T. Kirk!"
Kirk sat in a puddle on the maindeck, legs sprawled out before him and head dropped limply against the wood behind him. For the first time, inactivity didnt seem to bother Chekov.
The captain let his eyes remain shut, and he concentrated on the basic act of breathing. It was a wonderful sensation in the gentle sunshine that warmed him.
"Whats that?" Uhura asked.
Sighing in regret, Kirk reluctantly pulled his eyes open and located the communications officer. Her drenched clothes made an altogether alluring sight. It was not so noble a notion, the captain knew, but he didnt care.
Following her gesture with his eyes, lines furrowed through his forehead. He climbed to his feet and brushed his rear off. It sent warm water cascading down the back of his legs. Not an entirely pleasant sensation with the infantile memory it produced.
"Pavel, do you have the glass?"
The young man appeared and handed it to him, his wide eyes glancing toward the water which held Kirks attention. "Do you know what it is?" he asked Chekov, because it was obvious that he did.
"Yes," he replied. "Its the flag."
Lines creased the captains eyes. It could have been from curiosity. Annoyance inspired it however; Chekov had changed back into his dry jeans and t-shirt. He was bright-eyed and refreshed from a nap taken after the storm had subsided, and theyd set the mainsail again. The rest of them had collapsed, frazzled, and were still soaked through.
"Are you telling me that weve been wandering around all morning looking for the flag we lost in the middle of a storm?" McCoy demanded up through the open window to the galley below.
"Yes," the navigator replied without a hint of apology in his voice. "Its a matter of respect. Are you sure about the code flags?" he continued, glancing at Uhura.
"The four signal flags that used to be in the front of the ship," the woman confirmed again for the uncounted time since the sun rose. "Yes. They were O, D, M, K: from top to bottom."
She shrugged when Kirk looked at her in surprise. "I looked it up. I thought they said something: like the name of the ship."
"Theyre the ships code," the captain explained. "Like its license plate. NCC-1701," he elaborated when she still showed no understanding. "Its illegal to be at sea in a ship this size without the code flags flying."
"Will you grab it?" Chekov asked Kirk as the out of place thrum of the engine shuddered through the wood around them.
Kirk scowled at him, but again there was no apology in the wide brown eyes. "Yes," he replied without addressing the issue. Although set, the mainsail was barely fluttering in the breeze the way it was currently braced. They were purposely going slow and they could have easily changed direction by moving the sail. Without the engines, however, it would have taken all day...maybe two or three, to actually maneuver the ship over to the drifting flag.
The captain put down the telescope and pushed his fingers through his hair in an attempt to set it in some semblance of its normal order. "Two points to starboard," he advised, eyeing the water.
Cutting the engine when Kirk produced the flag, the navigator glared at him darkly. Okay, hes right; its disrespectful, the captain admitted, but he didnt stop wringing the torrents of water from the fabric in his hand as Chekov passed.
"Silver-dollar pancakes," McCoy pronounced as he emerged from the main companionway. "Blueberry."
Chekov immediately scooped up two, shoved them in his mouth and followed them by his third cup of coffee. That he was drinking coffee at all betrayed his true weariness.
"We have syrup," the doctor rasped, scowling at him like an errant child. "And plates!"
"But no sour cream," the navigator sighed unhappily. He grabbed another handful and grinned at McCoy.
Only a moments hesitation delayed Kirk from following the younger mans lead. He didnt need a damn plate. The taste and feeling of warm food in his mouth and stomach was downright orgasmic at this point.
Shrugging sheepishly, he pushed another pancake into his mouth and chewed happily.
"Youre all mongrels," the doctor muttered as he dropped the plates on the chart table next to the pancakes.
"Found the flag locker," Sulu announced when he appeared from the lower deck.
Holding up his booty of fabric and rope proudly, he still shook his head in apology. "Sorry, Pavel; I dont know what the house flag looked like, but I only found signal flags in the locker."
"I dont know either," the younger man admitted. "We can do without it. Ach!" he continued loudly, snatching the flag from Kirks hand as he went to lay it on the chart table bedside the food.
"Its not a walking surface," the captain defended his action, withholding the smirk until the navigator disappeared onto the lower deck at the bow.
Kirk threw up a hand to stop McCoy from speaking. Chekov was already at the foremast, and the flag was sailing up to its repaired peak. Watching silently until the codeflags were also snatching at the wind, he flashed a smile at the doctor. "Its a matter of respect."
"Its amazing," the helmsman mumbled through a mouthful of food.
McCoy shot the captain a look of self-righteous triumph. "Hes using a plate and fork. At least someone around here is civilized!"
Dark eyes sparkling as they met Kirks hazel ones, Sulu shoved another pancakewhole and dripping with syrupinto his mouth. "How civilized can you be with these metal prongs instead of chopsticks?" He choked when the coffee cup hit him.
Kirk grinned. "Whats amazing?" he asked the helmsman.
"The wind," Sulu answered. "Yesterday it was trying to kill us. Today...well, its downright invigorating."
The captain nodded agreement, letting his eyes take in the dancing flags at their bow. "Good twelve, fifteen knots: a glorious day for sailing."
"Im kissing the land at the first opportunity I get," McCoy rasped. "Space travel seems strangely safe at the moment."
"I always figured you for a mud pie gourmet," Chekov observed as he approached.
The doctor straightened indignantly. "And just what do Russian children eat?"
"Pavel," Kirk interrupted the exchange. Hazel eyes gleaming, he gestured at the ships flags and grinned. "With this kind of wind we could sail right up to the dock."
Chekov stopped short, eyes darkening as he scowled. "Captain, on Earth, its been illegal for over three centuries for a ship this size to enter a harbor under sail."
"I know," Kirk grinned. "I just said you could. Perfect conditions like this make you long for the old days of sail."
"Makes you long," the younger man corrected. "I quit this job," Chekov reminded him.
Shifting, the captain shrugged. "Yes, well...theres a small tear in our mainsail. We cant brace it to the wind until its repaired; itll tear apart."
"Go ahead and fix it."
"Youll have to show me how."
Hesitating as he moved to turn, Chekov leveled dark eyes at the older man. "You dont know how?"
"No," Kirk replied. "But Im sure you know how to sew a sail. Just give me a canvas needle and..."
"This isnt a museum," the navigator retorted, his scowl deepening. "Use duct tape. Wait," he said. "Hikaru, fix the sail. Captain Kirk, can you bring her in?"
Kirk straightened, eyeing him curiously. "If I remember, I put you in command of this particular ship."
"Yes," the navigator agreed. "And as commanding officer, Im delegating this task to you. Delegating is an important skill for a commander, is it not?"
"Yes," Kirk agreed with a wry grin. "I suppose, if thats your command decision, Ill have to abide by it." A leisurely trip, a beautiful day, an incredible tale wind, the ship, the sails and her wheel... Of course James Kirk wanted to bring her in.
"Good. Im going to check the radio."
"I dont know whos worse," McCoy commented to no one in particular.
"I do," Sulu replied.
Pavel Chekov sat in the bow of the schooner, back against the foremast and legs stretched out before him as he happily watched the water rush at the hull. The spray covered his face and hair with a delicious mist.
The boat steerers eyes were fixed intently on the harbor they approached. Small water craft, moored against the encroaching tide, were already dotting the horizon. Kirk shifted uncomfortably and glanced down again at the silent radio in the binnacle box.
This harbor was so familiar, the captain was sure he could almost navigate it with his eyes closed. The positions of the craft bobbing in the water were predictable, and he knew the feel of the sea as it ebbed easily against the land now hedging it in.
That was with his sailboat, however. A schooner this size required contact and directions from the harbormaster. Kirk had expected to hear from them by now as they were well visible. He wondered, not for the first time, if he was supposed to initiate the contact. He was not entirely versed in the regulations covering larger watercraft.
The navigator smiled cryptically and kept staring at the whitecaps that were being thrown up by the wind in the midst of the dark sea.
"Chekov!" While it had been a friendly entreaty before, the tone was a commanding one now. Captains.... He twisted around after a moment to peer at the man at the wheel.
"We need to start getting these sails in," the captain said.
Brown eyes wide and innocent, Chekov flashed a brilliant smile at Kirk. "Wait."
"Pavel!" Kirk shifted again. "Whats the harbormasters frequency?"
He shook his head and shrugged. Turning back around, he waved a hand in dismissal.
"Pav...! Penda," the captain spat out. "Take the wheel."
Kirk swept forward, taking the companionway in one leap and jogging up to where the navigator sat. "Chekov," he informed him evenly. "Were far past the point of needing to be under engine power. Come up and take over the steering. Well get the sails in while you deal with the harbormaster."
The navigator sighed visibly and remained staring out at the water filling the harbor they approached. Finally, he crossed his ankles leisurely and folded his arms across his chest. "Nyet," he said broadly. "You go ahead."
Hazel eyes frozen on him, Chekov made no indication that he knew the man was still standing there. Kirk finally squat down so that he was eye level with the younger man. "It wasnt your fault, Pavel."
"Checking the weather report was a priority," the navigator said without looking at him. "No sane person goes to sea without doing so."
"A man must be mad to venture out upon the sea," the captain quoted. "Its pretty much inherent in the whole thing. Pavel, I knew you werent the kind of man who was going to lose your ship."
"Yes," Chekov agreed thoughtfully. "The ship belongs to the captain." He glanced over at Kirk with cryptic gleam in his dark eyes. "But the lifeboats belong to the crew."
James Kirk laughed, hazel eyes sparkling. "I never thought of it in those terms. Gives a commanding officer good incentive to save the ship."
"Yes," the navigator agreed again. He turned his gaze back to the water, but stopped the older man before he spoke. "Captain, I was the crew. Ive been out of the Academy less than a year. This trip was a reminder that when the ship is the only thing keeping you safeeither from the expansive sea or the vacuum of spaceeven small mistakes by her commander can be life-altering. In the worse way."
Kirk sighed. "Pavel, youre so hard on yourself, you pretty much eliminate any requirement for me to discipline you."
"Anything to make your job easier, sir."
The captain studied the young mans features. It wasnt surprising that the navigator found a kindred spirit in the Enterprises first officer; Chekov had no tolerance for his own Human faults. His heart held boundless understanding for the same in others, however. He stood up. "Pavel, you have to come take the wheel."
Dark eyes glanced up at the captain sharply. "Sir, you have control issues. Exactly who is in command of this ship?"
"You are," Kirk said. "Which means you are going to be held responsible for bringing this ship in with everything flying. The fines and the time in the penal colony are going to be all yours."
"Ill accept that."
Lines furrowing his brow, the older man eyed Chekov, disgruntled. What Kirk had just said was a boldfaced lie. There was no way anyone would hold an ensign responsible when there was an experienced flag officer aboard. "You do have a masters license?" he asked suddenly as the thought occurred to him.
"Why would you assume I have a masters license just because I know how to holystone a wooden deck? Hornblower was an officer; I was a sailor. Ive still got the scars on my knees to prove it," he said hotly.
"You dont have any scars," Kirk retorted.
Chekov gave him a strange look. "I had no idea youd taken the time to check out my legs so thoroughly."
"Of course I checked them out," the captain replied. "You won the contest."
His soulful eyes widened, and Kirk smirked. The wholesome, innocent facade the young man carefully perfected had become completely opaque to him. Chekov was full of shit. "Ensign, youd be surprised the things a captain knows. Now lets start getting these sails in."
He was surprised when the younger man still shook his head. "Not yet. Go steer, and Ill let you know when."
"Were past the legal limit for a ship this size to be under sail," Kirk insisted.
Smiling, Chekovs eyes were warm, a shine in their dark depths. "Ill take care of the harbormaster. Trust me, sir."
Kirks eyes narrowed. "Pavel," he drew out after a moment. "Tell me that youre not planning to bring her into the harbor under sail."
Cocking his head, Chekov grinned devilishly. "It was your idea."
"My... it was a random observation!" the captain retorted. "Not a suggestion. It is so far beyond legal..."
"And James Kirk would never push a regulation," the navigator observed wryly.
Kirk blinked, straightening. Despite the argument hed used to talk Chekov into coming, he hadnt really considered the race a team building exercise. When theyd left the Enterprise, however, he never would have expected his assistant chief navigator to stand toe to toe with them like hed been doing. Results came from unexpected sources.
"Face it; you want to sail her in," the young man said.
"Yes," the captain admitted. "Im not sure its worth the time in a penal colony, however."
A massive pout took over the navigators face as he fell into a sulk. "You dont trust me."
Hazel eyes narrowing, Kirk studied the young man thoughtfully. "Pavel, did you already make arrangements to do this?" he demanded suddenly, glancing briefly toward the unseen harbormasters office.
Chekov laughed, a wild, crooked grin splitting his face. "Youd be surprised at the friends I have," he drew out. "Go for it, sir."
Kirk hesitated, but only for a moment. He was grinning himself when he took the wheel again. It occurred to him almost immediately that Chekov wasnt just lounging in the bow of the boat. As they progressed, the navigator watched to see that the captain kept the ship in the channel and avoided catching any mooring lines.
Chekov twisted around, peering up at Sulu who wasin factlounging atop the crosstrees.
"Pavel, get up here!" the helmsman demanded, his voice strident. "Hurry!"
The navigator immediately swung up onto the shrouds and casually ran up to Sulus position. He stood there intently listening to his friend talk. Kirk wasnt afraid of heights, but he couldnt pry his eyes from Chekov, whose easy stance gave no suggestion at all that he was perched some ninety feet from the safety of the deck on a small piece of wood.
The helmsmans right arm was wrapped fiercely around the mast, displaying clearly his discomfort in the same position. He was gesturing frantically toward the Golden Gate Bridge. Chekov glanced back at Kirk and then said something quickly to Sulu before sailing down the nearest backstay.
Kirks body tensed as the navigator raced backward toward him. "Captain, get to the top of the mainmast," he ordered sharply. "Penda, take the wheel."
"You mean to the crosstrees with Sulu?"
"No, Captain," Chekov retorted. "I said to the top of the mainmast; youre the heaviest. Sulus going up the foremast, just follow his lead.
"Doctor," he continued with urgency in his voice. "Get over here to the rail."
Kirk could feel his confusion slowing his climb up the shrouds, and he forced it away to speed up the tarred rope ladder.
Grabbing the nearest ballentined line, the navigator began hurriedly lashing McCoy to the port rail amidships.
"What? Are you making me walk the plank?" the doctor demanded hotly, slapping at the younger man.
"No," Chekov retorted. "Im keeping you on the ship!" He turned to Uhura. "Penda, I need you to haul her hard to portget her rail in the water!"
"Wait a minute!" McCoy screamed. "Im on the rail!"
"Dont move, Doctor!" Chekov yelled back as he raced up the mizzenmast. "Hard, Penda! Get her over now!"
The captain was standing at the top of the shrouds, hand on the mast, as he watched the young mans urgent movements. Kirks non-action caught the attention of the ships commanding officer. "Move, Captain!"
He started. Chekov was scrambling up to the very top of the mizzenmast. It was what hed instructed Kirk to do on the mainmast. Grabbing the spire of wood, he shimmied up to the dizzying exposed top of the topmast for reasons he still didnt understand. Sulu had shortened his body on the port side of the foremast and was leaning backward, hanging off of it.
The captain began to shout something but froze as his eyes caught sight of the bridge they approached. His heart seized in his chest. Instantly, he followed the helmsmans example. Only he understood now; they were not hanging off the masts, they were pulling on them using every ounce of weight and effort that they could.
Damn it, damn it, DAMN IT!! Kirk thought. He had been too careful. In steering the ship up the channel, hed kept as close to starboard as he could in an effort to keep to the side of the shipping lane. A sailing ship this size couldnt maneuver out of the way of other approaching craft. By ancient maritime law, they had the right of way because of this, but getting in the way was considered down right rude.
James Kirk had forgotten about the bridge. The beautiful, graceful, sweeping, Golden Gate Bridge. Damn it!
Hed steered them so close to starboard, their masts werent going to clear the bottom of its structure. The ship was about to be torn apart in sight of safe harbor.
Kirk pulled fiercely and felt a flood of adrenalin from his gut fill his chest. His body sank deeply toward the open water rushing beneath him at dizzying speeds. Dont be sick, he ordered his body as his throat closed. For Gods sake...dont be sick.
Pulling the wheel over with her own weight, Uhura forced the ship to press the strakes on her port side into the water.
"Son of a bitch!" McCoy gasped and pulled frankly at the rope wrapped around his body. Chekov had secured it behind him, and hed no hope of loosening it.
"Get him wet, Penda!" the navigator shouted from his perch, laughing.
"Bones, lean into it!" Kirk ordered. "We need your weight!"
"Im already swimming!" he screamed back. "Wait til the next time I get you in Sickbay!" the doctor yelled at Chekov.
The younger man only laughed louder, throwing his head back gleefully and shaking his hair into the rushing wind. "You wouldnt climb!" he reminded the chief medical officer.
McCoy hollered as his flailing arms hit water.
Gasping, Kirk held his breath as he watched the foremast pass under the first ancient steel support beam. He waited to see Sulu get knocked clear, but his ability to judge the clearance between the wood and metal was skewed from his perch. The foremast passed the edge of the bridge without touching.
He yanked on the mast he held. It was higher than the foremast, and he wasnt letting go if it meant getting his head knocked off. Squeezing his eyes shut, he held his breath again as he felt the cool air from the bridges shade hit his body. Sound became an eerie echo, and he actually felt the hard coolness of the metal inches from his hands.
The cold from the open expanse of the bridges floor clutched his body, and he opened his eyes, knowing he was safely under the first steel beam. His heart raced as he stared up at the underside of the ancient road stretched across the water. Kirk had sailed under it before, but he had never taken the time to stare up at its remarkable engineering.
"Yes!" Sulu yelled in victory as he emerged safely from under the other beam and the sun hit his body again.
Grinning in understanding, the captain kept his eyes open this time and watched as the metal beam passed before him without touching the wood he clutched protectively. He couldnt help ducking in primitive reflex, however.
Chekov cheered in victory when the final mast cleared the structure. The captain knew this because he saw him do it. He couldnt hear him.
The deafening cheers of the people filling the pedestrian walkway on bridge drowned out the navigators voice. Kirk stared at them, stunned. Hed been too preoccupied to notice them before, but the entire length of the bridge was packed with onlookers who had rushed to see the schooner sail under the structure. It was a sight that hadnt graced their view for over three hundred yearseven without the crews acrobatics to get her under safely.
Grinning wildly, Kirk pulled his body up against the mast again and hung there, panting. It wasnt the victory that made him grin. It wasnt the physical effort that made him pant.
The shoreline on both sides were swollen with a thick, unbroken mob of people cheering wildly and waving. People hung out of the windows and balconies of the houses behind them. A few brave souls even dotted several rooftops. In his entire careerin his entire lifeJames Kirk had never felt such overwhelming, unbridled, hero worship.
The ship gracefully righted herself and when he felt himself upright again he reluctantly let himself down the tarred backstay. "This is amazing," he marveled as Sulu approached.
The younger man was grinning still as well. "Ships are the nearest things to dreams that Human hands have ever made," he asserted. "They touch the soul of man."
"Robert Rose," Kirk acknowledged.
"And all this time I thought Chekov made it up," Sulu commented.
"This is amazing," the captain repeated with unashamed astonishment in his tone.
"Theyve never seen a ship come in under sail before."
"Like a ship was meant to." The captains eyes swept along the people crowding the shoreline, but his gaze was caught by something on the ship. He turned hazel eyes curiously toward Chekov.
Standing next to the wheel again, one of the young mans hands casually clasped a spoke as he guided the ship back into the middle of the now clear shipping lane. With a shy smile, Chekov acknowledged the crowds with short, almost deferential waves artfully placed as they sailed. His sheepishness was a perfect union with his boundless natural charm and charisma; every acknowledgment from him brought enthusiastic roars from the crowd.
"Youd think he was the Prince of Wales," Kirk marveled to Sulu.
"The Grand Admiral of the Russian Navy," the helmsman corrected easily. "They wear the old navy uniforms in the Russian Sail Training Academy; they march in paradestheyre even taught to deal with crowds."
Uhura smiled and gracefully smoothed her hair back into place as she joined them. "This kind of welcome could become downright depressing."
"And hes so bad at it," the captain added as he watched the young man. The wholesome, sheepish innocence was glowing on Chekovs boyish features and to the strangers that watched it was infectious. Kirk was right; the wholesome façade was practiced. He carefully stored the information in his mind for future use.
"Excuse me," he added, moving back to Chekov at the wheel.
The young man flashed him a wild grin. "That was fun."
With a smile, Kirk nodded agreement. "Reporting to resume my duties," he informed the ships commanding officer deferentially.
Soulful brown eyes regarded the captain with warmth. "Ive got it from here, thanks."
Kirk didnt move. "Pavel," he drew out after a moment. "People make mistakes. I want the opportunity to see my responsibilities to their end."
"Damn inconvenient place to put a bridge," the younger man acknowledged, but his smile turned sweet. "Captain," he said, eyes surveying the people along the shore. "We know whos in command of this ship, but they dont. A captain never steers the ship. Nelzya," he outright snarled. "It isnt done. It isnt done."
Kirk shrugged. "Im not in command."
"But youre a captain. The people along the shore may not know, but they do," the navigator insisted, gesturing with his head toward the bow of the ship.
The captain turned and let his gaze follow the younger mans line of eyesight. As they came into the harbor, the masts of the tall ship moored there were coming into view. He moved over subtly and let his hand slip onto the starboard rail.
History ran in cycles and so did the Human races interest in it. Sailing ships had propelled history fiercely along on this blue planet until early in the twentieth century. Engines had pushed them out of use and out of peoples minds. Frankly, the United States of Americas bicentennial had been their first savior, generating a surge of interest at a point in time when they may have been lost forever.
As time had meandered along the interest of the Human race in their maritime heritage had continued to wax and wane; each time these noble ships were saved by a simple twist of circumstances. The last period of disinterest had stretched on interminably into a sparse wasteland of abandoned souls held captive in rotting wooden hulls.
A lone man in the Russian Federation had wrested the traditional ships from the grasp of certain death this last time. A true visionary, he had created the Russian Sail Training Academy, which restored all the surviving vessels in his country and offered training programs to people of all ages. The training ranged from one day classes on maritime history to actual experience working on the restored ships.
The Boy Scouts of America had once had a Sea Scout program that offered similar training, and Kirk wondered idly when that particular branch had become permanently defunct. It was a fate the Commandant of the RSTA was determined would not happen to the ships, the skills necessary to sail them, or the understanding of their vital place in the planets history. When he had established his programs in the Russian Federation, he had then turned his gaze outward to the rest of Earth. Each ship had received the full attention of the man and his program, although his vision was for each countrys natives to eventually take the place of the Russian sailors aboard the ships.
Kirk was sure that vision had not come into completion anywhere yet, so he knew the men and women he saw on the ship they approached were by and large from the Russian Federation. The ship was dressed; dozens of signal flags strung from her bow, over her masts, and down to her stern. The sailors stood on the footropes along every one of her nine yards, as well. Dressed to the nines... he mused. Her officers stood on the quarterdeck silently.
"Friends of yours?" the captain asked Chekov.
"Some," the man commented, eyes on the ship in question. "But no shipmates." There was a huge difference, anyone familiar with military service knew. "Shes the Balclutha," he continued. "Shes three hundred one feet overall length, with a beam of thirty-eight point six feet."
Chekov smiled tauntingly at McCoy, who stood at the rail next to Kirk. "Her mainmast is one hundred forty-five feet high."
"And Ill bet you know her entire history," Kirk remarked.
The navigators eyes widened. "Frankly, history has never interested me."
"Must be why you always get it wrong," McCoy rasped in a mutter. "Are they setting sail?"
"Hes lying," the captain asserted, turning his attention back to the Balclutha. "No one accidentally gets everything wrong.
"Theyre saluting us," he continued in explanation to the doctor. "Its the highest honor one crew can pay to another." Indeed, as the schooner passed the Balclutha, they fired their salute cannon. He took to waving back to the crowds himself, but almost immediately understood the gentile wave that the Windsorsand Chekovused. The captains shoulder hurt.
Kirks eyes caught sight of and held on the man casually leaning against a wooden pylon on the Balcluthas wharf. He didnt know why. There was nothing particularly extraordinary about the short, bearded man.
The man had on a Russian peasant blouse that was so discolored that Kirk couldnt decide where it belonged in the spectrum between white and tan. His trousers were similarly a faded, worn brown. The man didnt have on the startling white Russian Navy uniform with braids of gold garland that would have identified him for who he was. Kirk knew him anyway and when the huge, soulful brown eyes met his, the captains soul quieted.
"Pavel," Kirk urged, glancing back at him and gesturing. "Look."
When he looked back, however, the pylon stood alone. He searched the crowd quickly but it was as if the man had dissipated into thin air. "It was him," the captain insisted. "The Commandant of the Russian Sail Training Academy was standing there!"
The same Russian eyes the stranger on the wharf had used to meet Kirks gaze now stared at the captain warmly. "Of course he was. He cant bring his ship in under sail."
Kirk stared into the crowd with disappointment. "Id like to meet him someday."
"You will," Chekov commented with confidence. "Eventually. Time to get these sails in, Captain. I cant dock her without the engine."
When the ship was secured, Kirk found his navigator lingering uncomfortably on deck with a canvas bag slung over his shoulder. "Tell me," the captain encouraged. "Did you run home to get your Navy uniformor do you have it on the Enterprise?"
"The white pants?" Chekov asked. "The Enterprise...I sleep in them. Theyre comfortable."
The young mans face was entirely too wholesome.
Uhura glanced at her friend, dark eyes sparkling. She grinned at the captain then. "And women think theyre hot. White sailor suits are always a sure bet with Human females."
The navigator could avert his gaze, but he wasnt able to hide the color that flushed into his cheeks.
Kirk stood silently, watching as the rest of the current crew filtered off the ship. Knowing gazes were cast at the two men locked in a silent deadlock of wills.
"Admit it," Kirk goaded the younger man when they were alone. "Being on this ship has made you nostalgic for that summer on the high seas."
"Men go to sea before they know the unhappiness of that way of life," Chekov commented. "James Powell," he added in response to Kirks curious look.
"Pavel," the captain said with a note of respect. "Youre surprisingly well read."
Brown eyes remained fixed on Kirk silently, then traveled over the ship in a great show of melodrama.
Kirk understood, and he smirked in response. "Not much variety of recreational facilities on these ships."
"Im miserably behind on current entertainment and recreation," the navigator admitted.
Kirk wasnt about to argueeven about the definition of current. No one in their right mind would ever put a bowling ball into Chekovs hand again.
The captain knew why the man was uncomfortable. "Youre in command," he said finally. "You leave the ship last." Kirk actually hoped the Commandant was still somewhere in that crowd; he wanted the man to see Chekov leave last.
Hornblower may not have been a sailor, but his navigator had been. He was now a command officer, and Chekov had a unique opportunity to show the Commandant what he had become. The silent statement was entirely within the navigators personality, and Kirk was not above encouraging it.
"Youre the captain," Chekov insisted. "You should leave last."
"Its not about rank."
"It is to me," the younger man said evenly. His dark eyes were unreadable and they remained solidly fixed on Kirk.
The captain shifted. Maybe making the navigator more comfortable in standing up to his commanding officer had been a bad idea, after all. He gestured at him. "What does that shirt say, Ensign?"
Chekov squirmed visibly. "Captain," he said thickly. "There is no regulation that you can use to make me tell you."
"No," Kirk retorted, a glint in his hazel eyes. "But there are other people that read Russian on the ship."
The mans jaw tightened. "There are, sir," he replied before turning and walking away.
With clear defiance in his step, Chekov strode down the gangway, leaving Kirk alone on the ship.
Kirk stared at the chessboard in front of him, the pattern of black and white blurring in his vision. Chekov was an excellent chess player even though he only played traditional chess. The young man would offer a rambling explanation for his preference to anyone who could bear to sit still through it, but the board he supplied for the purpose was worth the torture.
Carved by a childhood friend that worked with wood, each space on the birch board was raised from the base and hovered elegantly on its own. Intricate nautical scenes graced the borders on all four sides and each piece was an enchanting image of sea life. Mermaids, seahorses and various Humans that worked the sea entertained the players.
Kirk had heard rumors that Chekov possessed a similar birch board carved with a space motif, although he had never been able to ply it into use for their games. Klingons apparently battled Starfleet personnel on that board, and the captain had heard more than one hint at who the Starfleet King resembled.
Kirk blinked back to the present, his eyes refocusing on his opponent.
"You appear distracted this evening."
"Yes," he agreed, nodding. "Im afraid I am, Spock." He moved a bishop and removed one of the first officers rooks. He rolled the edge of it on the table thoughtfully. Kirk grimaced when his queen disappeared off the board instantly.
"Quite distracted, Captain. May I be of assistance?"
"Yes," Kirk agreed again. He put the rook flat on the table and sat up, leaning forward to peer through the 3-D chessboard. "Do you recall Chekovs blue T-shirt that has a compass on it?"
"I believe it is a compass rose."
"Thats the one. I believe it also has words on it," the captain continued absently. "I dont recall what it says. Do you?"
Spock raised an eyebrow. "Yes," he replied. "It is your move, Captain."
"Give me a minute. So what?"
"What does it say?" Kirk growled with irritation.
"The shirt! What does the Chekovs shirt say?"
Both the mans eyebrows rose elegantly and he folded his arms across his chest. "If my memory is accurate..."
"It always is," Kirk encouraged.
"That particular shirt describes Mister Chekovs current duties on board the Enterprise," the chief science officer stated.
The captain eyed him. "Spock!" he challenged. "Are you being evasive?"
"I do not believe so, Captain."
"Then what are the exact words on that shirt," he demanded. "The English translation of the words," he elaborated, forestalling any more supposed misunderstandings.
Spock cocked his head in a moment of consideration. "Navigators tell their captain where to go."
Kirk blinked. He straightened slowly. "What?!"
"Mister Chekovs shirt. It says..."
"I heard you!"
"The statement is accurate."
"Its your move, Jim."
The two played in silence for the rest of the evening.
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