d. William Roberts
The intruder hovered silently in a corner of the ceiling above Engineering's main control console, watching everything that the Human wearing the blue shirt and pants did. The intelligence behind the single, staring eye was cold and distant. The Human took one step to his left to punch a button; the intruder moved to get a better angle.
Commander Scott saw the movement from the corner of his eye and turned his head to look. His eyes got large and his face red. "What in Hell?"
Realizing its mistake, the intruder backed into the corner's shadow in a vain attempt to hide.
Scott walked purposefully toward the intercom panel and hit intraship communications. "Lieutenant Kelsey! Report to engineering!"
In a Jefferies tube three floors away, Kelsey jumped, and the magnetic field stressor slipped from his hand, allowing the magnetic field that had taken him a full hour to open to snap shut. "Damn!"
He recognized the irritation in Commander Scott's voice. "Now what? I've got to get this project finished today, or Lieutenant Commander Sulu will have my head." A picture of the razor sharp swords he'd seen in Sulu's quarters rushed through his memory as he hurried to Engineering.
And I thought being in the command section would mean only hanging around the bridge, he thought as he dodged passed other, less pressed, crewmen in the hall. Boy was that a pipe dream.
Added recently to his long list of duties, was acting as liaison for the colonists traveling to their new home on board the Enterprise. It was his job to keep them out of trouble, which really meant keeping their children out of trouble since the adults seemed too preoccupied with their own affairs to be a problem.
Kelsey began walking as he turned the last corner. There was a group of colonists in front of the set of locked doors.
"Mister Kelsey, I really must protest Commander Scott's loss of temper."
He recognized Homeleader Khelzit Stronton as the source of the protest. He tried to calm himself. It would do little good to get angry with this group. They were members of a sect that resembled the ancient Quakers of Earth.
"Especially around the children." There was mumble of agreement from the rest of the colonists.
"I'll look into it, Homeleader. If you'll let me pass, please."
He was glad to see that he'd established a little bit of trust with them, since they let him go without any further discussion. The doors opened, and the calm he'd created in the hall changed to charged irritation as he entered engineering. Standing on the other side, with his arms behind his back, was Commander Scott, all red-faced and angry.
"How often do I have to tell you, laddie?" Scott wasn't trying to hide his temper.
The lieutenant stood at attention. "Only once I hope, sir." Kelsey was curious as to the source of this dressing-down.
"Then how come he's here? Again." Scott pulled a young colonist from behind his broad back. The boy tried to wiggle free, but the strong hands of the Enterprise's chief engineering officer held him firm.
Kelsey recognized Ghilar Stronton, Khelzit's son. An extremely energetic, intelligent youngster, whose quest for further knowledge had already earned him a rather dubious reputation on the starship, much to the embarrassment of his father. Kelsey tried to become angry with the boy himself, but the look of resignation on the boy's face kept him from it.
He liked the boy. He'd spent most of his off-duty time with him, just talking about Starfleet and starships. At first, he'd felt irritation at finding Ghilar always at his door when he got off, but it hadn't lasted. He actually looked forward to his time with the youngster, but not right now.
Scott continued, "It's bad enough he's always down here, but this time he used that." The chief engineer pointed up into the corner of the room behind Kelsey's head.
Hovering calmly, despite the storm below, was a long, thin hover-board, jury rigged with a small sensor pick-up on its forward area. Kelsey had little doubt where the transmitter/receiver for that device was and who had put it together.
"I am trying, sir." Kelsey looked as pained as he could. After all, Commander Scott, despite his long-standing bachelor status, had a reputation as a devoted uncle to an army of nieces and nephews back home as he himself would tell anyone given half a chance.
It worked. Scott's demeanor softened, and he let the boy go. "I know, son, but this is too sensitive an area for a child to be poking around in." He paused and looked up at the board. "Even with high-tech snoopers like that." A look of admiration for a job well done crossed the Scot's face, then disappeared as he became gruff again. "Get that contraption out of my engine room." He pointed briefly at the board, then left.
"Come here, Ghilar." Kelsey held out his hand.
The boy obeyed.
"Bring down the board."
A controlling device with a small view screen appeared in the boy's hand. With expert deftness, he brought the board down, but not before ordering it through some complex, tight maneuvers which left it not more than two centimeters from Kelsey's nose.
The lieutenant grabbed it with his left hand, and the boy's hand with his right. "Very good. Let's go to the gym where you can show me how this thing works, and we can talk." Kelsey put Sulu's project on a back burner.
The Homeleader met them in the corridor. "Are you all right, son?"
"Yes, Papa." Ghilar's eyes were staring at the deck, unable to face his father.
"How often do I have to tell thee?" Khelzit's expression promised of sterner things to come.
Kelsey recognized this. The modern rendition of Quakers were no better than their ancestors when it came to modern conveniences. The boy's anti-grav hover-board was an anomaly. Ghilar wasn't going to fit well in the sect's mold, and Kelsey hated to see the boy's remarkable raw talent wasted. He interceded. "That's all right, Homeleader. No harm done. Your son is just very curious, and it got the better of him. If you don't mind, I'd like to talk to him about it."
Khelzit recognized the bond that had already grown between his boy and this Starfleet officer, and, though he didn't feel comfortable with it, he was modern enough to acknowledge it. "The boy has a class in an hour. Ensure he's not tardy." Then to the boy. "Thee and I are not through yet. Mind you obey Mister Kelsey." The stern look was enough.
Then he returned his attention to Kelsey. "Mister Scott should do something about his language. Most inappropriate around children."
"Yes, sir, I'll have a word with him," he lied.
Talking to Scott about his language would only release a further flood, but his pledge
placated the Homeleader.
There were only a few off-duty crewmen in the gym when they arrived. Kelsey led the boy to a bench next to the wall, and they sat.
"I didn't mean any harm, Mister Kelsey." Ghilar seemed genuinely distressed by the whole affair.
"I know you didn't, but you could have caused someone else to get hurt with this." He lifted the board up to the boy's eye level.
"I just wanted to see how the warp drive works." Ghilar was pouting.
Kelsey began to recite what he'd learned about warp drives in the Academy. Ghilar stopped him half way through. "I know how the book says it works. I wanted to see it work." An intense gleam of curiosity burned in the boy's eyes.
Kelsey remembered the same feelings from his youth. He would offer Ghilar a couple of tech-tapes on the subject, but he knew they wouldn't be enough right now. He needed to change the subject. Inspecting the board, he acknowledged the craftsmanship. "This is very good. Where did you get the sensor components?" He knew Ghilar hadn't gotten them from the adults of his sect.
"Oh, here and there." Ghilar saw the look of concern cross Kelsey's face and became very defensive. "Oh no, not from working systems, from the ship's inorganic wastes recovery system center on Level Twenty-Two."
That Ghilar had been poking around the Enterprise's wastes recovery system deep in the bowels of the starship distressed Kelsey more than the boy's presence in the main engineering room. The boards and other inorganic items that came down the chute were unpredictable at best. "Ghilar," he tried to look cross, "you shouldn't be anywhere near the recovery center, nor should you be using what you found there for your projects. They could cause you great harm if they malfunction."
"I guess so, Mister Kelsey, but, . . ."
The lieutenant interrupted the explanation with an upraised hand. "Enough said." Kelsey remembered being a pre-teen himself and the unquenchable curiosity about starships. "You've done a good job here, and that maneuver you put it through back in Engineering, well..." He whistled to make his point. "What other things can it do?"
That brought a smile from the boy. "Put it down and watch." He activated the controls and the board took off in a straight line course for the ceiling. Soon, everyone in the gym was standing near-by, watching the board's complex jigs and jags. Mister Sulu would be impressed by this, Kelsey thought, envying the boy his toy. What a helmsman he'll make someday, he thought, then remembered the boy's family, if he ever gets the chance.
"Red Alert. Red Alert." A klaxon went off throughout the ship. "Captain Kirk to the bridge."
That was Lieutenant DePaul's voice. Kelsey remembered seeing his name on the command section's duty roster; DePaul had the conn this shift. In the background, he could hear the warp engines spiralling upward toward maximum output. Suddenly, Kelsey and Ghilar were the only ones in the gym.
"Can you find your quarters from here, Ghilar?" Kelsey's battlestation was still command of Photon Torpedo Tube Number Two, a position he had earned toward the end of the first five-year mission, and the same during the beginning of its second; but the uprated Enterprise's tubes were now in the interconnecting dorsal, not on Level 10. He had to get there, but he couldn't forget the boy either.
"Yes, Mister Kelsey, but--"
"No buts, Ghilar. Get there."
"But--" The boy's eyes were wide with excitement.
"Mister, your battlestation is with your family. Get there."
Disappointment filled the youth's eyes, but he nodded. "Yes, sir."
Ensuring the boy headed the right way, Kelsey made his way to the nearest turbolift and, out of breath from his run, entered the hallway outside Tube Number Two. Lieutenant Kevin Riley was waiting outside the open doorway to his post, Torpedo Tube Number One. "Well, Shaun, me boy, do you think your tube can keep up with mine this time?"
"In their sleep, Kevin." Kelsey smiled as he stepped in front of the door and it opened. "Just don't be hopin' that because you command Tube Number One that that's what yer status is going to be."
"Aye, well not if you aren't checking in." Kevin gave him a thumbs up, and in his thickest Irish brogue continued, "Give them bloody red-coats hell, me boy."
"I'll be doing that, Kevin. You be doin' the same." Kelsey entered the torpedo room, and the door shut, cutting off the friendly banter. The competition between tubes had been going on long before he and his fellow Irishman had taken command of the sections, but Kelsey liked to believe they'd fine tuned it to a higher level.
The crewmen assigned him were good, especially the Tellarite chief petty officer, his assistant. There was a torpedo already in the loader, ready to be moved into the dark, open breach of Tube Number Two. Kelsey saw the sleek, black shell of a second volley waiting in the rack off to the right. All it needed to become one of Starfleet's most powerful weapons was the insertion of its antimatter charge.
Taking up his battle position behind the weapon control console, he visually checked the status lights, noting all were green except one, the bridge report. That one was for him to push once his station was ready.
"Report, Chief Hchisherasch." Kelsey had had trouble pronouncing the Tellarite's name at first. His solution had been to remember the sounds he'd heard from a Terran swine during a visit to a county fair back on Earth, and to mimic them. He would never think to tell the C.P.O. this, but since the Tellarites resembled upright Terran swine, it only made sense.
Hchisherasch's furred face turned toward Kelsey. There was fire in the small, near-sighted eyes, and the porcine nose twitched with emotion. "These dung of animals took too long to get the first torpedo ready, but they finally made it with my help."
Kelsey, like all Humans, had had to get used to what the Tellarite called 'civil language,' as grating as it seemed. With pride, he punched the 'station ready' switch, letting the bridge know their status.
The small viewscreen above the tube's open maw showed what the weapon's visual targeting system saw. Stars, distorted by the Enterprise's warp speed, but nothing else. It was unnerving to have only this single, narrow point of view, and he hadn't received permission to switch on his station's sensor array yet. For all they knew down here, the starship could be surrounded by an armada of Klingon battlecruisers, but unless one strayed into his visual sights, they'd never know anything about it down here.
A boatswain's pipe sounded over the intercom. "Captain to crew." Kirk's voice was noncommittal. "Sensors have discovered an anomaly shadowing our present course. Since there have been reports of Orion pirate activity in this sector, it is my decision to bring the ship to red alert. Kirk out."
Some might accuse Kirk of being paranoid at this point, but none could ever accuse him of being caught with his pants down. Kelsey wished he could check out the area of the sensor ghost with the small sensor at his command, but realized that if the ship's main array was seeing only a ghost, his would see nothing at all. With great difficulty, he forced the tension of the wait into the background.
Then the deck tilted as the stars on the viewscreen went into a crazy downward, corkscrew pattern of smears. The ship's inertia dampers didn't compensate fully for the extreme move, forcing Kelsey to grab onto the console to keep from being thrown into the left wall.
Twin booms, a shuddering in the ship's frame and the familiar crackling sound of the screens protecting the ship's skin from the destructive energy of a weapon, told Kelsey that the wait was over. They were under attack. A new green light flashed on his console. He had permission to use targeting sensors.
Six bright, quick spinning star shapes flashed by on the screen, the engine exhaust of Orion fighter craft. A set of cross-hairs appeared over the far right star, his target. His console flashed ready when a second set of cross-hairs overlaid themselves on the first. He signaled the bridge his readiness and immediately felt, as well as saw, their first torpedo launch.
Hchisherasch goaded, cajoled and motivated the torpedo crew. The next weapon had its antimatter injected, its fuse set, and was rammed in record time. There was another deadly black form already moving onto the load rack from the ship's weapons magazine.
Kelsey informed the bridge, then looked at the screen. Two bright blue lights streaked toward the heart of the attacking formation. Tube One had fired simultaneously. Twin stars erupted briefly in the formation's center, the energy of matter and antimatter annihilating each other, expanding immediately. After the screen cleared, it revealed the total destruction of the fighter formation.
Then the stars shifted. Kelsey realized what was happening. The first ships had been short range fighter craft. Very maneuverable, quick and deadly, but requiring a carrier, a mothership, to bring them to the fight. This had been the standard Romulan starship configuration during the first Romulan/Federation war. Now only pirate organizations, operating out of the unsurveyed fringe sectors, used them.
The starship's course straightened out. They were going after the carrier.
Cross-hairs appeared suddenly in the viewscreen's upper right corner. Sensors have something, but there's nothing there, Kelsey wondered, then figured it out, the carrier's rigged for silent running; no lights.
Switching his targeting sensors to infrared, the trail they followed appeared as a dark read smear and the source of it as a brilliant white orb. He snapped on his targeting cross-hairs, and they appeared in the center of the screen. Moments later, he had them superimposed over the others. The green, target lock indicator flashed.
"Tube Two to bridge. I have lock," Kelsey reported.
"Acknowledged, Tube Two," Lieutenant Chekov's voice responded. "Good work. You and Tube One made lock at almost the same moment." Chekov knew of the competition, after all, he'd commanded the tubes himself once upon a time. "Standby."
The pirate carrier was making good speed, nearly matching that of the Enterprise. Kelsey wondered what the captain was waiting for; his weapon had lock.
Expecting to hear and feel launch, Kelsey instead saw the single bright, pulsing orb of the carrier's infrared signature star out with eight new sources that quickly left the angle of view of his tracking sensor. Then there was a series of sizzle/pop sounds, starting at the sensor interface in the wall nearby and ending in the console beneath his fingers. The room filled with the smoke of burned-out circuits and the tracking cross-hairs disappeared as the screen returned to giving them a view of normal space, losing the infrared sensors.
Fire control mechanisms put out the fire and life support cleared the air of the smoke. Kelsey grabbed the trouble-shooter tricorder mounted under the console and searched for what had happened. There was only one path of electronic destruction. Whatever had happened had selectively attacked one part of the computer.
"The tracking computer's gone. Hchisherasch, you and the others begin repairs on the components in the wall; I'll work on the console itself."
"Aye, sir." Hchisherasch didn't waste any time on formality. Leaving behind all Human civility, he got the others to work.
"What happened down there, photons?" Chekov's voice sounded overly urgent on the intercom.
Kelsey responded, while at the same time pulling charred circuit boards from their mounts. "Bridge, this is Tube Two. Targeting circuits are off-line. Do not know the cause."
There was a muffled explosion somewhere far away, and the floor beneath Kelsey shuddered. The ship had taken a hit. A quick glance at the screen showed only the briefest glimpse of a fighter streaking by, twin beams of coherent energy lancing out to strike the starship. Another distant explosion vibrated the floor.
We've dropped out of warp, Kelsey thought. Phaser battery two, located on the starboard underneath side of the primary hull, fired. Kelsey saw the beams reach out, but miss the speeding fighter. They got the entire tracking net, Kelsey deduced.
At a further distance was the carrier. It had turned to support its fighters in their work. Two small orbs, launched from tubes mounted under its forward edge, streaked toward the Enterprise. They and the carrier disappeared as the Enterprise dodged.
At least we can still maneuver, thought Kelsey, but we can't accurately protect ourselves without the tracking computers.
"All tracking circuits are out, photons," Chekov reported from the bridge. "They used some sort of burrowing carrier signal that worked its way back to us and the computers. How long 'till you're back on line?"
Kelsey was just about finished with the boards in the console, but they were only interface modules, the real guts to the system would be in the wall. Looking up, he saw his crew pull a panel from the wall, revealing a mass of melted circuits, the remains of the tracking computer. "No time soon, sir." Kelsey had to report the worst. "They fused the entire unit."
A long and especially intense series of explosions shook the frame of the Enterprise. Kelsey saw the sparkle and bright yellow hue of the shields on the screen and knew they were building toward collapse. If something couldn't be done soon, they would buckle and the starship would die, taking the crew and the colonists with her.
"What's wrong, Lieutenant Kelsey?" sounded a voice from the rear of the room.
Kelsey turned from his console to find Ghilar standing in the door with his hover-board under one arm. He hadn't returned to his quarters as ordered. Kelsey's first thought was to send the boy packing. The sight of the hover-board and its guidance package made him change his mind.
"Mister Ghilar," Kelsey decided to come totally clean with him, "we are under attack by Orion pirates, and they've knocked out the Enterprise's tracking computers."
"Which means the weapons are nearly useless," the boy supplied the next step.
"Correct. I think you can help us." Kelsey smiled.
So did Ghilar, making the connection.
Five minutes later Chief Hchisherasch was replacing the access panel onto the photon torpedo that had been waiting to be loaded. Ghilar laid his hover-board, minus its remote control receiver, near the wall and pulled out its control box from his pocket. In the nearby replicator, a second control device appeared, ready to be inserted into the next torpedo. It surprised both Kelsey and Hchisherasch when they saw how easy it was to modify the weapon with the home made servo-circuitry made from discarded electronics.
"Which fighter do we want to take out first?" Ghilar snapped on the control box and got a satisfying green light from its face.
"None of them." Kelsey smiled. "If we demonstrate our ability to hit a fighter, the carrier will run away."
Ghilar finished the explanation. "But the fighters are nothing without the mothership." Then his eyebrows scrunched together over his eyes. "But won't his shields protect him."
Kelsey nodded, grateful for the boy's quick mind. "Yes, they will, except one thing. In order for them to launch their fighters without dropping their shields, Orion ships have twisting corridors through them. Under normal conditions, a torpedo is traveling too fast to navigate these paths, but..."
"I get it. So what part of the carrier do you want hit?" Ghilar's voice buzzed with excitement.
He's much more confident of the plan than I am, Kelsey thought, a common fault of youth."Engineering. Without power, their shields will drop, and voila." Kelsey gestured, describing an explosion.
There was still a vacant look in Ghilar's eyes as he looked at the incoming carrier. "Where's the corridor, and where is their engineering section?"
"It should be right, about," Kelsey pointed to a spot on the aft portion of the carrier, "there." He turned to insure Ghilar had it and got a nod, then continued. "I'll get the corridor highlighted for you. Get ready."
As Ghilar rechecked his control modules circuits, Kelsey contacted those who could give him control over the weapon. "Bridge, this is Torpedo Tube Number Two."
"Bridge here. Have you repaired your tracking computer?" Chekov was expectant.
"No, sir, but I am ready to attempt an alternative."
Chekov responded. "And that is?"
"There's not enough time to explain, transfer control of our tube to my console and give me access to sensors." Kelsey tried to remain patient.
"Transferring now. Bridge out." Chekov ended the conversation and a new set of lights went on in front of Kelsey.
Returning his attention to Ghilar, Kelsey activated the sensor array and displayed what it was seeing on the screen. Two faint blue corridors of haze could be seen coming from the carrier. "See the corridor on this side, Ghilar?"
"Yes, sir." He tuned his control module to the viewscreen's frequency and got it on his module's small display. Looking up, he reported, "Ready when you are, sir."
The fighters attacked again, and the Enterprise shuddered under the impact, her shields now glowing a brilliant green. "We'll fire at the fighters. They'll scatter, delaying them from attacking again, then turn the weapon onto the carrier."
"Aye, sir." Ghilar's whole attention focused on his small screen. He knew there would be only one shot at this.
"Firing manual." Kelsey pushed the fire button, and there was a shudder as the weapon streaked away on the fighters' trail.
They scattered as expected, and then Ghilar took over. The torpedo made a quick turn and headed for the carrier. Kelsey noted how the torpedo was not heading for the corridor, but for the carrier's prow. That's a good tactic, Kelsey thought as he watched the screen, now they won't shut down the corridors. I only hope he doesn't wait too long before the final adjustment. Kelsey began to sweat as the distance between the weapon and the carrier shortened very quickly.
At the last minute, the torpedo swerved. Ghilar gasped and held his breath as he guided the weapon toward its true goal. It entered the corridor dead center. Ghilar's hands moved ever so slightly, but accurately on the controls. The torpedo twisted through and slammed into the carrier, right on top of where Kelsey had guessed their engineering section would be.
"Safe and ready, sir." There was glee in Hchisherasch's rough voice as he reported the status of the next torpedo, modified and loaded.
Kelsey was watching the destruction caused by the first hit. There was a gaping hole in the skin of the carrier, near its aft. Secondary explosions flashed in and around it. The carrier's shields went down, and she began to coast, her engines off-line.
"Do you think you can put one in that hole, Mister Ghilar?" Kelsey asked.
"Piece of cake, sir."
Kelsey pressed the fire button. Nothing fancy happened as it streaked straight toward the carrier. With unerring accuracy it disappeared into the same hole created by the first photon and exploded deep inside. At first nothing happened, then with a flash, the carrier disappeared, changed instantly into the nuclear fireball of a fusion reaction gone critical.
The entire room's occupants shielded their eyes until the screen's dampening circuit toned down its brilliance. "Damn. I forgot the Orions use pure nuclear fuel to power their warp drives."
With the protection of their mothership gone, the fighters streaked off out of range. Kelsey assumed the captain would wait until their fuel ran out before capturing their crews. Suddenly, each fighter ship exploded in miniature versions of what the mothership had done. And I forgot that Orions are also fond of suicide in situations like this.
The torpedo room exploded in cheers and back-slapping. Hchisherasch was knocking the crew around in his glee. They had done it, Torpedo Tube Number Two, all by themselves. I'll have something to crow about to Riley later. Kelsey leapt down from his position to join them.
It wasn't until five minutes later that he noted that Ghilar hadn't joined them. Turning around, he found the boy still sitting in his seat. There were tears flowing down his cheeks as he stared at the toes of his shoes.
I forgot him, Kelsey thought. He walked up to the young man and squatted. "What's wrong, Ghilar?"
"So many died, and I was the one responsible. Father will be so disappointed with me." His tear filled eyes found Kelsey's, asking for help justifying what he'd done.
Kelsey remembered one of Ghilar's religion's most important precepts--Turn the other cheek--he felt he had an answer. "When your holy writings say to turn the other cheek, to love thy neighbor, maybe it means only if it involves just yourself. I don't think it meant it for situations where many people will be hurt if you do nothing."
The light of hope sparked in the boy's eyes. "Do you think so?" His lower lip still quivered.
Kelsey reached out for the boy and took him into his arms. "Oh yes, Ghilar, I know so. Don't think of how many died on that carrier, think about the Enterprise. Your actions have saved this ship, her crew, the colonists and most importantly, your family. How can you be faulted for saving so many others?"
"But father?" Ghilar sobbed.
"I think he will understand." Kelsey gave him a final hug and then let him go. To his surprise, the crew of Torpedo Tube Two had become quiet as they surrounded the two. With a whoop, Hchisherasch grabbed up Ghilar and tossed him onto his shoulder, parading him around the room with the others in attendance. The transformance of Ghilar was immediate, his face beamed with pride and happiness.
They circled the room twice and were coming back toward the door when it opened and Captain Kirk, followed by Doctor McCoy and Commander Spock, walked in. Everyone in the room stopped in their tracks. Hchisherasch put Ghilar down in front of him. Kelsey took position in front of the rest and reported, "Torpedo Tube Two awaits the pleasure of your inspection, sir."
Kirk looked relaxed. McCoy was beaming, while Spock waited in his typical, noncommittal stance of parade rest. "I should have known it would be you, Mister Kelsey." Kirk chuckled.
"Beg your pardon, sir." Kelsey's eyebrows went up in mock surprise.
"Well done, Mister Kelsey," Kirk replied.
"As you've said to me in the past, sir, it wasn't me, but my crew, and most importantly, my torpedo's helmsman, Mister Ghilar." Kelsey gestured widely with his arm, kneeling at the end to put his arm around the boy's shoulders.
"Most unorthodox, Mister Kelsey," Spock commented.
"But effective, sir," Kelsey responded.
Spock's eyebrow went up, and Doctor McCoy noticed, then turned back to Kelsey. "That makes two victories today." Jabbing Spock in the ribs with his elbow.
"I'd say so," Kirk concluded. "I trust his parents know where he is?"
Kelsey turned to Ghilar only to find his gaze turned downward and his face turning a light shade of red. Facing back to the captain, Kelsey answered. "I guess not, sir, and therein lies a problem."
"And what's that, Mister Kelsey?" Kirk asked.
"The colonists are members of a strict religious sect." Kelsey began.
"Yes, I know."
"Well, I think I know of a way to patch things up, but it will require the presence of Mister Scott." Kelsey described, what a moment ago, was only a glimmer of a plan. It seemed to gel nicely as he described it. "Well, do you think the local Starbase commander would approve?"
"He owes me a favor," Kirk nodded in appreciation, "How about in thirty minutes?" Punching up the bridge on Kelsey's control console, he got Chekov on the line. "Mister Chekov, have a security team find Homeleader Khelzit Stronton, and escort him and his wife to Torpedo Tube Two."
"Can I tell them vwhy, sir?" Chekov requested.
"Tell them it regards their son," the captain replied.
"Aye, sir," the helmsman's voice replied over the speaker.
"Kirk out." The captain punched the intercom off and turned to the crew. "A fine job, Tube Two. You all should be proud." He turned, passed between Spock and McCoy, who fell in behind him.
Commander Scott arrived five minutes later. He walked in the door and saw the mess that had been the tracking computer and thought that had been the reason for his summons. "Ach, what a mess. I'll get a team down here..."
Kelsey interrupted him. "That can wait, sir. Do you remember the scene this morning?" Kelsey described what had happened and what was about to take place and why.
Scott exploded with laughter. "I love it." Approaching Ghilar, he looked him in the eye. "Ye'll make a fine engineer some day boy, once ye're grown a tad. You're welcome in my engine room any time you want." He paused, adding, "Just ask first."
Ghilar was beside himself with glee. "Thank you, sir, I will."
A commotion in the hall interrupted any further comments. Security had their charges in tow, but not without protest. The torpedo room occupants took their places and waited. The show was about to begin.
"Where is Lieutenant Kelsey? I must protest this poor treatment." Khelzit could be heard in the hall.
Kelsey closed the door.
Kirk, Spock and McCoy met them in the hall right in front of the torpedo room.
"What is the meaning of this, Captain Kirk, and where is my son?" Khelzit had forgotten his religious training.
Kirk had a small box in his hand. "I'm not sure, sir. If you'll follow me, we'll find out." He approached the door, and it opened.
Scott stood near the ruined computer, holding Ghilar by the arm, just like earlier.
Khelzit took in the scene and assumed the worst. "Captain, my wife and I are very sorry for Ghilar's..."
Kirk interrupted him. "Not at all." Motioning to Kelsey, he continued. "Play back the action between this ship and the Orion carrier, Mister Kelsey."
Everything that transpired played across the screen. Kelsey watched Khelzit's reaction and noticed that although his face remained stern, there was the light of pride for his son sparkling in his eyes. His mother stood by Khelzit's side, a smile spreading across her face. The replay ended, and Kirk took over.
"Sir, your son seems troubled by what your reaction to his being the cause of the Orion carrier's destruction and the subsequent loss of life. I hope this will help. Mister Ghilar, front and center."
Kelsey took charge of Ghilar from Scott and brought him to stand in front of the captain.
"Attention to orders."
The room snapped to attention.
"For valor above and beyond that expected of a civilian during the action performed this day in Sector Twelve, Quadrant Seventeen, Starfleet hereby awards Mister Ghilar Stronton the Federation's Medal of Valor." Kirk pinned the medal to the boy's shirt. Shaking his hand, Kirk continued, "Thank you for saving my ship."
The room erupted in a new set of cheers. Already feeling
uncomfortable by the whole affair, Ghilar ran to his parents and their protection. There
was an intense look of pride on the Homeleader's face as he received his son into his arms
and lifted him into a giant hug.
Later, in the mess hall, Kelsey was just finishing his evening meal when Captain Kirk joined him.
"I've put you and the crew of Tube Two in for a commendation." Kirk set his tray down across from him at the same table.
Now it was Kelsey's turn to be embarrassed. "I thank you for the crew, sir."
"But not for yourself?" Kirk said.
"They did all the work," Kelsey replied.
Kirk smiled knowingly. "Be that as it may, you all did a fine job today."
"Thank you, sir," the lieutenant repeated.
There was a moment of uncomfortable silence between them, then Kirk changed the subject. "I saw Scott giving Ghilar a grand tour of engineering today."
Kelsey chuckled, relieved that the conversation was no longer about himself. "Yes, sir, the two of them are very good friends now."
The conversation shifted, and the more common subjects of ship and crew took over. Kelsey hoped he would see Ghilar again once he was grown up, but knew because of the boy's religion that it would be extremely unlikely he would ever see his wish realized. But who knows, he thought as he listened to Kirk, I got assigned to the Enterprise on my first assignment. If that could happen, well why not the other.
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