December 11th 2294The bosuns whistle sounded. "Bridge to Captain Chekov."
Chekov was in the corridor outside his quarters. "Chekov here," the captain of the Enterprise said into the open-air microphone in the corridor. Unlike the old Constitution-class starships, the Excelsior-class used voice-activated comlinks throughout the ship, eliminating the need for intercom units.
"Captain, weve received urgent orders from Starfleet Operations. The transport ship Jenolen has disappeared en route to Norpin Five. Were to disembark from SpaceDock immediately, proceed on course to Norpin Five, and conduct search and rescue operations."
"Scotty..." The captain suppressed a surge of concern and addressed the comlink. "Captain to all hands, prepare for immediate departure." He stepped into the turbolift. "Bridge," he ordered.
A few seconds of silence, the doors opened, and he entered the main bridge from the port. He stepped toward the center seat and took a second before he actually sat down. The Enterprise was being ordered out of SpaceDock only an hour before her scheduled departure, and everything aboard was shipshape, but Chekov couldnt shake the feeling that they were being rushed.
As his senior officers assumed their stations, Chekov allowed his fingers to dance around the top of the chairs armrest control panel. He made his way around, and sat down in the center seat. It felt good. It felt right. The urgency was there, but it was tempered with self-assurance. "Clear all moorings. Thrusters to station keeping."
"Thrusters at station-keeping," reported Demora Sulu from the helm.
"Navigator, set course for"
"Already plotted and laid in, sir." Lieutenant Escris voder amplified.
"Very well. Number One, if you please?"
Uhuras hands danced across the communications panel. "Starship Enterprise to SpaceDock Control. Ready for departure."
"Acknowledged, Enterprise. Space doors are opening," came the response.
"Thrusters ahead, Ensign. Ease us out, please," ordered Chekov.
"Traffic clear ahead, Captain," reported Saavik from the tactical station.
Chekov ordered, "Maintain scans."
"Aye, sir. Maintaining scanning."
"Approaching space doors," reported Demora Sulu. Her voice was a little more calm than it had been last time the Enterprise left orbit.
"Sensors detecting heavy exterior traffic, Captain. Recommend we maintain present speed when we clear SpaceDock," Saavik reported. So calm, so...cold... Chekov noted. Uhura said it had been that way since David Marcus had been killed.
"Recommendation noted and appreciated. Helm, maintain present speed out of dock."
Saavik raised an eyebrow, and a faintly pleased expression spread across her face.
As the Enterprise cleared SpaceDock, there were dozens of small passenger craft nearby. Each bore the markings of the major news services. An incredulous look came across Chekovs face. He cocked his head at an angle toward a figure standing near the port turbolift.
Willis OBrien gave him a lop-sided grin. "What did you expect? The most famous name in starships is going to attract a lot of attention, a lot of viewers."
Chekovs eyes narrowed, and he spoke to Uhura. "Have them clear off. Give them thirty seconds."
OBrien drew a sharp breath, the attempt to challenge plain. Chekov straightened slightly in his chair, and asked, "You have something to say, Mister OBrien?"
"No, sir, not at all." OBrien said sullenly.
"Theyll need forty-five," cautioned Saavik from her station as Uhura followed the captains orders.
"Too bad. Theyre about to get a good view of what a starship looks like leaving orbit." He turned to Escri. "Navigator, lay in that course. Helmsman, full impulse power in thirty seconds."
A few of the news yachts began to move sluggishly away while several others, including that of Intergalactic News Service, seemingly refused to give way.
"Captain..." began Saavik. "Starfleet flight protocols"
Chekov turned and met her eyes. The tactical officer ceased her recitation, raised an eyebrow, and turned back to her station. Chekov slowly swung the center seat back as the indicator on Ensign Sulus station reached zero.
The Enterprise launched forward like a le-matya on an helpless sehlat cub.
"Reverse angle on viewer," ordered the captain.
The mainviewers imaging system flickered ever so slightly, then focused in on the news yachts floating away, forced by the fusion particle wake of the impulse engines. "Tactical scan, Saavik," he ordered.
"No damage to any vessel, sir," the tactical officer reported tersely.
"None of them?" Chekov smirked. "I guess thirty seconds was enough time after all..."
Willis OBrien made his way to the port turbolift. "Excuse me, Captain. I have a report to file."
"I suspect that the news reports of our departure will be less than satisfactory in the eyes of Starfleets public relations division, Captain," Saavik remarked once OBrien left the bridge.
"Bet on it," Uhura allowed calmly.
Chekov smiled tightly. "Fuck em," he agreed. "Mister Escri, time until we reach the last reported position of the Jenolen?"
"Captain," called Science Officer Rathan, "I have been checking our course and that of the Jenolen. Their last reported position was just inside the orbit of Saturn. Apparently its captain chose to ignore Starfleet regulations regarding the filing of a flight plan."
"Damn," Saavik whispered loud enough to hear.
Chekov glanced her way for the briefest of seconds, then turned his attention to a nonplused Rathan. "Then, Lieutenant, were going to be scanning from here to Norpin Five. Get another science officer up here at Science Two, and coordinate with Lieutenant Commander Saavik. I want long range sensors on maximum, short range sensors on maximum and even tactical scanners at extreme range." He turned to Escri. "Time until arrival at Norpin Five?"
"At present speed, forty-two years, six months"
"At Warp Factor Eight, Lieutenant..." prodded Chekov, who was not amused by Escris first attempt at an answer to his query.
"Fifteen days, sir. The Norpin star system, more properly known as Beta Cassiopeiae, is forty-two point five light years from Earth. It is a yellow-white F2 subgiant pulsating variable" answered Escri, trying to make up for disappointing his captain with his first response.
"with a period of about twenty-seven days, yes, I remember it now, Lieutenant," concluded Chekov. "When I took astrogation at the Academy, the star was known as Caph." He looked at the screen. "Well, things change..." His voice trailed off.
For a moment, Pavel Andreievich Chekov was lost in a reverie, remembering the first time he had met Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott...
"Welcome aboard the Enterprise, Mister...?" "Chekov, sair. Ensign Pavel Andreievich Chekov. Parmission to come aboard, sair?" "Granted, lad, granted. Im Lieutenant Commander Montgomery Scott, Chief Engineer of the Enterprise. Welcome aboard, Ensign." "Mister Scott? Oh, good. I have been assigned to engineering for my first six months of duty. Vwe will be vworking together on fine-tuning the sheep, no?" "Sheep?" The Scotsman looked sardonic. "Laddie, weve got nae sheep aboard the Enterprise, otherwise wed be having haggis now and then. This is a starship, lad. The finest in the fleet. Not an ovine transport ship. Are ye certain yere aboard the right ship?" "Da, that ist wvhat I set. This is the starsheep Enterprise, no?" "No...er, aye." The devilment grew in Scotts countenance. "Well, I just hope yere in the right place. Come on, lad. Lets see about getting you a billet. Lieutenant Sulus bunkmate just got transferred to an alien vessel. Lets see about getting you in there." "Excuse me, sair...transferred to an alien vessel? How can dat be?" "Well, lad, its a bit hard to explain, but ye see..."
"Captain?" prompted Uhura. She was standing at his side.
"Oh, Number One. What is it?"
"Uh, sir," she whispered. "You were giving orders to Lieutenant Rathan and Lieutenant Commander Saavik..."
The Vulcan and the half-Vulcan studiously pretended that they couldnt hear Uhura.
"Ah, yes. Just thinking. Must be getting senile." The captain cleared his throat. "Lieutenant Rathan, youre in charge of this operation. I want round-the-clock monitoring of the aforementioned sensor and scanner stations. I want the Jenolen found."
"Yes, sir." He glanced at Saavik who was obviously agitated with another one of his decisions. Let her stew for a while, he decided, and turned his attention to Uhura. "Number One, a word with you, please, in my ready room?"
"Of course, Captain." She nodded to her back-up officer to take over communications.
"Mister Saavik, you have the conn."
Chekov and Uhura stepped to the rear of the bridge and turned right as they walked into the captains ready room. The second the door closed, she spun on him. "What is it with you?"
"Daydreaming! While on duty! And in command, for Gods sake, what in hell was so important that we lost you for forty-five seconds! God damn it, Pavel, I swear it! If you zone out on duty like that again, Ill get you relieved of command. What the hell could be so damned important that you were so distracted?!"
"I was thinking of Scotty..." he said sullenly as he moved to his desk.
"Damn," she whispered. Crossing her arms, she stepped across the office to sit on the sofa.
"I was thinking of the first day I beamed aboard. Of our...communications gap."
She couldnt look at him. There was a slight sheen in her eyes, and she pointedly looked at the carpeting, her boots, anything but him. After a few minutes, she gave a short sigh and cocked her head around to face him. "Pavel, I miss him, too. He was there for me when...lets just say, when I needed him." She glanced out the large window. "He was my friend, my confidant, my mentor. And Im worried about him, not just because the Jenolens gone missing, but also because of his reaction to Jim Kirks death."
She stood, walked over to the desk, and leaned over so as to be right in Chekovs face. His eyes looked up from the desk to meet hers. "But I wont have this ship and its crew jeopardized because of your nostalgia for him. Were I in command and you my exec, Id expect you to tell me the same thing as Im telling you: you lose touch with reality, and you lose command. No ifs, ands, or buts, Pavel."
"Understood, Number One. Lets just call it a brief lapse, but if it does happen again, you are ordered to relieve me."
She stood and walked back to the sofa. "Well, I know you didnt invite me in here for me to chew you out, so what did you invite me in here for?" She studied his face briefly. "Saavik, eh?" She sat down and leaned back in the comfortable cushions.
"Now you see why Ive made you my executive officer, Penda. You know me all too well." He chuckled. "So what gives with our tactical officer?"
"Id say she has a chip on her shoulder the size of Gibraltar."
"Agreed. You up to figuring out why?"
She brought up her hand to squeeze the bridge of her nose. Closing her eyes tightly, she shook her head. "Not today. Lets let her sit in her own juices for a day or two. Tell me, Pavel. Whats been happening with her?"
"Since we left Vulcan, shes been bouncing around from starship to starship, from post to post, from assignment to assignment. And frankly, shes been leaving on very bad terms. Im told by Admiral Po that were her last chance. She doesnt carry her load here, and shes going to be at your old transporter post in Old City."
"Ill check in with Ambassador Spock via subspace radio tomorrow." Uhura craned her head further back with her eyes closed. "Hes still at the Vulcan Embassy on Earth, Im sure. Lets see what he knows."
"Good idea. Also check with Lieutenant Escri. They served together aboard the Hathaway. You look tired."
"I am. Id forgotten how much an executive officer does. Add to it my communications duties, and, well, Im tired."
"Penda, if you want, assign a junior communications officer to your shift. Let him or her handle the comm station while you get acclimated to double-duty. Some people, like Spock, can handle it with ease. Others, like myself, for example, cant. Dont be afraid to ask for help if you need it."
The bosuns whistle sounded, and Chekov pressed a key on his desk. "Incoming message from Starship Excelsior," came the voice of a young man.
"Visual, Mister," responded Chekov as he swung his chair around.
Sulus haggard face was filled with exhaustion and grief. "Chekov, its horrible. They were butchered, butchered..."
The Enterprise captains face tightened. "Any sign of the ship that took her? Any idea of where they might have taken her?"
"Its not a difficult guess, Chekov. Were taking the Excelsior to QonoS to effect a rescue of Teresa. Her son, Miguel, is aboard with us. Chancellor Azetbur has given us clearance into Klingon space. I just thought you two would want to know. Wish us luck. Excelsior out."
"Good luck, my friend," Pavel spoke to the fading image.December 12th 2294 Captain Pavel Chekov walked and walked and walked. Hed been on the treadmill for nearly an hour, and still he was too angry to stop walking. Step after step, stride after stride, incline after incline. Nothing was affecting him. Damn the Klingons! Damn them to Hell!
The doors to the ship gymnasium slid open, and Lieutenant Commander Saavik walked in. She wore her hair down, in what loosely could be described as "regulation length," and sported a white kimono and black exercise slacks and soft shoes. "Oh!" she exclaimed. "Excuse me, Captain. I didnt mean to disturb you."
Chekov glanced around the empty gym, glanced at the chronometer on the treadmill. "Even though its oh-three hundred, Commander, this is a public facility. Not the captains private sanctuary." He smiled. "Now if it were my quarters..."
She raised an eyebrow. "I would never presume to enter your quarters without permission, Captain. It would be a violation of Starfleet regulations and my personal ethics." She took the treadmill next to his and began walking, matching his pace step for step, stride for stride.
He glanced sidelong at her. "It was a joke, Saavik."
"Despite serving with Humans in Starfleet for ten years, humor is still a concept I have a great difficulty in mastering."
"Bullshit," he said. "Absolutely one-hundred percent bullshit."
She turned her head toward him, cocking up an eyebrow again. "Bullshit? Ah, you are asserting that Vulcans feign ignorance of humor."
"Perhaps some Vulcans do have trouble with Terran humor, but youre only half-Vulcan. The other half is pure Romulan, from a noble house if I remember correctly, and Romulans do have a sense of humor."
"Quite right, Captain, although it is terribly dark and fatalistic...much like that of your native land, if I remember correctly."
He laughed aloud. "Well, I cant argue with that." The captain stopped walking and leaned back against the railing, wiping his sweaty brows with his already far-too-damp-to-be-any-use towel. "Listen, Saavik. I havent served with you but for a few brief months on Vulcan during our exile there. However, I am aware that something happened on the Genesis Planet, something that changed what you were into what you are."
Studiously ignoring him, she strode quickly up a thirty degree incline, not even breaking a hint of a sweat.
"All right, then, lets talk about why youve been bounced off every ship youve served on since whatever happened on the Genesis Planet."
"Is this a formal debriefing, Captain?" She trudged along, the incline now relaxed to twenty degrees.
"Damn it, Saavik. Im trying to figure out whats going on here!"
"I am sure you were well aware of my service record before I was assigned to the Enterprise."
"Actually, I wasnt. I took you on before I had the chance to review" He looked squarely at her. "Why dont you tell me?"
She stepped off the treadmill, towel dry. "I believe I am finished here. I am also off-duty. If you wish to discuss this further, I can meet you in your ready room in a more formal setting."
"Saavik!" Chekov snapped. "Im trying to help here. Are you all right?"
"Perfectly fine, sir." She strode from the gymnasium, muttering, "Damned boy scout," under her breath. "Theyre all alike." The doors slid close.
The captain sighed. "Computer?" he called into the empty air.
"Working..." came the response.
With narrowed eyes and a quirky little devilish grin on his face, he commanded, "Schedule an appointment for Lieutenant Commander Saavik and myself at 0900 hours tomorrow morning."
So, she wants a more formal setting, does she? What is it Uhuras always saying? Be careful what you wish for? Chuckling, he made his way to the exit.
Chekov sat in his ready room, waiting for the desk chronometer to register 0900. The second the display reached 0859:32, the door chimed. "Enter," he ordered.
Saavik strode in to the room. "Lieutenant Commander Saavik, reporting as ordered, Captain."
"Attention!" barked Uhuras voice, and Saavik snapped her boots together. "How dare you report in such a fashion, Commander Saavik? When the captain honors your request for a more formal setting to his inquiries, I suggest you be five minutes early from now on." Uhuras tone was one of controlled fury.
Saavik was stunned, and her face showed it, if only for a brief second. "Yes, Commander."
Uhura showed no mercy. "Now remain at attention while Captain Chekov and I finish reviewing your record!"
Chekov feigned extreme interest in the service record of the officer before him, while Uhura actually took a few minutes to read it. "Disturbing," Chekov had said. Astonishing was more like it. Saavik had been relieved of duty nine times for insubordination. She actually had stood before two formal boards of inquiry, but apparently intervention from Captains Spock and Kirk had spared her career on those two occasions (and Uhura had suspected actually more).
"My God, Saavik. What the hell is wrong with you?!" demanded Uhura. "Have you read your service record?"
"Then for Gods sake, tell me why youve been doing this?" the first officer snapped.
"I have served Starfleet to the best of my ability, Commander. Apparently that has not been satisfactory to my past commanders."
"Not satisfactory? Youve been bounced from ship to ship to ship, and taking a step down each and every time. Youve had eight reprimands added to your records, and had to stand before two boards of inquiry. Frankly, Im amazed that youre still in the fleet," Uhura shook her head in bewilderment. She stood and walked to the tactical officer.
"Permission to speak freely, Commander?" asked Saavik.
"Denied," snapped the captain. He was leaning back in his chair with a faint smirk on his visage.
"Tell me, Mister Saavik. Is there some reason I shouldnt draw up your transfer papers right now?" asked Uhura, two inches from Saaviks face.
"Sir, I dont"
"Yes or no, Mister Saavik! Is there some reason I shouldnt kick your smart ass off this starship?"
Saavik stared straight ahead. "No, sir."
"Good. Now we have an understanding. Youve earned a transfer off the Enterprise. Ill start on the paperwork this afternoon."
"Sir, with all due respect, I request"
"All due respect? All due respect... If you had had any respect at all for your captain, you would have had the courtesy to partake in his overtures for a discussion last night...as he requested." Uhura moved to within a centimeter of Saaviks nose. "Unless you are ready to discuss the matter now?"
Saaviks eyebrow crept upward.
Chekov uttered the phrase which summed up the situation: "Checkmate."
The young Romulan-Vulcan woman sighed and looked down to the toes of her boots. "Captain," she began tentatively, "I regret my choice of words and actions last night. I meant no disrespect to you or your rank."
The opening was his to take. "Saavik, at ease," he ordered, and she snapped to a parade-rest stance. "Frankly, your record indicates a severe problem. I dont know what it is. I dont really care what it is. I just want you to know that were here for you when youre ready to talk about it."
"Sirs, you dont know me, and I dont know you. We served together nearly ten years ago for a brief time while in exile on Vulcan, but I have had no contact with either of you since then, and, frankly, I doubt either of you is interested in my career other than how it might affect our mission."
"Then youre absolutely right, Saavik," snapped Uhura. "You dont know us. We do care about you. You are the protégéé of one of our dearest friends. Weve seen you rescued from Hellguard, seen you at the funeral of Spocks aunt, Roberta. Weve seen you struggle through the Academy. Weve seen you struggle through Davids death..."
Saaviks lip trembled briefly, and Chekov noticed.
"...And its true we havent seen you since we left you on Vulcan to return to Earth for our courts-martial, but that in no way means we dont care about you," Uhura ended softly.
"Tell me about Davids death," prompted the captain.
Saaviks eyes widened. "No."
"Is that what this is all about?" asked the communications officer.
"Yes, it is," concluded Chekov. He stared at the young woman before them. "My God, Saavik, its been ten years since David Marcus was killed."
Saaviks lips parted, as though she were about to say something, anything. She just wanted them to shut up. "Request permission to return to my quarters. I will not challenge a transfer."
Chekov knew theyd pushed her too far. "Denied," he responded. "Sit down and shut up."
"Is that an order, sir?"
"You better believe it."
Saavik sat down on the sofa, andif Chekov hadnt seen it, he never would have believed itsat at attention.
Uhura said, "Saavik, whatever happened on that planet has never been recorded. I knowIve looked. I also know that on Vulcan you tried to talk with Admiral Kirk, and I watched him disregard you, dismiss you at every opportunity. He was too hurt to talk with you then. And now that hes dead..."
"He never forgave me for that which I have never forgiven myself."
Uhuras expression melted like butter. "Honey, he did forgive you. He just never told you."
Saavik shook her head. "Every opportunity I had with him, he would not listen. I...I finally gave up trying. He was just so distant, so cold..."
"So Vulcan?" suggested Chekov.
"Damn it, yes, sir. Yes..."
Chekov stood and made his way before her. "Want to know something funny, Saavik?"
Her eyes narrowed. "Humor is..."
"...a difficult concept, I know," concluded the Enterprise commander. "Trust me, as a Romulan, youll love this one."
"Very well," she met the challenge.
"It wasnt you he never forgave. It was himself," explained Uhura.
"He never forgave himself for not making it to Genesis in time to save David," Chekov reiterated.
Bewilderment flooded Saaviks vulcanoid features. "And that is supposed to be humorous?"
"In the true Russian...and Romulan...sense of the word, yes."
"Damn," Saavik whispered.
"But theres something else, Saavik. Isnt there?"
Saavik nodded. "But I am not...prepared to discuss that at this time."
Chekov was instantly suspicious. "And why not, Commander?"
Now it was Saaviks turn to be inscrutable. "Because I have yet to have enough time to assimilate your...unique analysis of Captain Kirks behavior."
Uhura and Chekov looked at each other closely. "Very well," the captain finally said. "Another time, then. See that its soon, Saavik. Otherwise, you might find yourself back in here under less than pleasant circumstances."
"Truly, an experience I wish to avoid."
Saavik spun on one heel and out the door without missing a stride. As the doors slid close, Uhura chuckled. "Good thing the pneumatics didnt malfunction. If theyd been one tenth of a second late in opening, our tactical officer would be in Sickbay with a broken nose."
Chekov chuckled, too. "I just hope we did some good..." It was a question, improperly phrased, of course, but a question nonetheless.
"I think we did, Pavel. I think we did..."
Willis OBrien sat in his quarters, alone. His first interview was in five minutes, and he was hoping it would go well. He hadnt picked a high-ranking officer, but he had picked a key member of the senior bridge staff. He looked around his spacious quarters and made sure everything was ready. All three of his holocams were floating on their antigrav drives, one positioned for his head and shoulders, another positioned for the interviewees, and one positioned for the general interview shot.
He shook his head slightly at the luxury Starfleet had afforded him: three live potted ficus trees, a few ferns here and there, a comfortable double bed, a nice double window view (through which one of the engine nacelles could be seen), plush furniture and other accommodations, and a sonic shower with a built-in Jacuzzi. These were the surroundings of a fine hotel, and this was not lost on him. Only senior officers and visiting dignitaries rated such a suite, and OBrien knew that it also was meant to serve as a distraction.
Hed already been snooping down on Deck Seven among the crew quarters. There were six to eight junior officers and crewmembers assigned to each of sixty dormitory-style rooms with spartan furniture and furnishings. Bunk assignments were made by the computer, without regard to species, sex, race, creed or belief systems. In the room he had viewed, there were three Human women (and none of them from the same planet), one Vulcan woman, two Human males (one of whom was the only native Terran in the group), a Tellarite male and an asexual Miran. Certainly a diverse group, but they had sat there, playing chess, glancing through the newsnets on viewers, reading magazines, writing letters home.
They had answered his questions succinctly, crisply, and as pleasantly as anyone he could ever hope to interview. The only friction had come from the Tellarites objections to the serving of pork products on board Federation starships. Of course, it was the Vulcan woman who logically pointed out that each of those present could object to some aspect of each others cuisine, including the consumption of any animal products. The Tellarite snorted in laughter, and even the Miran tittered a bit; and OBrien knew the conflict had been a staged one.
Now, he sat and waited for his first interview...
The door chimed. "Come," he called, and in stepped Ensign Demora Sulu, Chief Helm Officer of the Enterprise. "Welcome, Mister Sulu. Please, have a seat," he indicated the chair opposite his.
"Thank you, and its Ms. Sulu, not Mister." She chuckled. "Im just an old-fashioned fem at heart."
"All right," he smiled warmly, "Ms. Sulu, Id like to thank you for consenting to this interview."
"No problem," she answered, smile still on her face.
"So, whats it like being the daughter of a hero?"
Her eyes widened slightly. "Oh...Dad? Well, I suppose he is a hero, isnt he?" She chuckled nervously. "Guess we need to edit this out of the holo. I mean, Famous starship captains daughter doesnt know her dad is a hero. Terribly tabloid, isnt it?"
"You tell me," prompted OBrien.
"Well, Dad is Dad. Captain Hikaru Sulu, commander of the Federation starship Excelsior, isnt someone I know. I just know Dad."
"Tell me, what was it like growing up with your father away for such long periods of time?"
"Well, Dad and Mom got married in 2270. Standard three year deal. I came along a year and a half later. Dad was in Starfleet Intelligence at the time; Mom, too. I was born in De Koog in the European Hegemony. About the time I was eighteen months, Dad shipped out on the Enterprise for its second five-year mission under Captain Kirk."
"That was the mission that ended in 2275 with the Serenidad Tragedy."
"Thats right. Captain Kirk got the Enterprise shot to hell rescuing Princess Teresa and Doctor McCoy from the Klingon invasion forces." She frowned a second. "Terrible news about her, wasnt it?"
"Yes, it was," he answered neutrally. News is news.
"Anyway, Dad came back home and stayed with Mom and me for a few weeks. He didnt like Tony too much, though."
"Moms second husband. They had a couple of three year contracts, but he died while on a mission."
"So he was in Starfleet Intelligence, too?"
Demora blushed. "Yeah, Mom was a real Mata Hari, all right. Tony died while on a mission with her. Dad came home from time to time to visit me, but he stayed clear of Tony and Mom. Hed found himself a couple of terrific lady friends, and I think Mom wanted him to come home to stay after Tony had been killed, but Dad would have nothing to do with Moms plans."
"It must have been incredibly lonely growing up."
"Are you kidding?" She literally beamed. "I had lots of visits from Dads friends, including the captain."
"Yes. He was Dads best friend from the time they served together on the Enterprise. I think its great theyre both starship commanders these days."
"So how did you end up in Starfleet, Ms. Sulu?"
"After the Kelvan War, I applied to the Academy. I was only sixteen, and I failed the entrance exam. I did really well in all the spatial mechanics, physics and mathematics sections, but I blew the language section completely. I also blew the diplomacy section. Badly."
"Well, because I have a tendency to say what I think. Too often. Far too often. Its as though I dont have any common sense on what to say and not to say."
"What did you think about Captain Harriman?"
The smile that had been present since the interview began vanished in a millisecond. She sighed. "Him... Do we have to talk about it?"
"I think our viewers would like to know about the incident."
"There isnt much to say, is there? I mean, you had over a dozen reporters on the Enterprise for the publicity cruise. Youve seen the holovids. Youve read the official reports."
"Actually, I was there. Remember?" He pressed the issue. "But I want to know what you think, Demora...may I call you that?" His question was designed to throw her off, and it worked. "Off the record, if you prefer."
"Off the record...What do I think?...I think that Captain John Harriman was a nice man who had a tough job: replacing James T. Kirk as Captain of the Enterprise. Never mind that it was the Enterprise-B. It was the name that was important. And John Harriman simply couldnt do it... Im not sure anyone can."
"Not even Captain Chekov?" he asked.
"If anyone can do it, Captain Chekov can. But its not going to be easy for him either, you know."
"Ordinarily, a starship commander is master of his domain. With little input from Starfleet Command, a captain has to make hundreds of decisions each and every day, decisions which may have long lasting repercussions, decisions which could mean the death of each and every person on this starship, decisions which wont be second-guessed except in extreme circumstances."
"Yes, I suppose thats true. So why is Captain Chekov not the master of his domain?"
"Because of you, Willis." She smiled. "You dont mind if I call you that, do you?"
"Touché," he nodded. "But tell me, why because of me?"
"Youre going to be sitting in judgment on his every decision. Your viewers," she gestured at the holocam facing her, "are going to be his jury."
OBrien cocked his head slightly. "I suppose we could say youre going to be his advocate," he remarked pointedly.
She laughed aloud, and for several seconds. "Oh, no, not me. Im just a witness in his behalf." She leaned forward. "He can take care of himself, and hell serve as his own advocate."
"There will be some who will second-guess his decision to engage impulse engines in heavy traffic."
"Not on this ship, there wont be. And I doubt at Starfleet Command either. The Enterprise was ordered out of SpaceDock on a rescue mission. Time is of the essence."
He decided to change the interviews focus. "So how is the search progressing?"
"Were using a helical search pattern devised by the captain. But even at Warp Factor Eight, this search could take weeks."
OBrien decided to push an issue he suspected was underneath the surface. "Are you proud of your father?"
"Im proud that hes gotten what hes always wanted: command of a ship of the line."
He pushed harder. "Do you think hes proud of you?"
"I hope so." She looked wistful and stood up as if to leave.
"Please, Demora, sit down. Ive got a few more questions." It was obvious to him that hed finally pressed the wrong button within her.
"I cant. I really need to get back to duty. I enjoyed the interview."
Willis OBrien knew the window of opportunity had slammed shut, and he had no doubt that it had been reinforced with force screens as well. He stood and pressed a remote control to deactivate the holovid cameras. "I did, too. Demora. Can we get together for lunch some time?"
She smiled inscrutably. "Perhaps." She turned and left OBrien in her wake.
"What the hell were you thinking, Ensign?!" demanded Chekov.
Uhura cut her off. "No one gave you permission to speak, Ensign Sulu!"
The young woman stood at attention in the captains ready room. Her interview had aired only a few minutes ago during the afternoon newscast, and she had been summoned by two security guards. The captain sat at his desk while the executive officer stood beside him.
"I gave this crew orders to cooperate with our on-board reporter, but I didnt give anyone permission to disregard military decorum," the captain said darkly. "Your conversation was so out of line that I may be forced to reconsider my decision for you to serve in the command crew." He stared at her with open distaste. "Have you anything to say, Ensign?"
"Yes, sir," she replied.
"Be afraid, Ensign," warned Uhura. "Be very afraid."
"I apologize for the embarrassment that my interview has created."
"Embarrassment? Ensign, you criticized your former commanding officer, suggested that the public might find your current commanding officer to be unworthy to sit in the center seat, and generally made an ass of yourself."
"But...those comments were off the record!"
"Irrelevant, Ensign. As Mister Willis demonstrated, your comments during his presence will never be off the record." Chekov sighed. "Demora, I dont know what you were thinking...I dont know if you even were thinking...but I expected more of you. I am very disappointed by this." He sighed again. "You will issue a formal apology to the family of Captain Harriman. You will issue a formal apology to me. And you will refrain from making off the record comments to anyone regarding a superior officer, or I will have your ass up on charges of insubordination."
"Dismissed," Uhura snapped, and Sulu turned on her heels and exited the ready room. Security guards stood at the door.
"Next order of business," Chekov called to them.
Willis OBrien was escorted into the ready room. The doors closed with his guards outside.
"Captain, whatever is this all about?"
"Oh, I think you know, Mister OBrien. You took advantage of one of my crew this morning and may well have damaged her career."
"I simply conducted an interview that she had agreed to," OBrien argued.
"She prefaced some of her comments with the statement that they were off the record, didnt she?" Chekov asked.
"Well, yes, of course, but the comments were so newsworthy"
"That you betrayed her trust and may very well have ruined her career," interrupted Uhura. "You violated your own professional ethics!"
"That was not my intention. But news is news. She agreed to the interview."
"That will be all, Mister OBrien. You took advantage of one of my crew. That is a fact I will not forget nor forgive. Neither will Ms. Sulu, I suspect. Dismissed."
"But, Cap" he started to argue, but Uhura was suddenly in his face and two security guards were again in the room. "Yes, sir."
The doors closed with only Uhura and Chekov remaining in the ready room. The captain had been seated the entire time, but his executive officer was pacing the room like a angry caged tiger. "Damn it, damn it!" she swore.
"Draw up a memorandum to the crew. Explain that comments off the record are not to be made in the presence of our reporter."
"Yes, sir." She looked at him with concern in her eyes. "You okay, Pavel?"
"Whats that old line from Shakespeare? How sharper than a serpents tooth...?"
"Demoras no child, Pavel. Shes an adult who just happens to have made a naive mistake."
The captain suddenly looked older than his years. "Lets just hope she doesnt make any more like that."
"You gonna keep her at the helm?"
Chekov nodded. "For the time being. But Im going to keep my eye on her."
The bosuns whistle called for attention. "Captain Chekov, we have an incoming communication from Federation diplomatic courier Franklin."
Chekov spoke toward the ceiling. "On my way."
Chekov strode forward around the navigation and helm stations to stand in the pit, the sunken area before those stations that was located before the mainviewer. "Captain Chekov here," he spoke clearly. "Standing by for your transmission, Franklin."
"This is Spock," came the Vulcans voice over the loudspeakers. "We are approaching your present position. Reduce your speed to impulse and prepare for my arrival."
"Yes, sir!" The captain could barely restrain the delight in his voice as the prospect of his mentor aboard the ship. "Helm, take us out of warp. Tactical, scan for the Franklin."
Saaviks voice trembled so faintly that only he would have noticed, but notice Chekov did. "A-aye, sir. The ship is approaching from starboard. It is dropping out of warp drive."
Chekov looked at Escri. "Thrusters to station keeping."
"Aye, sir. Keeping station."
The loudspeaker called again. "Transporter Room Two to Bridge. Weve received a request"
Chekov turned to Saavik, expecting her to volunteer for the honor of welcoming her guardian aboard, but she wouldnt even turn to meet his eyes.
Noting her captains discomfiture, Uhura raised her head, volunteering, and Chekov nodded in agreement. "As expected," he paused briefly while he searched his memory, "Technician Darrow. Commander Uhura is on her way to greet our guest."
Spock stepped down from the transporter platform and noted with satisfaction that Uhura was there to greet him. He raised his hand in a Vulcan salute. "Live long and prosper, Commander. Permission to come aboard?"
She raised her hand in the same fashion. "Peace and long life, Captain Spock. Im delighted to welcome you aboard the Enterprise."
Spock shook his head slightly. "An incorrect salutation, Commander. I have resigned my commission. I am now a Federation Ambassador."
She smiled warmly. "Well, Im still delighted. I gather youre here to assist in our search for the Jenolen?"
"Negative. My first assignment from the Federation Secretary of Interplanetary Relations is to seek out a mediated peace treaty with the Tholian Assembly."
"Really? Well, I can think of no better person for the job. After all, youve even had face-to-face contact with them from time to time during our various tours of duty on the Enterprise."
"Apparently the Secretary shares your view."
"Indeed," she agreed. "Allow me to escort you to the guest quarters weve assigned you. Would you be interested in joining the captain and me for dinner tonight?"
"Negative, Commander. I plan to spend the rest of the day and the evening in meditation and study. Can we schedule our dinner for tomorrow evening instead?"
Uhura agreed. "Certainly, sir. No problem whatsoever." She turned to leave.
"How is the search for the Jenolen progressing?" the Vulcan asked before the doors opened.
She turned to face her former superior officer. "I regret, Ambassador, that our search has been extremely unproductive."
"Odd. I noted the charting of three Class Two comets and what appears to be wreckage from a Promellian starship."
"Oh, that. Yes," she conceded, "but I meant"
"I understand what you meant, Commander...and the sentiment behind it. I commend the captain for his search pattern. I noted its resemblance to one he devised as a navigator under my tutelage."
She smiled. "So did I." She turned back to the door and strode forward. "Until tomorrow evening, Mister Ambassador."December 13th 2994 Chekov walked around the navigation and helm stations to stand in the pit. "Captain Chekov here. Standing by for your transmission, Excelsior."
The screen changed to show Captain Hikaru Sulu seated in his center seat. "Oh, good, Pavel. Sorry to interrupt your search, but were still a day from QonoS. I was reading your reports, and noted that youve been using a standard helix search pattern at Warp Factor Eight."
"I cant think of anything more efficient and accurate, Hikaru." Uh oh, thought Chekov; his personal red alerts were going off like those of the Enterprise while under attack by a Klingon Ktinga wolf-pack formation.
"Efficient, accurate, and potentially fatally slow. We need to cover more area more quickly, Pavel. The lives of the passengers and crew of the Jenolen stand in the balance. I suggest you employ a Lissajous search pattern at Warp Factor Nine. Well cover more space in less time."
Chekov shook his head in complete disagreement. "Hikaru, that means well be missing hundreds of cubic light-years, light-years in which the Jenolen might be located."
"Of course theres that chance, Pavel, but youre missing the point: Time is of the essence for the crew of the Jenolen."
The Enterprise commander looked perplexed. "How can you make that deduction? For all we know, the Jenolen has had a failure of their warp chambers coil, resulting in a loss of warp drive and subspace communications."
Sulu winced at the memory Chekovs words evoked, the memory of Khan, the Reliant, and a ship getting shot out from under him. Angry that his friend should intentionally bring up the incident, his jaw tightened. "Captain Chekov, I realize that you have only the best interests of the crew of the Jenolen at heart. However, I have a lot more experience at this sort of thing. I urge you to employ a Lissajous search pattern at Warp Factor Nine. Immediately."
Chekov contemplated his reaction, completely unaware of the reason for the anger hed evoked in Sulu. Tugging his lower lip up to form a tight grimace, he responded, "I am in charge of this rescue operation, Hikaru. Not you. Your suggestion has been duly noted and logged. Chekov out."
Uhura cut communications immediately, and made her way to Chekovs side. "You okay, Captain?"
"Fine, Number One. Fine."
"Mind your duties, Commander Uhura. And Ill mind mine."
"Aye, sir." As Ensign Michaels, her bridge relief, assumed her station, Uhura made her way around the bridge. Chief Engineer Sar was at work on maximizing the ships sensors by channeling as much warp engine power as he could safely manage into the system. She was pleased the chief engineer had taken it upon himself to do what he could to aid in the search.
Back at Saaviks tactical station, Uhura could monitor the search course with a glance. Saavik looked up at Uhura, shaking her head in dissatisfaction. Neither of them were happy with the tension so obviously growing between the two starship captains.
At Science One, Lieutenant Rathan saw a slight space time distortion at the extreme edge of his sensor range. Noting the coordinates of the anomaly in his photographic memory, he cleared the display even as Commander Uhura made her way along to his station.
"No, Commander. Merely fine tuning," Rathan answered.
Uhura nodded. Long range sensors needed constant monitoring and fine tuning, especially during search and rescue operations. Rathans duties would necessarily require such routine procedures, but she couldnt help but feel a touch of suspicion. Had something been on the screen before he had cleared it? Nonsense, she told herself. Rathan was one of Jim Kirks best students at the Academy. Chekovs got me feeling paranoid.
She stepped across the threshold to the turbolift and glanced cursorily at the Environmental station. Ensign Moen stood for a second, to stretch, his typically Capellan two-meter frame unaccustomed to the seat. Uhura made a mental note to get a larger chair for the station.
At Science Station Two, Ensign Sandeep Kuntawala made continuous adjustments to the plotting device monitoring their progress. Although the distance to the Norpin star system was forty-two light years from the Sol system, in two days theyd already traversed seven light years. In that distance, the Enterprise had plotted two minor comets, one rogue planetoid, a small derelict space probe and the remnants of what appeared to be a Promellian battle cruiser. "Hows everything going, Ensign?" she inquired.
"Its always surprising what searching space can yield, but other than the remains of what I insist is not a Promellian vessel, weve very little to show for our efforts." He sighed. "Im sorry, Commander. And I must express my concerns about the possible change from a spiral helix search pattern to a parametric-based one. When I run our present position finds through the computer, its unlikely we would have found the space probe or the remains of that starship."
Uhura sighed as well. "However, whos to say that we wouldnt have already found the Jenolen?"
Kuntawala stared at her, unblinking. "Why, I am, Commander. I am a starship science officer with two years deep space exploration experience. I also hold a specialists certificate in astrogation, as well as a masters certificate in sensor engineering. I can state categorically"
"Belay that, Mister. Immediately," she snapped. "Captain Sulu is a former starship helmsman with nearly thirty years experience, as well as specialists certification in astrogation, astronautics, command and even a doctorate in astrophysics. So bear that in mind before you decide to rest on your academic laurels. And one more thing, son. If I hear you talk this way about a superior officereven if that officer is of another vesselIll have you on report."
Kuntawala looked properly chastened. "Aye, sir."
Uhura glanced over to the center seat as she continued her stroll around the upper platform. Chekov was still sitting in the command chair, brooding, a frown across his face. She walked past the mainviewer, and stopped by the Weapons station where Lieutenant Commander Brooks was on duty. Katarina Brooks was a lovely woman in her late fifties. She was a senior weapons officer and had spent twenty years as weapons officer aboard the Farragut. Outside of the senior command crew, she was probably the most experienced officer on the Enterprise.
"Nothing to report, Commander," Brooks announced. "I know its not much, but I am using targeting sensors to assist in the search as well. Nothing within range."
"I know you want to help, Commander," Uhura said softly, "but discontinue your efforts. Channel your sensors into the tactical station and tie in the power from the phaser system into the sensor system as well."
"But if the Jenolen is a victim of hostile forces..."
"Well still have the photon torpedoes on line. In fact, have the photon teams load all tubes. Not that well be using them, or even expect to be using them, but you can never tell when a little practice will come in handy."
Brooks nodded in approval. "Aye, Commander." She tapped a comlink. "Bridge to photon crews. This is a drill: Load all tubes and bring ready to bear." There was a double chirp. "Theyve acknowledged, Commander. Drill in progress."
"Practice makes perfect, Mister Brooks." Uhura smiled. "Have them repeat the exercise every fifteen minutes for the next hour. Report final average reaction time, please."
"With pleasure, Commander. Something to do..."
Uhura stepped to the next station, and repressed the unavoidable shudder. The security chief was a Skorr, and try as she might, she couldnt get past her aversion to birds. As an avian, Chterr had huge wings which could be used for flight. As a result, Chterr wore a crimson Starfleet vest across his chest (the back of it was open for his wings) with a yellow collar around his neck (the color of which clashed with the color of his feathers), and the shorts he wore were black with gold stripes down the sides. His rank insignia was pinned to his right shoulder while the Starfleet insignia graced the left. His feathers were a brilliant gold like all the males of the Skorr warrior caste, and his talons snapped crisply against the buttons of the console. He had had a brilliant career with Starfleet, but he was still ...a bird, and that caused Uhura to shudder again.
Chterr turned to her, and a look of sympathy flashed across his face as though he knew it wasnt easy for her, instinctively realizing that she was almost terrified of him. Although she knew it was an all-too-common reaction in Humans, it wasnt one Uhura was proud of. She felt even worse as he clicked his tongue into position to speak the language of Humans, one which she knew his species found both foreign and difficult to articulate. "Hel-l-lo, Commander. Making the rounds?"
Finding his effortsboth to speak her language and to put her at easeadmirable, she forced a slight smile. "Indeed, Mister Chterr." She glanced at his boards. He had the security teams engaged in target practice this shift. "I see youre making use of the holographic firing range."
"Wel-l-l, its stil-l-l nowhere near as good as a real-l-l l-l-life firing range, but the teams need practice."
"What do you mean?"
"Ive been on the Hercul-l-les since graduating from the Academy. We had real-l-l-life situations with the Kzinti time and time again. My first day aboard the Herc, we saw action. And I l-l-learned that al-l-l the practice at the Academy doesnt amount to much when it comes time to put that practice into action." He gestured at the simulation. "Its far from perfect, but having the targets move in the random manner Ive programmed wil-l-l make for better trained security teams."
She looked at the monitor, leaned closer for a better look. "In another few decades, the simulations will be perfect. I saw something very promising recently at a technology expo. The Daystrom Institutes new wave of the future is something called the isolinear chip. One chip can replace four Duotronic components; their operations are compiled at the subatomic level. The project leader told me if successful, a single isolinear chip could replace the several hundred Duotronic modules used in a tricorder. Our devices would get smaller, more practical. And things like holodecks would take on a realistic look instead of an obviously generated one."
Chterr agreed. "I saw something about it on FNNs Science and Technol-l-logy Today. One of them l-l-likened the next few decades to the computer enhancements made from the 1960s through the 1990s on Earth. Wel-l-l be having to rethink the way we design everything. Memory and power wont be as much of a concern as before."
Uhura suddenly blinked in surprise. During their conversation, she had stopped feeling so...uneasy in his presence. But now... she was again...uneasy.
Chterr chirped nervously at her reaction. He could obviously sense her discomfort, and he obviously knew its cause, which made Uhura feel even worse.
"Is there any thing el-l-lse I can hel-l-lp you with, Commander?" the Skorr asked.
"Not at all. Carry on, Mister Chterr."
She strolled past the turbolift and down the steps, taking up a station beside her captain. Doctor McCoys favorite place, she thought to herself. She looked up to Chterr as the Skorr was involved with his security board and couldnt help but shudder. She mentally chided herself. This...this...this racism...simply isnt like me...
Dinner in the captains ready room was becoming a regular occurrence, but usually it was just a sandwich and a soft drink. Tonight, the galley crew had brought in a table and some comfortable chairs while preparing to serve a formal dinner for the captains esteemed guest. At 1800 precisely, the expected door chime sounded. "Come in," called Chekov as he stepped toward the door.
Spock entered the ready room, and Chekov caught just a glimpse of emotion that flashed across his countenance. Spock was obviously pleased by the arrangements and the selection of Vulcan cuisine. Given the number of Vulcans serving aboard the Enterprise, Chekov had no doubt that Spock would find the flavor of the meal genuine.
Uhura was seated at one end of the table; Chekov took a seat at the other. Spock sat down in the only vacant chair, and the two galley crewmen began serving them.
"Were so glad you joined us, Ambassador Spock," Uhura said pleasantly. "Were honored by your presence."
Spock nodded, and Chekov wondered if the Vulcan had been embarrassed.
The galley crew began serving warm barkaya marak. While the vegetable soup tasted like cream of spinach to Chekov, he knew that it was made from a peanut-like legume.
"So, tell us about your mission, Ambassador," urged Chekov. "A treaty with the Tholians?"
"That is my assignment, Mister Chekov," admitted the Vulcan.
"But youre talking about a race that has been openly hostile to the Federation since their first encounter with the Enterprise near that interspatial rift," argued the captain.
"I am," agreed the Vulcan. "However, these twenty-six years of hostility are the direct result of a misunderstanding, a misunderstanding that can be corrected with the result being a lasting peace between the Tholian Assembly and our Federation."
Uhuras eyes narrowed slightly. "A misunderstanding you blame yourself for," she concluded.
"A misunderstanding that I helped facilitate." Spock finished the last of his soup. "Excellent choice to begin our dinner. My compliments to the chef and the galley staff."
"We would have served plomeek soup, but there was a blight on Vulcan, and the crop was ruined," Chekov apologetically explained. "I know its your favorite."
"Yes, I had heard that there was an outbreak of the knurt this season. Fortunately, the Vulcan agricultural scientists know how to contain it and minimize its effects.
The soup tureens empty, the galley staff removed them and brought forth the entree and side dish: balkra and pre tarmeeli. They also served up iced sheekuya nana as a beverage.
While he had been assured by Doctor Chapel that the items planned for the dinner were quite tasty to Humans, Chekov was somewhat hesitant. He had never liked casseroles, and after a few mouthfuls, he decided he didnt like the balkra. He hated squash, and while balkra looked and had the texture of mashed potatoes, it tasted like the yellow squash Doctor McCoy often had for dinner.
On the other hand, pre tarmeeli was a hot and spicy vegetable dish, much like a vegetable curry. Chekov really savored the flavor of the dish, and also enjoyed sipping the sheekuya nana, which tasted like an orange-mint iced tea.
After exchanging glances at the remains of each others meal, Chekov and Uhura swapped plates.
Spock, always the Vulcan, dutifully ate each and every bite, stopping only to ask questions. "Is there any word from the Excelsior?"
"Theyre expected to arrive tomorrow. I...I fear for the worse," admitted the captain honestly. "They killed Doctor McCoys children. Killing his wife would be par for the course."
"Revenge is not logical but always all too predictable."
Uhura stared in disbelief. "But what about hope, Spock?"
"Hopehowever ingrained in Humanityis illogical. I would estimate"
"No!" Uhura said firmly. "Dont. I dont care to know that shes probably dead. I have to have hope for Doctor McCoys sake!" she snapped harshly. Briefly sitting in silence, she composed herself. "Im sorry, Spock. Its just how I feel."
"There is no need to apologize for being Human," answered Spock. "To deny yourself hope would be to deny yourself your Humanity. And you, Upenda Nyota Uhura, are most Human among Humans."
Chekov watched the exchange between his two friends in silence. "Well, to add to everyones misery, we still have no sign of the Jenolen. It is most baffling."
"Have you gone over the sensor logs?" asked the Vulcan.
"Lieutenant Rathan, our science officer, is quite thorough. If there were any irregularities, he would have brought them to my attention."
"Is this the same Rathan of Vulcan who took several courses from Captain Kirk and myself at the Academy?"
"Yes," the captain answered as he finished his iced sheekuya nana.
The galley attendants began removing the empty plates and serving bowls from the table. From a banquet cart, they brought forth ameelah and prusah kisan.
"Two desserts, Mister Chekov?" inquired Spock.
Chekov was a little nonplused by the fact that Spock had yet to address him as "Captain," either by rank or title. Interesting... he thought. Very interesting. Perhaps our runaway engineer is not the only one in denial. He looked at the two desserts and raised an eyebrow at the attendants. "Doctor Chapel says you can have the ameelah, sir, but she suggested prusah kisan for Ambassador Spock," one attendant explained.
"Having no choice in the matter, give me the ameelah," said Chekov as the attendants served him his dessert. He took a forkful and was surprised by the flavor. It reminded him of honey-fried bananas. "Not bad," he decided aloud. "Pretty good, in fact."
Spock was served his prusah kisan and began eating it with some vigor. "Excellent again, Mister Chekov."
"What is it like, Mister Spock?" asked Uhura.
Spock looked thoughtful for a brief moment. "My mother likened it to a fruit custard pie...without the eggs, of course. Vulcans are vegetarians."
"Its a shame your mother didnt serve it to us while we were in exile on Vulcan. She usually served us Terran cuisine."
"That is her nature," the Vulcan conceded. "The Lady Amanda is a gracious host to her guests."
Uhura chuckled, "Well, Ill have the prusah kisan as well."
"Sorry, Commander. The doctor issued changes to your diet card as well."
Chekov laughed openly as Uhura pouted. The attendants served her a half-portion of the ameelah.
"Might be time to put Sickbay and the medical staff through a series of inspections and drills," Uhura decided.
"There is an old Russian proverb: Revenge is a dish best served cold," quoted Chekov.
"Like prusah kisan," Spock added.
Chekov and Uhura both burst out laughing. Spock simply raised an eyebrow and feigned ignorance in regards to his comment. The three of them stood, and Chekov ushered his friends to the couch against the bay window in his office. The attendants began putting the table and chairs away, folding them neatly and placing them on the sides of the banquet cart. Chekov reached into his cabinet and brought forth three wine glasses and a bottle.
He stepped to the sofa and handed the glasses to Uhura and Spock. After opening the bottle, he poured the drink. Uhura and Spock took sips as Chekov poured his own.
"Berengarian burgundy," remarked Spock. "An excellent choice."
"I have it from personal observation that most Vulcans find it palatable."
"Indeed. I surmise it is now time to discuss Lieutenant Commander Saaviks situation."
Chekov and Uhura did identical double-takes. "How-how did you know?" asked Uhura.
"It was easy to deduce that there is some sort of problem between you. I expected her to be assigned to escort me to my quarters."
"She didnt even turn around to make the request. All she would have had to do was to raise an eyebrow."
"I deduced as much. She has made no effort to contact me since I boarded."
"Can you tell us what may have happened to her?"
"Kaiidth," answered Spock in Vulcan.
"What was, was?" Uhura was fluent, of course.
"What are you saying, Spock?"
"I am...saying that Saavik has been under some considerable stress..."
"Considerable stress doesnt explain career suicide," challenged the captain.
"I am...unwilling to discuss the matter with you...at present," answered the Vulcan. "Suffice it to say that it is a family matter."
"Please, Mister Spock," implored Uhura. "Go talk to her. Now. Before its too late."
Spock drained his wine glass. He stood and made his way to the door. "Good evening, and thank you for your hospitality." The Vulcan paused and turned. "Lieutenant Commander Saavik may be late for duty tomorrow."
"Whatever it takes," answered Chekov.
"And however long it takes," chimed in Uhura.December 14th 2294 "No," Saavik pleaded. "Spock, do not ask me for this!"
"I must and I do." He reached for her temples, and she did not shy away. "My mind to your mind. My thoughts, your thoughts."
She found herself in a sunlit field. Above her stretched a pale violet sky. Fluffy clouds tinged with just a trace of rainbow pink floated lazily by, and a soft wind rippled the tall grass like an ocean wave.
Saavik turned about, staring at the individual who moved toward her through the waving grass.
"David!" She ran into his solid embrace, tears streaking down her face as he clasped her tightly against him. After a moment, he pulled back enough to meet her gaze and smiled his most brilliant smile. In that instant their link swelled with a sensation of such perfection that no words were necessary.
"Hello, David," she whispered.
David Marcus smiled at her, and then turned to look at the intruder in their private paradise. "Why, hello, Mister Spock."
Spock was startled. "Quas-i-tu? Is it really you, Doctor Marcus?"
The blond-haired youth smiled broadly. "Yes, it is." He shrugged. "I dont know how its possible; Im not even sure of how it came about."
"As I told you before, David, we had not severed our mindmeld when...when..."
"When that Klingon gutted me, Saavik."
"Look, Saavik-kam. Im not sure, but I cant help but wonder if Im here because youve refused to let go of me." Marcus saw the stunned reaction on Spocks face."I see you two have a lot to talk about it." He faded away, dematerialized as if by a transporter beam
"David!" she cried as Marcus disappeared. She was now alone with Spock in the playground of her mind.
"Saavik-kam," came a deep, resonant voice behind her. "I beg forgiveness. I never knew."
"I...I have held his katra for eleven point seven three years."
"And in all that time..."
"Why didnt I go to a healer? I...I just couldnt. Love is illogical. A Vulcan healer would not understand."
"You presume much, Saavik-kam. I was going to ask why in all that time have you not come to me with this?"
"I...I...I could not."
Spocks words to her from long ago echoed throughout the Elysian fields. How we deal with death is at least as important as how we deal with life, wouldn't you say?
The field in which they stood was shaken by a groundquake. An image of herself and the young Spock as he had been on Genesis appeared before them. The young Spock's tortured cry tore at her heart as it brought her other self to her feet.
In the blank, dark eyes of the young Spock, there was a naked animal longing that no Vulcan male could control, mingled with an instinctive fear of the unknown.
"Dom, keyh sahla," Saaviks image said resignedly.
"All that I am, all that I have been, I have been because of you," Saavik explained. "I chose to repay that debt on Genesis."
The image of Saavik moved to join the younger Spock, and their images faded. The link was broken.
Now, again in her quarters, Spock was seated in a chair across from hers. "This? This was why you have avoided me?"
"I was ashamed...and afraid," she admitted carefully.
"Afraid of what?"
"That you might remember. That we..."
"That you saved my life, Saavik-kam." He studied her intently. "I have long since known that had to...enact certain measures to assure my life would continue, and while I thought that matter resolved, I have wondered for eleven point eight years why you had avoided contact with me." He sighed deeply.
"I beg forgiveness."
"Forgiveness is necessary only when feelings are involved, Saavik-kam. Were I Human, I would have been deeply hurt by your withdrawal from my life."
A smile briefly flashed across her face. "Were you Human, you would not have been able to transfer your katra to Doctor McCoy where it was kept during your...ordeal."
A matching smile crossed his visage. "Then how do you explain Doctor Marcus katra within your mind?" He looked at her BellComm displays chrono. "You are late for your duty shift, Lieutenant Commander. I suggest we meet again this evening for meditation."
"I...Im sorry," Saavik let her emotional barriers down. "Im so, so sorry."
"There is no need for this self-debasement, Saavik-kam. Kaiidth."
"I thank you." She bowed her head in supplication. Glancing at the chrono, she headed for her sonic shower. "Until this evening then?"
"Agreed," and Spock exited her quarters.
Chekov sat in the center seat of his starship. Around him, the morning shift had long since reported for duty, with one notable exception: Saavik.
Spock had warned him that she might be late for duty. Of course, she was two and a half hours late, but the captain had given him complete latitude in regards to Saavik. Uhura herself had assumed the tactical station, allowing the third shift tactical officer to go off duty.
"Status report, Number One?" asked the captain.
"Helical search pattern progressing," reported Uhura. "You can add a rogue asteroid to our list of discoveries," she added wryly.
Chekov glanced to Rathan who nodded. "Entering position of rogue asteroid to Federation Galactic Catalog," the Vulcan science officer replied. "Receiving acknowledgment. Designation: FAB 346PLKU278QR."
The doors of the port turbolift swished open. Saavik made her way quickly to the tactical station. Uhura stood and allowed the younger woman to assume her duties. "Are you all right, Saavik?" whispered the executive officer.
"No," answered Saavik, adjusting the stations controls to her preferences.
Uhura didnt push it. Exchanging concerned glances with her captain, she shook her head very slightly and strode forward to stand at his side.
Chekov blinked in acknowledgment and turned back to the mainviewer.
Suddenly, three alarms went off simultaneously, and the bridge was alive with reports.
"Multiple contacts, Captain. Bearing directly ahead," announced Saavik from Tactical.
"Sensors detect a debris field in our path," confirmed Lieutenant Rathan from Science One.
"Detailed analysis reveal that the debris is from a Federation starship!" called Ensign Kuntawala from Science Two.
"Helm, take us out of warp. Navigator, lay in a course to circumnavigate the debris field. All sensor and scanner stations on maximum," Chekov ordered as he leaned forward in the center seat. "Communications, sound Yellow Alert."
Uhura made her way to Weapons. "Mister Brooks, bring all weapons crew to battle-ready."
The middle-aged woman flexed her fingers. "All weapons crews standing by. Transferring power back from sensors to phasers. Phaser batteries will be on-line in eighteen seconds."
Chterr added, "Ive got three teams of security officers standing by in the transporter room, ready to assist with survivors. Ive also positioned security squads throughout the Enterprise."
"Excellent," the executive officer said, making her way back to her captains side.
Michaels called from his communications station, "Sir, Mister OBrien is requesting access to the bridge."
"Mister Rathan, report," ordered Chekov. "What have we found?" He ignored Michaels inquiry for the moment.
"We appear to have found the remains from a Federation starship, class undetermined. Accounting for a ten percent loss of mass during the attack, I would suggest that the ship is a Constellation class heavy cruiser."
Chekov whistled. "Then its not the Jenolen," he concluded, "but what broke her apart?" The chunks of debris were now quite visible on the mainviewer. "Warp core failure?"
"Negative, Captain," answered Saavik. "Sensors indicate plasma residue on the debris."
A large slab of hull drifted by, and Chekov thought he might have seen...
"Identity of the ship established, Captain," Kuntawala announced from Science Two. "Replay of the mainviewer log shows the registration number as NCC-1994. The U.S.S. Bradley. It has not been reported as missing."
"Go to Red Alert," ordered Chekov. He thumbed the key on his right armrest. "All hands to Battlestations. This is no drill. We have encountered what may be a destroyed Federation heavy cruiser. Communications"
"Sir, Mister OBrien" Michaels began again.
Chekov glanced sideways at the communications officer but stopped himself short of venting his anger. "Permission granted. Mister OBrien may report to the bridge, but he damned well better stay out of everyones way." He composed himself. "Now, get me Starfleet Command on subspace."
OBrien entered the bridge and positioned his three holocams to monitor the action from overhead. He was sporting a headset which allowed him to issue a report sotto voce to his recorders. He sat down at the rear of the pit where he wouldnt be in anyones way. He carefully avoided even looking in the direction of Demora Sulu.
Chekov noted the reporter was making himself as unobtrusive as possible and reminded himself to commend OBrien for it later.
"All decks report Battlestations," Uhura stated with satisfaction. She came to stand next to Chekov who was staring at the mainviewer with grim determination that what had happened to the Bradley would not happen to the Enterprise.
"I want analysis on the plasma residue, and I want it in five minutes."
"Starfleet Command is acknowledging, Captain," Michaels reported. "Admiral Davis is standing by."
OBriens head snapped around, and Chekov couldnt help but notice how impressed the man was by the fact that Starfleets Commander-in-Chief herself was standing by.
Lystra Davis image focused quickly. "Report, Captain Chekov."
"Weve come across debris from the U.S.S. Bradley during our search for the Jenolen."
"The Bradley was on general patrol in that sector two weeks ago. She was supposed to be at Capella Four this afternoon."
"I regret to report that she wont be there, sir."
Davis tilted her head and brought her hand up to rub her forehead with her fingertips. "Identity of the attackers?"
"Captain?" called Saavik from the tactical station. "The residue on the debris is from a Tholian-generated plasma torpedo."
"Thank you, Commander," Chekov replied over his shoulder.
"It would take nearly a dozen Tholian patrol cruisers to bring down a Constellation class starship like the Bradley," Davis thought aloud.
"Yes, sir," the Enterprise captain agreed.
"Captain?" Science Officer Rathan raised his voice.
"Your report, Lieutenant?" he asked.
"Plasma residue indicates at least eight and no more than fifteen Tholian patrol cruisers attacked and destroyed the Bradley twelve point four days ago."
"Damn," Davis swore softly. "Any sign of the attackers?"
The commanding admiral was obviously formulating a decision. "Very well. Set up marker buoys around the debris. Relay coordinates to the dreadnought Alliance. Id planned on having them join in the search for the Jenolen, but Im going to assign them the task of cleaning up the debris field, marking debris and recovery of any bodies. And lets see if our Tholian friends decide to pick on a Federation dreadnought."
"Theres not much left of the Bradley, Admiral. Our efforts might be better"
"You have a suggestion, Captain Chekov?" she interrupted him intentionally.
Chekov licked his lips slightly. "Sir, I respectfully request that the Alliance be allowed to join in our search for the Jenolen instead."
"The living before the dead, eh, Captain?"
The Enterprise captain did not answer. He was walking on a minefield right now, and he knew it.
Commander-Starfleet Davis came to her decision. "Denied, Captain Chekov. I think this tragedy increases the likelihood that the Jenolen herself may have met an untimely fate. I want a detailed analysis of the wreckage from the Bradley, but Im not going to pull your ship off the search for the Jenolen. With the Excelsior tied up on its emergency mission, weve got no other ships available in your sector."
Chekov rolled his eyes, and instantly regretted it.
"Captain, Im sure I dont need to explain to you the importance of this situation. If the Tholians are beginning to swarm, then were not going to pull starships from other sectors to help in a search for a missing ship, a ship that may have fallen victim to those same Tholians."
"My apologies, Admiral."
Her face softened. "Accepted, Captain." She met his gaze. "Good luck with your search, Enterprise. Starfleet out."
Chekov leaned back in his command chair, tilted his head back, and dragged his palms down across his face. "Security, maintain Battlestations for the next three hours. Tactical, I want a dozen marker buoys positioned on the extreme ranges of this debris field. Weapons, maintain battle-readiness; keep targeting sensors warm. Sciences, I want full surveys of the wreckage, including full sensor analysis. Communications, upload information from sciences to Starfleet Command. Well stay here for the next hour, then well move on in our search for the Jenolen."
"Search pattern, sir?" asked the navigator.
"Helical Alpha Three, Mister Escri. Thats not going to change as long as I have anything to say about it."
Chekov stood, stretched, and stepped up to the rear of the bridge. "Number One, Im going into my ready room for an hour. Advise me of any change in our situation. You have the bridge."
"Yes, sir." She sat down in the center seat.
OBrien stood and stretched, clicking off his remote controlled holocams. He stepped toward Demora Sulus helm station. "That was...well...something."
Sulu favored him with a faint smile. "You could say that, Mister OBrien."
Uhura watched the exchange and narrowed her eyes. She regarded the reporter with a tight smile. "Well, I guess we made your day, eh, Mister OBrien?"
"Ill say, Commander Uhura. News like this always brings ratings."
Ensign Sulu pursed her lips. "Pity those ratings will come at the cost of the lives of the nearly five hundred men and women aboard the Bradley."
The reporter looked very dissatisfied with the helmsmans take on the situation. "Those lives were lost before I even came aboard this vessel, Demora. My reporting did not kill those aboard the Bradley. The Tholians did."
"Oh, Ill concede that, Mister OBrien," Sulu said. "But profiting from such a tragedy, such a loss, well, I cant help but be reminded that vultures dont kill the animals which make up the carrion they eat either."
OBrien headed for the starboard turbolift. "Might I remind you that even vultures fulfill an important role in the food chain?"
"Agreed," Sulu stated tightly as the doors closed, and OBrien was whisked away from the bridge. "Im just not sure you do."
Pleased with Sulus new take on OBrien, Uhura settled down to read the reports, staring intently at the padd. Rathans analysis of the assault on the Bradley was thorough. The plasma residue was primarily concentrated on the external cap of the heavy cruisers intermix chamber. No doubt the sheer number of Tholian attackers overwhelmed the starship. The crew must have been completely caught by surprise as no log buoy was detected, no distress call had been issued. Destruction was caused by containment field failure. Rathan estimated the attack had taken all of ninety seconds.
Michaels called from Communications. "Incoming transmission from the Excelsior, Commander."
Captain Hikaru Sulu stood before the navigation and helm console of the Excelsior. His face was haggard, ashen, and he simply looked like hell. "Hello, Uhura. Were in orbit over QonoS. We were too late. Doctor McCoys wife is dead. Her son took off into the Klingon wilderness."
"Oh, my God," whispered Uhura. She sat perched on the edge of the center seat. "Theyve got to go after Miguel. Even though hes half-Klingon, theyll kill him."
"Weve been ordered to join in the search for the Jenolen and leave him behind. Chancellor Azetbur has given us her word that they will conduct a search for Miguel. She promises that her troops will be ordered to bring him back alive. She also has... invited us to depart."
"So what are you going to do?"
"What can we do, Uhura? Were leaving immediately for Serenidad at Doctor McCoys request. He wants to put a few things in order, and then were taking him home to Earth before we join you in the Jenolen search." Sulu looked off-screen for a moment. "Yes, right away, Doctor." He looked at the screen. "Uhura, well talk more later. Sulu out." And the screen went black.
Uhura stood slowly and made her way to the captains ready room.December 15th 2294 Spock sat on the meditation mat near the firepot he had brought aboard. Kaiidth, he reminded himself. What is, is. What was, was. What will be, will be.
He reflected on the past, on the events of nearly twenty years ago. Even after two decades, the psychic pain was still incredible. Spock had never encountered such agony through the mind-link in his entire life. He felt a pang of deep sympathy for Teresa, then felt himself sinking through a deep, Stygian pool, black as midnight. He sensed terror and despair all around him.
Teresita, his consciousness had called all those years ago. Let me help you. Let me find you. You are so deep, so lost. I will remove the agony; your memories of the terror will be gone. Suddenly, he saw dim light, the bottom of the pool. Then he saw all the past again through Teresa's eyes; the flood of pain seared through him like a flash fire as it did every time he examined these memories:
Images of her horrifying ordeal flew through his consciousness with staggering speed. He heard himself screaming. He saw a stunned Carlos fall by the lake, Koret breaking into her room to kidnap her, a naked and lustful Kral pouncing on her, and Koret and his men taking turns violating her. Then he saw Kral with the agonizer and the pain almost forced him to break the link. But he held on doggedly, and finally the torture session passed. He was in the cell with her. He witnessed Koret's death, and the gunplay with the two warriors and Kral. And finally he saw McCoy's anxious face over her as she passed out in the chamber. Then there was blinding, brilliant light.
Go gently into that night, Teresa. Your time in this existence was filled with pain and grief.
Spock opened his eyes, and as before when he had reopened these memories, found his eyes and face wet with salty tears. "Computer, record message for subspace delivery."
"Doctor McCoy," he began dictating, but he was unable to proceed. "Computer, cease recording."
"Acknowledged. Save message?"
"No." Spock sat down before the firepot in his quarters and again turned to meditation, seeking for the words he could not find.
Chekov sat in the center seat, reading an engineering inspection report from Sar 7. Despite her unorthodox approach, the repairs performed on the engines by Sorenson were superb. Chekov shook his head slightly.
"Incoming message from starship Excelsior," reported Michaels from Communications.
Chekov turned his chair to the comm station. "On your station screen please."
The overhead monitor faded in with Sulu sitting in his ready room aboard the Excelsior, a model of the Cooper behind him. "Hello, Pavel. Any news on the Jenolen?"
"Nyet, Hikaru. Nyet."
"Not yet, eh? Well, Ive noticed youre still using that old helical search program you devised nearly thirty years ago."
"Hey, what can I say? It works well enough."
"Well, it hasnt yet. I really wish youd use the Lissajous search pattern."
"Nyet, Hikaru. Going from a tight helical spiral around a projected course to the parametric-based Lissajous that youre proposing would result in some odd patterns...and even huge areas completely missed by the search."
"Youre wrong, Pavel," argued Sulu.
Chekov stood slowly, walking toward the communications monitor. How dare he question me like this in front of my bridge crew?
Unbidden, Uhura stepped from the tactical station and put herself between Pavel and the comm screen. "Sulu, do you realize just how much area would be missed? Even a conservative estimate of five cubic light-years could cost the crew and passengers of the Jenolen their lives!"
Chekov glared at his executive officer for interfering, but he was so angry at Sulu he simply stopped his advance and began counting.
Sulu sighed. "Look, Uhura, when youve logged as many starhours in the center seat as I have, youll learn the value of the Lissajous."
Uhuras face clouded, and Chekov jumped into the fray to avoid the conflagration about to engulf them all. "Im sure, Sulu. However, Im in charge of this rescue mission. Not you. My decision stands."
Sulu started at him intently for a full twenty seconds. "Very well, Captain. Excelsior out."
Uhura turned to face Chekov. "He means well, Pavel."
"Yes...yes, he does. Otherwise I wouldnt have taken his shit."
Across the command deck of the Enterprise, Lieutenant Rathan smirked at his captains disrespect of his fellow starship commander, then quickly reasserted a mask of stoicism. He glanced around and quickly reassured himself that everyone was too busy with their own work to have noticed his slip of control.
He was mistaken.
"Am I disturbing you, Doctor Chapel?" The words resonated in the office.
Spocks rich bass voice startled the chief medical officer. It was late afternoon ships time, and other than providing an uninvited consult to one of her assistant chief medical officers cases, there had been little to do the entire day. Weller, at least, had had the decency to be amused instead of insulted, but Chapel was inwardly berating herself for being such a busy body.
And now, here was the object of her love and affection from nearly three decades earlier. He had seemingly aged only fifteen years by Human standards, while she had clearly aged those three decades. Her infatuation was long gone, yet there was still a tenderness between the two of them that would not be denied, least of all by her.
"Why, Spock, I am honored. To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit?" she asked formally, rising from her desk and offering him one of the two chairs opposite hers.
Spock declined with a slight shaking of his head. "I seek...advice."
"Oh really?" answered Chapel neutrally. Given the recent events, it wasnt difficult to guess what the advice was required for. "Let me guess. You need some assistance with your letter to Leonard."
"A logical deduction, Doctor. I do."
She bowed her head slightly in gratitude for the compliment he had bestowed upon her. "Unfortunately, that is an honor I must decline."
"Exactly what is the reason behind denying me such assistance?"
"We learn by doing," she answered firmly.
The Vulcan raised an eyebrow. "I would accept that as an axiom. That does not explain your decision to withhold the assistance I require to complete the task before me."
"The task before you, Spock, is a letter to your old and dear friend, Leonard H. McCoy, formerly the chief medical officer of the same starship upon which you served. For me to assist you in any way would lessen the very reason and meaning for such a letter."
Spock stood thoughtfully for a few minutes. "I would not require you to write the letter, Doctor. It is simply that I find myself unable to convey the profound sense of loss I share with Doctor McCoy over the death of his wife." He met her eyes found them filled with concern. "Perhaps if you helped me start such a letter"
"Id say thats a pretty good start you have there on your own. Leonard McCoy will expect you to be yourself, Spock. He just needs to hear from you, not someone else claiming to be you."
The Vulcan studied her face a few minutes more. "I find your reasoning quite logical...for a Human."
Chapel favored him with a smile. "I am honored."
Spock turned and left without another word to her, and Christine Chapel watched him go with a faint, bittersweet stirring in her heart.
In his quarters, Spock again activated the message recorder.
"My dear Leonard,
"I grieve with thee is an inadequate expression to convey the profound sense of loss I share with you over the passing of Teresa. She was a unique gift to the galaxy." The Vulcan paused. "I wish that I could clearly express my...sentiments, however, I find myself unable to do so.
"My mother would tell me that I must rely on my Human emotions, but I find myself completely unprepared to deal with this tragedy. The logic and wisdom of my Vulcan forebears fail me on this occasion.
"You have my deepest condolences on the loss of your wife. Teresa exemplified the best of all that is Human. Her absence will be felt and her passing mourned by all who were privileged to know her.
"For myself, I can only say: I grieve with thee, my friend.
"Spock of Vulcan, Ambassador-at-Large, United Federation of Planets."
He ended the message and moved to his firepot for contemplation.
Sulu sighed. "But Admiral Soyen, Ive given him my recommendations. Hes arbitrarily dismissed them."
The Vulcan admiral in charge of Starfleet Operations raised his eyebrow. "Perhaps he considers your advice illogical. The helical course currently employed by the Enterprise during its search and rescue operations has resulted in quite a few finds of interest, including a Promellian battle cruiser and the wreckage from the Bradley."
"My science officers comparative analysis between the Lissajous and the Chekov helix search patterns clearly shows that both the Bradley and the Promellian cruiser would have been found by the Lissajous in half the time that its taken the Enterprise to do so. Logic," Sulu finished with a flourish, "dictates that in a rescue mission, speed is the most important factor. The Chekov helix is thorough. Too thorough. Perhaps the Jenolen would have already been found had the Lissajous search pattern been used from the very beginning."
"To quote from your own Samuel Johnson, Hindsight is twenty-twenty," concluded Admiral Soyen. "However, I will give your recommendation all due consideration."
"Thank you, Admiral. Excelsior out."December 16th 2294 Chekov sat mutely, staring at the blank screen with his back to Uhura. He felt her place a hand on his shoulder. "They dont respect me. They never have."
"Sometimes respect has to be earned, Pavel."
"As if I havent earned the captains chair?" he snapped. Seeing her expression, he mumbled, "Dismissed, Number One,"
The executive officer straightened stiffly. "Yes, sir." And, with a sharp turn on her heels, strode from the captains ready room.
She stepped out onto the bridge and assumed the communications station, relieving Michaels and leaving Saavik in the center seat.
A few minutes later, Chekov slowly walked out from the rear access way and relieved Saavik of command. Sitting down in the center seat, he addressed his helm and navigation officers. "Ensign Sulu, Lieutenant Escri, per orders from Admiral Soyen at Starfleet Command, the Enterprise is hereby ordered to employ the Lissajous search pattern. Implementation is to begin immediately."
Demora Sulu looked at the reluctance in her captains face and knew that he had lost an argument he should have won. She also knew that it was her own father that helped frustrate Chekovs rescue plans. "Sir?"
"Yes, Ensign?" The captain favored her with a faint smile.
She had had no question. She had no idea of what to say. She just wanted him to know that she was with him come hell, high-water or Tholians. "I..." she foundered.
Chekov blinked and nodded faintly, saying through his eyes that he understood and that he appreciated her support.
"Aye, sir," she finally said and turned around to the helm.
Escri had already begun formulating the new course. "Lissajous search pattern laid in, Captain Chekov."
"Ready to implement, Captain," agreed Demora Sulu.
"Ahead, Warp Factor Nine."
Chekov left the bridge and returned to his ready room without another word to anyone. Uhura quietly slipped into the center seat, and Michaels returns to the bridge to man the comm station.
Uhura shook her head slowly, faintly, and whispered, "Shit," under her breath.
Willis OBrien had set up his holocameras in the officers lounge of the Enterprise-B. Located on Deck Two, this lounge afforded all an excellent view of deep space. It would make for a nice backdrop for his upcoming interview with Lieutenant Chterr, the security chief. OBrien had set a stool for the Skorr, along with a beaker of water and a bowl of treegrubs from Alpha Carinae II, the Skorr nestworld. He glanced at his wrist chrono, and saw that the security chief was going to be
The doors parted, and in came Chterr.
Right on time, thought OBrien. The Skorr must have timed it to the second.
"I am here per your request, Mister OBrien," the security chief announced, his golden wings almost flapping. With his talons, he made a figure eight in the customary greeting of the Skorr.
"Then lets begin. Please, make yourself comfortable," OBrien suggested as he clicked on the holocams with his remote. Looking at the largest holocam, the reporter began speaking. "Hi, this is Willis OBrien, Intergalactic News. This afternoon, Ill be having a conversation with Chterr of Skorr."
"Chterr of Starfl-l-leet," the security chief interjected firmly.
"Excuse me?" OBrien was startled. "Im sorry... I meant your home planet"
"is irrel-l-levant to this conversation," concluded Chterr, again firmly. "I am a Starfleet officer, and my worl-l-ld is a member of the United Federation of Pl-l-lanets. I serve aboard this starship."
The reporter pursed his lips and narrowed his eyes. "Yes, yes, you do. And quite well, Im sure. However, Id like to begin by asking you some questions regarding your species, your home world, that sort of thing. Id say its a fair guess that very few Humans have actually met a Skorr, let alone served with one."
Chterr flexed his talons unconsciously. "That woul-l-ld be correct."
OBrien continued, "The Skorr, for you viewers who arent aware of it, are native to Alpha Carinae Two. They are a fierce, proud and courageous people. As few as three hundred years ago, the Skorr were great warriors with very advanced military techniques. About the same time as Earths own Zefrem Cochrane discovered the warp drive, a religious leader named Alar led their society into a time of peace. Alar is regarded as their Gandhi or Surak. At his death, his memory engrams were inlaid into a beautiful endurite sculpture known as The Soul of Alar."
Chterr grew impatient. "Every school-l-l-aged chick in the Federation knows this. Why do you waste time recounting it here and now?"
"Because I want to ask you about racism."
The Skorr was startled. "Racism? Pl-l-lease be more precise."
"Certainly, but lets review your record, shall we?" OBrien picked up a padd and began reading. "You served aboard the scoutship U.S.S. Hercules as a security squad leader."
"The Hercules had a number of run-ins with the Kzinti, and you were commended for several ground assignments that would have resulted in the deaths of lesser beings."
"Do you have a point, OBrien? This is ancient history."
"Why werent you made security chief of the Hercules following the death of Security Chief Giotto during a combat situation with the Kzinti?"
"The captain of the Herc did not consider me ready for the posting."
"I do not know. It does not matter. He did not consider me ready for the posting. As captain of the Herc, Commander Hadl-l-ley creates the duty roster and determines postings, not a security squad l-l-leader."
"And now, by sheer luck, you find yourself the security chief of the U.S.S. Enterprise?"
"I suggest that Captain Chekov determined my record speaks for itsel-l-lf."
"Are you not also suggesting that Commander Hadley did not?"
"Negative. I suggest that Commander Hadl-l-leys eval-l-luation of my record does not coincide with that of Captain Chekovs. Are you impl-l-lying that Commander Hadl-l-ley is a racist?"
"Not at all. Its you who have brought the matter up, Lieutenant."
"On the contrary, Mister OBrien, you brought up the subject of racism l-l-less than two minutes ago. I suggest that you, in some sort of perverse way, are trying to create a...situation...where none exists."
"An interesting hypothesis, Lieutenant Chterr, but not grounded in reality." OBrien leaned forward. "Can you describe your relationship with Commander Uhura?"
"Certainly. Commander Uhura is the executive officer of the Enterprise, and is my superior officer."
"Have you noticed her antipathy toward you?"
"I have detected no...antipathy toward me."
"She shudders every time she gets near you or you near her." OBrien clicked a switch, and a holovid began playing. "This is this mornings staff meeting." In the projection, the image showed that as Chterr came near Uhura, she reflexively shuddered. "What do you call this?"
"Is it racist?"
"Racism is a bel-l-lief that some races have distinctive characteristics that determine their respective cul-l-ltures, usually invol-l-lving the idea that ones own race is somehow superior and has the right to rul-l-le others deemed inferior. Commander Uhura appears to be suffering from a mild phobia regarding ornithoids."
"And you dont find that in the slightest bit racist?"
"No." Chterr bowed out his chest and stretched his talons. The Skorr outstretched his wings to the fullest, and a crimson color flushed through his golden visage and feathers.
OBrien was visibly shaken and sank deeper into his seat, almost coweringly. "Uh, Lieutenant?"
Chterr leaned forward and put his beak less than a centimeter from OBriens nose. "I wouldnt call it racist, Mister OBrien. I would call it prudent, wouldnt you?"
And with a swoop, Chterr was heading out the door, looking at one holovid clearly. "I would say this interview was over."
"And not a moment too soon..." OBrien finished, his features pale. Thank God it wasnt live...
"Fucking idiot," mumbled Chekov under his breath. "Fucking stupid egotistical bastard."
He had set the treadmills incline at ten degrees and had been walking continuously for twenty minutes, spewing off invective after invective.
2254 ships time was a good time for Chekov to hit the treadmill. There were usually no witnesses to his ever-growing tirades against his former shipmate and now fellow starship captain.
"Overbearing tin-plated dictator with delusions of godhood," he said with an evil grin.
Lieutenant Commander Saavik in her white exercise robe strolled out from the weight room. "I would beg to differ with you, Captain Chekov. You have no delusions of godhood that I can ascertain."
Chekov rolled off the treadmill, laughing uproariously. "And to think that five days ago you were feigning complete ignorance of the Human concept of humor!" he chortled violently. "Theres an old Russian expression thats perfect for this occasion: Youve come a long away, baby."
Saavik raised an eyebrow. "Baby?"
"Never mind." He mounted the treadmill and started all over. "How are your sessions with Mister Spock coming along?"
She mounted the treadmill next to his. "It is something not to be spoken openly of, let alone to outworlders."
"Youre an outworlder, too, Saavik," argued Chekov. "And so is Spock. Neither of you can truly call Vulcan home."
"Irrelevant." She increased the incline to twenty degrees, while he lessened his incline to five. "He and I are kindred spirits."
"I would think so, given your mixed heritages."
They walked in silence for several minutes. Relative silence, of course. The captain was grunting faintly under the strain of arduous exercise and sweating profusely. The tactical officers gait, despite the greater incline, was light and unlabored, and she was as dry as the desert on Canopus III.
"May I ask you a question, Captain?"
Chekov was almost startled by the interruption. In his mind, he was continuing to rake Sulu over the coals. "Uh, certainly, Saavik."
"Why has Captain Sulu availed himself of this opportunity to humiliate you?"
Chekov stopped in his tracks, releasing the safety so that the treadmill stopped with him. For a few moments, he was unable to meet her inquiring gaze. Slowly, he turned to face the young Vulcan beside him. "I really dont know, Saavik," he admitted honestly. "Im at a loss to explain it."
"A pity. With an explanation might come understanding. For yourself as well as myself."
"Its my turn to say indeed."
She almost smiled as Chekov began toweling himself off.
"Good night, Saavik."
"Sleep well, Captain."December 17th 2294 Chekov sat at a table near the center of the forward observation deck, sipping on his cream soda as he watched the display monitor mounted on a nearby bulkhead. The lounge attendant had tuned directly into the Intergalactic News Service newsfeed, and a number of the crew had gathered nearby to view.
"This is Marti Seagall, reporting live from Serenidad," came the soft voice over. "Were using a high-powered holographic system to get you the live images of the funeral services of Princess Teresa Morales de la Vega Ruiz-Mendoza McCoy, the late monarch of this dilithium-rich world."
Chekov could see that the royal compound of Serenidad was draped in black. A small canopy was set up near two open graves. Two coffins, one adult-sized and one smaller child-sized, sat side by side on the frames awaiting internment.
With little effort, he recognized the image of Leonard McCoy as the doctor led the official mourners from the chapel to the grave side, dressed in a dark suit. Chekov felt for the doctor who had often complained about the formal, official functions that hed been forced to attend as Teresas consort. Clearly this was the ultimate function he had never wanted to attend.
"Its a beautiful day here on Serenidad," came Seagalls annoying voice, "a stark contrast to the reason why were here today."
The holocams focused on each of the people who followed him. They were all that was left of Teresas family, and most of them were extended family members through her first husband Carlos Ruiz-Mendoza, who was also a victim of a Klingon oath of blood. The holocams also focused on Hikaru Sulu, Ariel Cord, Janice Rand, and the senior officers of the U.S.S. Excelsior who were in the group surrounding the graves. And next to them were the members of the Serenidad High Council, Charles Zeiss, and a large number of nobles of Serenidad.
"In attendance are the highest ranking officials from Serenidad and the command crew of the starship Excelsior, many of whom were personal friends of both Leonard McCoy and the Princess Teresa."
A priest stopped on his way to head of the caskets to place a comforting hand on McCoys shoulder before moving to stand in front of the coffins.
"Performing the service is Father Diego Anaya, another personal friend of the Royal Court. Unfortunately, due to atmospheric ionization, were unable to bring you the content of the service at this time."
Chekov smiled and approved. No doubt Janice Rand, the communications officer of the Excelsior had seen to it that some modicum of privacy was assured. Chekov lowered his eyes as McCoy placed two small yellow roses on the boys shared coffin. The doctor then walked over to the empty coffin of his wife, and somberly, he put the white rose he still had in his hand on it, then backed away.
"Leonard McCoy, who is burying his wife today, often remarked that his was the ultimate April-December romance," reported Seagall.
Patently false, thought Chekov.
The coffins slowly descended into the ground. When they were down, McCoy picked up a small handful of dirt and dropped it on the caskets. The others in the retinue followed suit, then with Father Anaya in the lead, McCoy close behind, they left the graveyard to return to the castle and the wake.
"We now return you to INS Central where Federation legal analyst Corky Simpson will be discussing the political future of the monarchy of Serenidad."
"Vultures," Chekov muttered and began to turn away.
"Vultures, Captain?" came Willis OBriens voice from behind him.
The captain of the Enterprise spun around angrily. "They have no right to be there!"
"Yet youre here watching. Doesnt that make you a vulture as well?"
Checkmate, Chekov thought. "Perhaps it does, Mister OBrien. But that doesnt make this right," and with that, Chekov quickly drained his vanilla cream soda and left.
Uhura came down Deck 3, Corridor G, directly into Engineering. She was determined to force the issue with her captain. Chekov had given the orders for the Lissajous search pattern, but since that time, he had not returned to the bridge, except to enter his ready room just off the rear of the bridge. Hed given no orders; hed asked for no reports. It was as though he wasnt even attempting to perform the duties of the captaincy, and as his executive officer, shed been left holding the bag.
When the large containment doors to the engineering section slid open, revealing the immense expanse of the engineering deck, she had to pause in amazement. Running vertically through ten decks were the pair of intermix chamber columns, and the decking was made of transparent aluminum. From her position atop the engineering section, she could see the cavernous shuttlebays and expansive impulse engines and the dilithium crystal assembly. She shook her head at the expanse, and then noted her captain two decks down.
Sliding down on a pole, she quickly approached him. "A word with you, Captain?"
"One moment, Number One," he answered distractedly. "Okay, Mister Sar, lets see it."
The engine assembly pulsed just once out of phase amidst its regular beating.
"And that, sir, is our problem," explained the chief engineer.
"Damn," swore Chekov softly. "Did you see it, Uhura?"
"I think so. A pulse variance on the intermix chambers?"
"They must remain completely synchronous, or we run the risk of creating a wormhole," stated the Eminian plainly.
"Whats causing the asynchronism?" asked Uhura.
Chekov blinked. "That is what were trying to determine here, Number One."
"Thats not what I mean, Captain. How did Sar manage to trigger one for you?"
"Oh, he changed our warp speed."
"He changed our speed and nearly got us caught up in a wormhole?" Uhura was incredulous.
"Nyet, Uhura, nyet. The problem isnt that severe, but it could be were we to go into battle with rapidly changing courses and hyperrelative velocities."
"Oh, shit, Chekov. Is it from Sorensons repairs?"
"No," Sar 7 firmly asserted, "Captain Sorensons repairs in fact may have corrected much of the problem. I still think one of the intermix chambers is slightly out of phase."
"Well, were going to need to make repairs before we continue on our rescue mission. Lets see," the captain began formulating a decision in his head, performing astrogation with his eyes closed, "the nearest starbase with a space dock is Starbase Three." He called out, "Captain to Bridge."
There was a brief pause as the ships comlink completed the communications relay. "Bridge. Commander Saavik here."
"Set a course for Starbase Three, Warp Factor..."
Sar 7 held up three fingers.
"...Three. Advise Starfleet of a major problem with our warp drive and that well need..."
Sar 7 held up two fingers.
"...two days in the space dock facility."
"Aye, sir. Course plotted, laid in, and were underway."
The engines pulsed once out of phase.
"Excellent, Saavik. One more thing: no changes in our warp speed until we reach the starbase."
"Our estimated time of arrival, Captain, is four hours."
"By the way, Captain, weve got an incoming communiqué from the Excelsior. Captain Sulu wishes to speak with you."
"Youll need to refer him to the executive officer," Chekov answered neutrally. "Captain out."
Uhura raised an eyebrow in anger but said nothing as Saaviks voice paged her. "Uhura here. Go ahead, Commander Saavik."
"Incoming message from the Excelsior. Captain Chekov has asked me to refer Captain Sulu to you."
"Understood. Ill accept the message on the bridge in ten minutes."
"Acknowledged. Bridge out."
"Walk with me," said Uhura to her captain.
"Advise me if the situation worsens, Mister Sar," ordered Chekov.
Chekov and Uhura made their way to a turbolift. "Yes, Number One?" he asked as soon as the doors closed.
"Pavel, youre going to have to stop avoiding the bridge, and youre going to have to stop avoiding Sulu."
"Actually, Penda, Im not avoiding the bridge. Sar brought this problem with the engines to my attention yesterday, and Ive been going over the repair logs to make sure everything was in order."
"Hadnt Sar already done that?"
"Well, of course, but I wanted to double-check it myself."
"Then what about Sulu? Hes been trying to reach you since yesterday. Michaels sent him my way repeatedly."
"Do you have a problem with that?"
"As a matter of fact, I do," Uhura looked him eye to eye. "Youre going to have to face him. Call him down, if you want, but dont hide behind me."
"And what if it marks the end of the friendship?"
"The friendship between you and Sulu is so strained right now that somethings going to snap, just to let off steam. If you dont do it now, youre going to explode at him, and that will be the end of your friendship."
"I dont want the friendship to end," countered Chekov. The turbolift arrived at the bridge, but he ordered, "Lift doors: lock closed. Lift: hold position." He turned back to Uhura. "Penda, Im so mad at him right now that I cant talk to him."
"Then maybe your friendship is over."
Chekov sighed. "Twenty-eight years..."
Uhura clasped his shoulders and met his downcast eyes. "Sometimes, Pavel, you have to tear a friendship apart and rebuild it from scratch."
"I doubt therell be any pieces left." He snorted. "Lift doors: unlock and open. Lift: resume normal operations." He strolled out onto the bridge and made his way to his ready room.
Uhura watched him go and made her way to the rear of the bridge. "Transfer the communiqué to the briefing room, Ensign Michaels."
"Uhura?" asked Sulu. "I..I...I need to talk to Pavel."
"Im sure you do, Hikaru. But the captain is busy right now. Weve got a problem with our warp drive, and were making our way to Starbase Three for immediate repairs."
"Nothing serious, I hope."
"Our chief engineer reports itll be two days in space dock to repair it, but we run the risk of generating a wormhole every time we change warp speeds."
"That is serious."
"Anyway, what can I do for you?"
"I just wanted to talk to Pavel."
"Im not sure thats a good idea right now, Hikaru."
"Thats what you said yesterday, Penda. Three times as a matter of fact. Youre my friend"
"I am your friend and his, and Im not going to be caught in the middle of this. However, he is my commanding officer, and my opinion regarding the search pattern coincides with his."
Sulu sighed and rolled his eyes, and Uhura found herself increasingly annoyed. "Look, Captain, Ive given you my opinion, so what else can I do for you?"
"Doctor McCoy has been drinking like a fish. Ive tried to talk him out of it, but he keeps saying that hes got to do something or hes going to go mad." Sulu looked positively grim. "I had to have my chief medical officer treat him with massive detox drugs just so he could attend Teresas funeral."
"Ive seen you that way, Hikaru, after Janet Rachelsons death."
Sulus face clouded. "I guess you have. But Im really worried about the drinking."
"Give it time, Sulu. Just like we gave you time."
"All right, Uhura. Well play this one your way. Sulu out."December 18th 2294 Captains Log, Stardate 9496.5
Chekov sighed deeply as he turned to face the screen in his ready room. "All right; lets get this over with." He drew a deep breath and called to the comlink. "Ensign Michaels, hail the Excelsior."
"Aye, sir." There was a brief pause, then: "Excelsior acknowledges. Captain Sulu is standing by."
"Visual feed to my ready room," ordered the captain of the Enterprise.
Sulu sat in the center seat of the Excelsior, drinking his morning tea and reviewing information on a padd. "How are your repairs going, Pavel?"
Chekov blinked in surprise. "Uh, quite well, of course. Thats not what Im calling about. Captain Sulu...Hikaru, Id like you to rethink your...recommendation...to employ the Lissajous search pattern. It just isnt going to work. Weve got to go back to a spiral search course, concentrating on the area nearest the direct flight path from Sol to Norpin."
Sulu raised an eyebrow and suddenly looked imperious. It was a look Chekov knew all too well. It was a look Chekov detested. It was a look that said "I know more than you do." Hed seen it for years aboard the Enterprise. Hed seen it more times than he could count. Hed seen it more times than he ought to have. Hed seen it more times than he could bear. Hed seen it more times since getting his first command a week ago than he had in all the years previous.
"Pavel, I understand that this is your first command, and that youre concerned about finding Scotty and the Jenolen as much as I am. However, that doesnt change the fact that the Lissajous search pattern is superior to that helical search pattern of yours. Nor does it change the fact that you might be able to casually dismiss the recommendations of a fellow starship captain, but you cant disobey orders from Admiral Soyen. I have made a recommendation to Admiral Soyen, who agreed with the logic of my argument and who subsequently issued orders to you. And you will follow Admiral Soyens orders, Captain, and you will follow them to the letter. The lives of the passengers and crew of the Jen"
"olen hang in the balance, I know, I know. Save your speech, Sulu. Ive heard it from you before. You have seen to it that Admiral Soyen has ordered me to abandon a proven search technique for one"
"that has been known to find missing starships. The Lissajous"
"Screw it, Hikaru. Youre not listening to me. Im telling you we should"
"Screw it, Captain? I beg your pardon. I am the senior officer here." Sulu slowly leaned back in his chair, almost visibly counting to ten in his head. "Pavel, my recommendations to Admiral Soyen stand. If you cannot follow the admirals orders, then relieve yourself of duty."
Chekov exploded. "Fuck you, Captain Sulu. Ill follow these God-damned orders, but I warn you: We will not find the Jenolen this way. And you know it. Or at least you should if you didnt have your head up your pompous ass."
Sulus eyes narrowed. "Might I remind you, Captain, seeing as you have forgotten yourself, that we are conducting this conversation on an open channel to my bridge. I have no choice but to file a report with Starfleet Command."
Chekovs turn to count to ten passed by quickly. "You go right ahead, Captain Sulu. As a fellow starship captain, it is your right to do so. But I want you to know this, Hikaru: Our friendship is ended. Enterprise out."
The Enterprise commander slammed his palm down on the comlink, ending the transmission. It beeped a half-second later. "Sir, Captain Sulu is demanding to speak to you."
"Im sure he does, but its too late. Tell him Im unavailable and refer him to the first officer."
"The exec hasnt returned from an inspection of the photon torpedo bays."
"Then refer Captain Sulu to the second officer."
He stood and tried to help himself to a cream cheese Danish and coffee from the food processor unit next to the tactical map. Unfortunately, Doctor Chapel had been busy. He was given half a cantaloupe and a glass of ice water. He shook his head and put the fruit and cold water down on the desk. Then, he put his head down on his desk. "Oy vey."
The door chime chirped. "Come."
"You all right, Chekov?" he heard Uhuras welcome voice.
The Enterprise captain sighed deeply. "No, Im not."
"Then perhaps this isnt a good time to have a discussion, Mister Chekov," came a deep, resonant voice.
Chekovs head snapped up. "Mister Spock...Ambassador, sir..." He looked at the Vulcans angular face with a heartwarming smile, and Spock wouldve beamed for certain if hed been Human. As it was, he allowed the corners of his mouth to pull upward slightly.
Chekov stood automatically, as if subconsciously standing in respect of his former mentor. "Will the briefing room suffice?"
"Then Ill join you in five minutes." The captain looked at his breakfast. "Actually, probably in two minutes."
Uhura chuckled. "Ill call for the command staff."
"And Mister OBrien," Chekov reminded. "I have orders that he is to be present at all briefings even if its a matter of Federation security."
Spock raised an eyebrow. "You agreed to this order?"
"On the contrary, Ambassador, I am opposed to it. But orders are orders."
"Indeed." The Vulcan tilted his head slightly. "Might I make one more recommendation?"
"As we are at Starbase Three, I suggest that Commodore Lindstrom be included in this briefing. As this base is relatively close to the Romulan Neutral Zone as well as the Beta Quadrant, this matter will concern him."
"Agreed. Number One, see to the arrangements, and page me when youre ready..."
"Give me ten minutes, Captain. I might have trouble tracking down the commodore."
"Lets make it twenty." He looked at the cantaloupe and water. "I might have trouble tracking down our chief medical officer."
In the briefing room of the U.S.S. Enterprise, Commander Uhura had gathered the command staff, Willis OBrien and Commodore William Lindstrom of Starbase 3. Ambassador Spock stood at the curved wall monitor at one end of the large meeting room. Chekov strolled in, followed by a chastened chief medical officer, and seated himself at the near end of the long, oval table. Chapel sat down near the far end.
After receiving a nod from Chekov, Spock began. "In 2268, the starship Enterprise encountered a Tholian vessel while undergoing search and rescue operations for the starship Defiant. The Defiant had fallen into a state of interphase, its crew had gone mad, and the captain of the Enterprise had himself become trapped in a state of interphase. The Tholians intercepted the Enterprise and allowed us to proceed with rescue operations, provided that we met their deadline. Unfortunately, their ships entry into the disrupted area of space introduced a variable to my calculations. As a result, the deadline was missed, and the Enterprise was fired upon by the Tholians."
Chekov stared intently at the Vulcan, but he was adrift his own thoughts of madness. He recalled little of the actual events. Affected by interphase, Chekov had temporarily become mad with feelings of paranoia and delusions of persecution. Fortunately, the effects were reversed by a theragen-alcohol derivative that restored mental health to those adversely affected.
Uhura felt her cheeks flush slightly at the memory. She, too, had been affected by interphase, although to not as great an extent as Chekov. Her feelings of loss had been profoundly exaggerated. When she actually saw Captain Kirk trapped in interphase, Doctor McCoy had thought that she, too, had been overwhelmed by the effects of spatial phenomenon.
Spock, oblivious to the memories of both the captain and executive officer of this Enterprise, continued his briefing. "The Enterprise returned fire but was damaged by the Tholians. A second Tholian vessel arrived, and the Enterprise completed repairs and rescued Captain Kirk just as a Tholian Web was completed.
"Since that incident, the Tholians have been unwilling to engage in diplomatic negotiations with the Federation. There are no Tholian embassies or consulates. This is a situation that the Federation Secretary for Interplanetary Relations finds unacceptable, especially given their recent pattern of swarming into Federation space."
Chekov asked a pointed question. "Did the Tholians have diplomatic ties with the Federation before that time?"
"As a matter of fact, the Tholian Assembly had cordial relations with Vulcan going back over three hundred years."
"But not with the Federation," Sar 7 reiterated.
A brief pause. "Correct."
Demora Sulu asked a question. "Other than the Vulcans, have the Tholians established diplomatic relations with any other race?"
Another brief pause. "No."
Saavik was clearly disturbed. "Is it logical to conclude that the Tholians would be willing to establish diplomatic relations when theyve shown no inclination to do so?"
Spock stood silently for a long moment. "No," he admitted. "However, my orders came from the Secretary himself: I am to avail myself at the first available opportunity to establish diplomatic relations with the Tholian Assembly." The Vulcan addressed the starbase commander. "That is why I asked you to join us today, Commodore."
Commodore William Lindstrom was a veteran of Starfleet rapidly approaching the mandatory retirement age of 90. He had a long and distinguished career with the service and had even served on the court-martial of James Kirk for the murder of Benjamin Finney. "Im afraid I dont follow you, Ambassador Spock."
Lieutenant Chterr chirped, "Doesnt this confl-l-lict with your orders from Admiral-l-l Davis, Captain Chekov?"
Chekov nodded slowly. "Yes, it does. We were ordered to stay clear of the Tholians. However, Starfleet is the military arm of the Federation. The Council sets policy, not the Admiralty."
Lindstrom chuckled. "Now I know why you dragged an old man away from his grandchildren, Ambassador Spock." He turned to Chekov. "Upon reviewing the ambassadors orders from the secretary, I am amending your orders, Captain, to include establishing a dialogue with the Tholians. The destruction of the Bradley makes it clear that we need some sort of treaty with them immediately. If we cannot stop these attacks, then were surely on a course straight for war."
Willis OBrien entered Sickbay with his floating holocams. He was speaking to one of them. "Continuing on our tour of the Enterprise, we enter Sickbay. This is the ships hospital, medical center, clinic and doctors office. This is the domain of the chief medical officer"
"Doctor Christine Chapel," came a voice from behind him. "Welcome to Sickbay, Mister OBrien," she greeted him warmly. "I was hoping you would see fit to visit our little facility."
"Its quite impressive," praised Willis, looking around the ward. "Can you provide our viewers some specifics about it?"
"Why certainly. This ward has three examination tables, three operating tables, nine intensive care beds and eighteen convalescence beds. That is one-third of the tables and beds on the Enterprise. Across the corridor is an identical facility, manned by Doctor Justin Weller, my assistant chief medical officer. The remaining third of the tables and beds are located in a third facility, located on Deck Eighteen in the engineering hull. Its usually unmanned but is well-stocked and constantly kept ready for any emergency."
"Thats almost one hundred beds aboard a starship that only has a crew of eight hundred seventy-three. How much did all this cost, and is it really necessary?"
Chapel chuckled. "I have no idea how much anything in here costs," she admitted. "What price do you put on sentient life, Mister OBrien?"
"Life is priceless."
"Then so is this equipment. Its only function is to preserve life."
"An excellent point, Doctor," OBrien conceded. "But ninety-nine tables and beds?"
"Under combat conditions, we have the means of carrying three hundred Starfleet Marines into battle. Under emergency conditions, this ship could support over three thousand individuals for a week or more. During those conditions, three hundred beds and tables wouldnt be enough."
"So, will you tell our viewers a little about yourself?"
"I was working on my D.O. when my fiancé, Roger Korby, was lost on Exo Three. I chose to serve on the Enterprise, NCC-1701, as a volunteer nurse with the Red Cross. After we discovered Rogers fate, Doctor McCoy soon had me serving as his charge nurse. During the refit of the Enterprise, I completed my D.O. training, and I was assigned to serve as Assistant Chief Medical Officer under Captain Kirk. Following the Serenidad Tragedy, I worked at Starfleet Sector General on Earth."
"According to the records, you were to be Chief Medical Officer under Captain Decker. When Admiral Kirk assumed command of the Enterprise, you were demoted to Assistant Chief Medical Officer. How did you make you feel?"
"Actually, I had no problem with it. The Enterprise would have been my first assignment as a physician. Throwing me into the role of Chief Medical Officer was not Starfleet Personnels brightest move. I was glad to be relieved of the responsibility, to be honest."
"So now youve been planetside for over twenty years. What makes you the best choice for C.M.O. of the Enterprise-B?"
"Because the only doctor better, namely Leonard McCoy, isnt available. I am the best choice for this position. My time at Sector General introduced me to such a large variety of alien and Human medical conditions that it has instilled a sense of wonder, if you will, of a universe so diverse, so complex, so beautiful."
OBrien smiled warmly. He liked this woman, but he was not yet through being thorough. "Its ironic, isnt it, that both you and Doctor Weller were both charge nurses aboard the Enterprise?"
"Are you suggesting that being a charge nurse is of less importance than being a physician? That might have been true in the distant past, Mister OBrien, but in this enlightened day and age, nurses can prescribe medication, diagnose patients, treat injuries and even perform minor surgery."
Properly chastised, OBrien changed the subject. "Can you tell me what you think of Captain Chekov? Is he up to replacing Captain Kirk?"
"I have known Pavel Andreievich Chekov since he first signed on nearly thirty years ago. Hes a charming man who has proven himself time and time again under stressful situations. Hes going to be remembered as one of Starfleets greatest captains. And you can quote me on that," she chuckled.
"What about replacing Captain Kirk?" the reporter pressed.
"Why should Captain Chekov have to replace Captain Kirk? Why cant he just be Captain Chekov?"
Willis OBrien was surprised by her answer. It was so similar to Demora Sulus...
"Well, on behalf of the network and our viewers, Id like to thank you for the opportunity to interview..."December 19th 2294
Leonard McCoy walked into the opulent office of the Surgeon General of Starfleet. Windows faced the bay and the ancient bridge shrouded in a fog bank. A giant mahogany table took up most of the center of the room and was angled so that when the person sitting behind it was tired of staring at the monitor, he or she could see the inlet.
Slowly he shrugged out of the red jacket, staring for a long moment at the braid on the shoulder that denoted his rank: Admiral.
Well, technically, Vice-Admiral.
And more technically, Surgeon General.
Hanging the jacket up, he pulled on his white lab jacket, trudged to the window and stared down at the bay, one hand on the window sill, the other deep in his jacket pocket.
Hed never wanted an administrative post before. Years ago, hed managed to browbeat Harry Morrow into getting him off-planet when it looked like hed be "promoted" from the surgery ward to being the hospitals administrator, just a step away from becoming Surgeon General. Hed told Harry it would be a cold day in hell before hed take that position.
"Well, Harry," he sighed, "Hope youre not rolling over in your grave. I know, you always said you could see me in this spot. And you know what I thought of that idea. And, for your information," he added, remembering the chilly wind that had seemed to cut through his jacket as he walked from his apartment to the office, "it is a cold day in hell."
McCoy had returned to Earth with Sulu and the Excelsior, then had walked into Lystra Davis office. When hed walked out, he was no longer a civilian, but once again a member of Starfleet, specifically Starfleets Surgeon General. M'Benga was ready to step down, and McCoy was the most qualified officer to take the position.
The Excelsior would be receiving a minor refit and then dispatched on a survey mission to the Beta Quadrant. According to Sulu, Starfleet would not be assigning his ship to the search for the Jenolen. There were...greater concerns...than the lives of the crew and passengers of the Jenolen, namely the crystalline Tholians whose recent attack on the Bradley was a warning that Starfleet could not ignore.
And he couldnt help but worry that the Jenolen had fallen victim to them as well.
Brad Bashaws office at Intergalactic News Service was enormous. There was a wide-screen viewer on one wall, a bar and mirrored liquor cabinet on another, a desk with a bay window overlooking Los Angeles Island bay on the third, and a door framed by tall hand-crafted bookcases on the last. In the center of the room, a heavily cushioned sofa was being thoroughly tested by Sienna Gillette and Brad Bashaw.
After a few moments of mutual exertion and pleasure, Bashaw collapsed on Gillette. Sighing in contentment, he leaned back and spoke aloud, "Computer: display INS newsfeed."
"This is Willis OBrien aboard the starship Enterprise. Repairs to the massive warp drive engines are underway, delaying the search for the Jenolen. So, this afternoon, well be bringing you an interview with the commander of the Enterprise himself: Captain Pavel Chekov."
"Still no word on the Jenolen?" Gillette looked at the screen. "That dweeb. Whyd you send him, Brad? Idve gotten you a story by now." She pouted. "Hes just delivering banal pro-Starfleet propaganda."
Bashaw chuckled. "Because if Id sent you, you would already have been kicked off the ship after sticking your nose where it doesnt belong."
"Thats my job, Brad. Im supposed to bring the light of truth on everything."
"Honey, there are some things that the public just doesnt want to know."
"Oh, really? Do you think they wouldnt love to know that the magnate of the vast Intergalactic News Service empire balls his ace reporter and news reader on a daily basis?" She nuzzled him, and his body responded.
Before he could answer, her comlink chirped. She walked to the desk and tapped on Bashaws BellComm terminal.
Bashaw watched her hips rock and couldnt help but grin ear to ear. Sienna Gillette may have slept her way to the top, but shes the best reporter in the galaxy. He chuckled. Best fucking reporter, too.
Gillette was clearly excited. "Oh, yeah! Put him on quick." A pause. "nuqneH?"
Bashaw didnt speak Klingonese...and had no intention of learning. Too guttural, too harsh...too uncivilized.
"buy ngop!" She clicked off the BellComm, and started pulling on the navy-blue jumpsuit she had been wearing before their little tryst.
"Sienna, whats going on?" asked the media magnate.
She ran out of the room. "Not now, baby, Ive got to go."
Getting dressed himself, Bashaw shook his head and chuckled. Wonder what shes got her claws into this time?
Captain Pavel Chekov and Willis OBrien were seated in the forward observation deck. "I must admit to being somewhat nervous about our interview this afternoon," the captain said honestly. "Reporters have no ethics, and I cannot help but wonder what your agenda is, Mister OBrien."
OBrien was steadfast in his convictions. "We do have a code of ethics, Captain. Its the storythe truth, if you willat any cost. At all costs."
Chekov was about to argue when Commander Uhuras voice came over the loudspeakers. "Bridge to Captain Chekov! Bridge to Captain Chekov!" There was something tangibly frantic in its tone.
The captain spoke upward toward the ceiling microphones. "Chekov here. What is it, Number One?"
"Oh, damn it, Chekov, put INS on the viewer there!"
"Just do it, damn it!" And the connection was cut.
A little nonplused, he nodded toward the observation deck manager. The image on the screen quickly faded in.
Suddenly horrified, Chekov and several other crewmembers gasped in amazement, in distaste, in contempt.
On the viewer, Sienna Gillette was reporting the news. In the background was a hologram of a naked Princess Teresa with a gaping huge hole in her torso. There was some sort of creature nearby preening itself. Sand crabs were chewing at the remaining flesh.
On the screen, beneath the gory image:
Teresa Morales de la Vega Ruiz-Mendoza McCoy
Crown Princess of Serenidad
2254 - 2294
Chekov was utterly devastated. Around the room, several crewmembers were openly weeping. "This...this is unforgivable."
Gillette continued, unaware of the effect her reportage was causing among her viewers. "Weve just received this hologram from sources inside the Klingon government. Apparently the creature that killed Teresa is known as a mantril. The"
Suddenly, the picture was blacked out, and the INS logo was glowing brightly in a sea of black.
Then, without warning, the screen illuminated with the visage of Brad Bashaw. "Ladies and gentlemen, I apologize for what you just viewed. This was done without my prior approval. I am as outraged as you by the blatant disregard of the dignity that Princess Teresa epitomized.
"Sienna Gillettes contract, as well as that of her producer, has been terminated immediately.
"To the family of Princess Teresa Morales de la Vega Ruiz-Mendoza McCoy, I issue my heartfelt apology.
"In the past, I have looked the other way when our reporters went to the edge of decency. I will do that no longer. We now return to our regularly scheduled newscast."
"You see, Chekov, some of us do have ethics," countered OBrien softly.
A different reporter took her seat at the news anchor desk. "This is Fuko Tamita reporting. This just in, Sienna Gillette has announced she will be suing INS for twenty-five million credits." The Oriental woman had a faint, smug smile on her face, clearly pleased by the turn of events.
With a savage jerk of his thumb across his neck, Chekov signaled the deck manager to kill the signal. The captain slowly stood, and then looked at Willis OBrien. "Our interview scheduled for this afternoon is canceled. And if I have any pull left at all with Starfleet Command, well be leaving you here tomorrow when we depart Starbase Three."
Chekov strode from the room in barely controlled anger. He was joined by the remaining officers and crew who had been present to witness the horrifying image. Even the observation deck manager departed, leaving Willis OBrien sitting alone at a table in the center of the room.
"Shit," he whispered to the empty confines.
Admiral Lystra Davis listened to Chekovs impassioned demands politely. His rage was vented against her over the commpic hyperchannel for a full thirty minutes; his angry question "How dare they?" went unanswered. As Commander-Starfleet, Davis probably had more important things she should be doing, but she also knew this was important. At thirty minutes, she finally spoke.
More accurately, she cut him off at the knees.
"All right, Captain Chekov. Thats quite enough."
"Dont say another word, Captain. Ive let you have your say, out of respect for you, your position, your loss, and because I, for one, agree with you regarding INSs excesses in this matter. However, the presence of Willis OBrien aboard the Enterprise has done much to increase our favor in the public eye. As you well know, with the death of Jim Kirk came an all-time low in our popularity. Willis reports, well, are just so positive that its clear to me that hes subtly advocating Starfleet. Tell me, have you seen any of his reports?"
Chekov shook his head. "Not that many. I saw Ensign Sulus and the one with Lieutenant Chterr about to disembowel him." The Enterprise captain chuckled. "I, of course, issued a quiet but formal reprimand to the lieutenant."
Davis smiled. "All well you should, but after the scene, OBrien admitted to the viewing audience that he had been trying to be intentionally provocative. It made for a damn fine news cast, Captain. And it addressed a tough issue. But have you seen any others?"
"No, sir. I have not. My duties"
"I know, I know. But watch them this evening. Thats an order, Captain. The presence of Mister OBrien may be a distraction, but the positive response his reports are engendering, well, its the Public Relations divisions wet dream." She shuffled a stack of data disks. "You will continue on your mission with your passenger."
Chekov pressed his luck. "Yes, sir. But one observation, if I may?"
"Certainly, Captain..." she answered guardedly.
"You mentioned that this is PRs wet dream? Might I remind you that the aftermath of a dream such as this is usually a sticky mess."
Davis exploded with laughter. "So noted, Captain," she said, chortling. "Now go tell that young man youve changed your mind."
"Aye, sir. Enterprise out."
She sat softly laughing for another three minutes.
The scene was the captains ready room. Chekov was seated behind his desk, his chair slightly higher than the one Willis OBrien sat in. Chekov had named the place and established the conditions. OBrien had been completely acquiescent. Now, the two menone a space veteran of 28 years, one a reporter who hadnt even turned 28 yetsat facing each other, three holocams silently recording the event as they floated in their preprogrammed positions.
OBrien smiled brightly, looking at the nearest holocam. "Good evening, gentlebeings. This is Willis OBrien aboard the starship Enterprise. Tonight, we have a very special interview. Tonight, were speaking live with the commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise himself: Captain Pavel Andreievich Chekov. Good evening, Captain."
"Good evening, Mister OBrien. Welcome to my ready room."
"Captain, on behalf of Brad Bashaw and Intergalactic News Service, Id like to offer you our collective and my personal apology for what was clearly an inappropriate report from Sienna Gillette."
"Thank you, Mister OBrien. I would also like to apologize for my initial decision to cancel this interview as well as for my rash decision to ask you to leave this ship. You are, of course, very welcome to remain aboard the Enterprise for our present tour of duty."
"The road to command hasnt been an easy one for you, has it, Captain?"
"No, it hasnt," Chekov confirmed.
"Your longtime commanding officer and friend was killed during what you described as a media event."
"Yes, although it actually was Admiral Davis who described it that way."
"A media event you helped to coordinate."
"Then the captain of this ship killed himself."
"Commander-Starfleet William Smillie and two top-ranking admirals resigned in disgrace."
"Yes." The tone in his voice was fading.
"Your former senior officer and friend, Montgomery Scott, disappears along with the Jenolen."
"Your former senior officer and friend, Leonard McCoy, goes through the tragedy brought to our attention by Sienna Gillette."
"Yes," Chekovs tone was now morose.
"So is it worth it?"
Chekov frowned intently for a second, and studied the surface of his desk for any imperfections. "It is true that the...road to my command...has had some personal tragedies along the way. Tragedies that I wish I could have averted. But life is filled with as much tragedy as it is joy. One...chooses whether to bask in the joys of life or wilt in its tragedies." He looked up to meet OBriens eyes. "Only a few days ago, Doctor McCoy reminded me of something former Starfleet Surgeon General Phillip Boyce always said: A man either lives life as it happens to him, meets it head on and licks it, or he turns his back on it and starts to wither away. I have no intention of withering away."
"So, weve been on a search and rescue mission for eight days. What have we found, and why havent we found the Jenolen?"
Chekov picked up a padd and pressed a key. "We have found thirty-two comets, twelve asteroids, wreckage from what appears to be a Promellian battlecruiser"
"A find of historic import, Im told," OBrien interjected.
"Quite right. Its a tremendous find. Im told that the Saratoga, the Glenn and the Slayton are already on site, cataloguing and exploring."
"The Glenn and Slayton are Oberth-class science-survey ships. It makes sense for those two vessels to be there. Why is a Miranda-class frigate like the Saratoga there?"
"As you and your audience well know, Willis, we also encountered the wreckage of the U.S.S. Bradley, a Constellation-class starship that had been destroyed, presumably by the Tholians, within the past two weeks. Starfleet Command dispatched the Saratoga to keep an eye on the virtually unarmed science ships."
"What about the Tholians? Whats your take on this situation?"
"I am not sure that a treaty can be negotiated with a people unwilling to communicate with us." Chekov shifted uncomfortably. "Again, you are aware that the Federation Secretary of Interplanetary Relations has dispatched Ambassador Spock to the Enterprise with the idea that an agreement could and should be reached with them."
"You dont seem at ease with that idea."
"I dont think we have a common framework on which such an accord could be built."
OBrien was bemused. "What do you mean?"
"For example, you and I are warm-blooded mammals. Were both Humanare you a native of Earth?"
"No, I was born on Titan Colony."
"Good, then were both Human, but not Terrans. The Alpha Centauri are also Humans. So are many, if not most, of the societies of the Federation."
"Quite so. Ive even heard the Klingons complain that were a Humans-only club."
"I was there when Chancellor Azetbur herself made such a statement," admitted the Enterprise captain. "And that helps make my point. Her father, the late Chancellor Gorkon, conceded that Vulcans arent Human. Although as warm-blooded, bipedal sentients with hominid mammalian ancestry, we have quite a bit in common with the Vulcans, there are occasional conflicts which arise from our differences."
"Agreed. There are times that many Earth and Federation citizens dont see eye-to-eye with the official Vulcan stance on, say, the Efrosian Embargo of twenty years ago."
"And we have the same situation arise with the Tellarites, the Rhaandarites, the Catullans. Those three races are warm-blooded, bipedal, and are of mammalian ancestry, but from a different family than Humans and Vulcans. The Tellarites are artiodactyloids; the Rhaandarites and Catullans are related races with their rhinocerotic forebears."
"The Andorians are insectoid bipeds; the Gorn are reptiloid bipeds; the Skorr are ornithoid, winged bipeds; the Aquans are ichthyoid bipeds. All four are Federation member races with widely divergent views than those having mammalian progenitors."
"And yet we all get along."
"Yes, we do, for the most part. And thats a strong argument for the Vulcan concept of IDIC. If we rejoice in the infinite diversity created by infinite combinations, then we will survive. Its a basic foundation for the existence of the Federation, in fact."
"And theres no room for the Tholians?"
Chekov sighed. "Not necessarily. The Horta are now a Federation member race. They are silicon-based, thermophilic ciliates. But, in fact, there was a brief time when we were, for all intent and purposes, at war with each other."
"But the Tholians" OBrien wanted Chekov to address the question.
"The Tholians may end up one of those races with whom we will never have a complete understanding. The Metrons, the Organians and the Sheliak are three races that we simply cannot understand. There is little or no common frame of reference with these three. And there is virtually none at all with the Tholian Assembly."
"Sounds like youre expecting failure, Captain. Quite a pessimistic outlook, Id say."
"Im a Russian, Willis. We dont call this sort of outlook pessimistic. We call it pragmatic or realistic. The water glass is neither half-empty nor half-full. Its just half a glass of water. I am prepared for either outcome: a peace treaty or a state of undeclared war. Would you prefer that the Enterprise be prepared for a celebration in the weeks or months ahead or for battle?"
"Point made, sir." Willis OBrien leaned back in his chair. "Just one more subject, Captain, if you dont mind?"
"By all means," Chekov agreed. This was going better than he had expected.
"I asked you earlier, but we got off topic. Are we going to find the Jenolen?"
Chekov simply said, "No."
OBrien blinked in surprise. "Excuse me?" he leaned forward.
"We are not going to find the Jenolen."
The INS reporter looked stunned. Leaning back in his chair, he had only one question he could ask: "Why not?"
Chekov pressed a button on the left side of his desk, and a holographic display local star systems was displayed. The route from Sol to Norpin appeared as a red line. "This is the expected course of the Jenolen."
"This assumes their first destination was Norpin Five."
"A valid assumption. Mister Scott would have booked the most direct flight to Norpin. Being a retired chief engineer, the thought of sitting idle on another engineers starship would not have appealed to him."
"Okay...that sounds reasonable," OBrien agreed.
"This is the spiral course I had ordered." A yellow spiral appeared, running from Sol to a point one-third the way to Norpin. "It stops where I received orders to shift to the Lissajous search pattern."
"It looks pretty darned thorough," the reporter observed.
"Oh, it is. If this is the course of the Jenolen," the red line flashed twice, "then this course would find them, assuming a one-half lightyear variance." He pressed another button, and a dotted yellow spiral completed its way to Norpin.
"This is the course implemented despite my wishes to the contrary. Its a parametric-based one called the Lissajous." A brilliant blue line drew itself in a most unusually haphazard manner from the end of the solid yellow spiral to another point half way to Norpin.
OBrien was stunned. "Wait a minute! There are huge sections of space that are, well, skipped."
"Exactly my point, Willis. Thank you." Chekov pressed another button, and a solid, straight white line drew itself from the end of the blue line to a third point labeled Starbase 3. "And yet upon completion of our repairs, were going to embark in the completion of the Lissajous." The nonsensical pattern of blue drew itself from Starbase 3 to Norpin.
"Theres even more space not searched!"
"Yes," Chekov conceded. "There is. Yet those are my orders, and I will follow them to the letter."
"And this is why you believe we wont find the Jenolen?"
OBrien looked at his wrist chronometer. He was ten minutes over his segment length. He sighed deeply. "Captain, weve gone way over our allotted time. I want to thank you again for this opportunity to interview you."
"It was my pleasure, Willis." Chekov smiled broadly. "And a good evening to you and your viewers."
Willis clicked his holoremote, and the holocams lined up at the door, obediently waiting for their master. "That was one hell of an interview, Captain. I hope you dont take any heat for it. Some of what you said is not likely to sit well with the admiralty."
Chekov smiled sardonically. "Fuck em."
OBrien laughed. "I presume that was off the record, Captain?"
The commander of the U.S.S. Enterprise leaned back in his chair. "Oh, yes. Quite so. Have a good evening, Mister OBrien."
"And you, Captain," returned OBrien as he made his way to the door.
Chekov closed his eyes and counted to ten. "Come in!" he called, and Uhura stepped in.
"Pavel, that was a terrific interview!"
"Im glad you think so, Penda. But Im afraid you might be alone in that opinion. I imagine that the shit will be hitting the air recycler any second now."
The bosuns whistle sounded, as if on cue. "Communications to Captain Chekov. Incoming message from Commander-Starfleet."
"On screen," he ordered and turned to face the viewer behind him.
Lystra Davis was clearly pleased, and Chekov relaxed considerably. "Excellent, Captain. You had three tough issues to deal with, and you addressed all three properly."
"I was worried I might have overstepped my bounds on the Tholian question."
"Nonsense. You were asked your opinions, and you gave them."
"I suspect that Admiral Soyen might not appreciate my candor."
"Probably not," Davis conceded with a smile. "His orders still stand, though. Captain. Im not going to countermand them. It wouldnt be...logical."
Chekov nodded. "I understand completely, Admiral."
"Good to hear it, Captain. Davis out."
And with that Uhura walked over from the food dispenser slot and handed him a shot glass of ice-cold vodka. "Well, Id say that went over pretty well," she remarked.
"Glad you noticed, Number One. But mark my words: OBrien will be after you next." The captain slammed the shot down his throat.
"And with this...this problem Im having...adjusting to Chterr, Im going to get hung out to dry."
"Youll be fine, Penda." He gestured for a refill, and she got him another drink. "So, hows our chief tactical officer coming along?"
"It is not something we speak of with outworlders," intoned Uhura melodramatically. "At any rate, her job performance has been excellent."
"Lets hope it stays that way."
The Enterprise-variant of the Excelsior-class had a nine hundred square meter arboretum. Given a crew of 610, this was more than a square meter per crewman, and it was among the most cherished of areas aboard the starship. At any given time, nearly a dozen officers and crewmembers could be found in its spacious confines. This evening, though, Spock and Saavik had it to themselves.
"How are your meditation exercises progressing, Saavik-kam?"
"As you have learned, I carry David Marcus katra. I am unable to suppress him for lengthy periods of time."
"Is it his impulsiveness that has led to your aberrant behavior?"
Saavik nodded. "Although since our recent mindmeld, I have been...more myself."
"I would like to mindmeld with you again, Saavik-kam. I would like to speak with Doctor Marcus."
"I am ready to yield."
With a quick touch of his hand lightly across her temples, Spock immersed himself within her.
The Elysian fields of her mind revealed themselves to him. Sitting at a picnic bench were David Marcus and Saavik. As Spock approached them, the son of James Kirk grinned widely. "Why, hello again, Mister Spock!"
"Doctor Marcus," the Vulcan acknowledged. He moved to sit down across from the youth. "I have some questions which I must ask..."
"You mean why am I interfering with her in the performance of her duties and that sort of thing?"
"Needless to say, shes asked the very same question. Unfortunately, I didnt have an answer for her, and I dont have one for you. Im not even sure how Im having any influence on her life, to be honest." The young man looked clearly perplexed. "When Saavik isnt here, I experience much of what she does, almost as though I were watching some sort of holovid. Her problems arise when I lose my cool."
"Are you...enjoying this vicarious existence?"
David turned to Saavik. "Id like to discuss this matter privately with Mister Spock. Could you manage it for me?"
Saaviks face clouded. "David, I will not lose you."
He nodded in complete agreement. "You will not lose me, I promise."
Saavik rose from the picnic table and headed for a tranquil lake which suddenly became visible nearby.
Marcus turned to Spock. "Can you talk to her, Mister Spock? Can you help her let go of me?"
"The task will be difficult. I cannot release your katra. She must do so and of her own free will."
"You asked me if I was enjoying this existence, stuck in this twilight zone between your plane of existence and the next. Frankly, no, Im not. But she intends to hold me here until it is her time to move on to the next plane of existence."
"Against your will?" Spock was openly aghast.
"Against my will," David Marcus confirmed.
Saavik rejoined them from her tour of the lakeshore. "I will not let you go, David."
"Then you are enslaving him, Saavik-kam," Spock admonished, "in a clear violation of all that we know and hold true." There was a bolt of lightning nearby, and Spock raised an eyebrow.
"I am not enslaving him. Im...saving him from himself, from his path of self-destruction. I couldnt stop him on Genesis, well, by Vulcan, Romulus and Remus, Ill stop him this time!"
"Saavik!" David was startled. "Is that what this has all been about? The fact that I died on Genesis?"
"I failed to protect"
"Bullshit!" he snapped in anger. "You didnt fail, Saavik. I made a decision, a tough decision, but one that I would make again. You were about to be butchered by a Khmyr Klingon with his d'k tagh. I gave my life so that I might save yours."
"You should have stayed your ground. I was a Starfleet officer. I was prepared to die. You were a civilian. You were my thyla. I wouldve willingly sacrificed myself for you and Spock. It was the most logical choice."
"It was my choice to make," David argued. "Id make it again in a heartbeat." He looked at her. "I couldnt live without you!"
"Plema tsu rashaya? Cannot the same be said for me? I havent been able to...function...since your death."
"Perhaps it is because you havent let go of him, Saavik-kam," Spock gently suggested. "Perhaps its because you havent given yourself the chance."
"Its time for me to go now," David said firmly. He started walking away.
"David, come back! Come back!" Saavik cried and tried to run after him.
Marcus spun around, and beneath her feet, the soft loam of the glade turned to quicksand. "No, Saavik. Not until you agree to end this. Once you make that decision, you and I can say our goodbyes. Until then..."
He faded from view, and...
The link was broken. "David!" Saavik cried, tears flowing from her eyes. "David!" she screamed, and the scream echoed around the arboretum as well as her mind. "David!" she wept softly. "Oh, David..." She buried her head against Spocks strong shoulder.
Spock sat there, mute. Eyes faintly moist with unshed tears, his shoulders were shaken by her ever weaker sobs.December 20th 2294
"Dock moorings signaling clear, Captain," reported Uhura from Communications.
"Helm, thrusters to station-keeping," ordered Chekov.
"Station-keeping aye," answered Demora Sulu.
"Starbase Three has given us clearance for departure," Uhura said. "God speed, Enterprise."
"Send the port master our acknowledgment and respond with Shalom."
Uhura smiled brightly at her captain. "Aye, sir."
"All sensors indicate no traffic ahead," announced Saavik from the tactical station.
"Acknowledged, Commander. Mister Escri, plot a course to intercept the point we departed from our search. Then plot a Lissajous search pattern from that point."
"Aye, sir," came the mechanical sound from the navigators voder.
"Helm, thrusters ahead, full. Ease us out."
"Captain, weve cleared space dock," reported Lieutenant Rathan from Science One.
"Impulse engines, ahead one-quarter."
"Incoming transmission from starship Alliance, Captain. Its executive officer would like a word with you." Uhuras voice was smug.
"Bozhe moi." He sighed deeply. "Tell Commander Jaeger to call back in fifteen minutes. I want to clear this system first."
In his ready room, Chekov opened up the comm channel and was greeted by the smiling visage of his ex-wife, Gretchen Jaeger.
"Hello, Gretchen," he said noncommittally.
"Hello, Pavel," she began brightly, and he couldnt help but smile. He missed her; he really did. But hed been so hurt by her decision to put her career ahead of their marriage that he had sworn he would never, never allow himself to be hurt again. "I hear the search isnt going too well."
"Eet is not." Chekov allowed his accent to become more pronounced than usual. "Sulu managed to convince Starfleet dat"
"I know all about it, Pav. I watched it on the news last night. What I didnt get from the newscast, I got from Uhura. Great interview, by the way."
"Thank you," he replied modestly.
"Anyway, I wanted you to know Ive been thinking of you lately. About our parting of ways. I have some regrets, you know."
"You have regrets? Now is a swell time to find that out," he rolled his eyes. "Gretchen, you hurt me...badly. You walked out of my life three years ago to take that position on the Alliance, and now, now you decide you have some regrets?" He shook his head in disbelief.
"You could have transferred, too, Pavel. Captain Williams made that quite clear at the time."
"Yes, I would have been his chief navigation officer, but I would have been fifth in the chain of command. I was third officer on the Enterprise. Thats not a transfer, Gretchen. Thats a demotion."
Her face reddened. "Lets get this straight, Pavel. By refusing that transfer, you put your career ahead of our relationship. Its ironic that you did the same thing you accuse me of doing. Youre being hypocritical, and frankly, chauvinist as well!"
Chekov pursed his lips and struggled to find the right words, but they couldnt be found. She was right, and he knew it. Of course, he was not about to let her know that... "Nyet. I was being practical. You were being unreasonable. Now, is there something else I can help you with today? Im sure you didnt just call to say hello."
"Actually, there is a legitimate reason for my call. Our labs have finished going over the debris from the Bradley. It was clearly attacked and destroyed by Tholians. Weve just about finished putting all the pieces together. The quartz-heads concentrated on the Brads engines and never let up. We cant even find plasma torpedo residue on the primary hull. They never wanted to capture or disable her; they wanted to destroy her. Captain Williams thought you might like to know."
"One more thing, Pavel? Watch yourself. The Tholians dont take kindly to trespassers."
"Unfortunately, with the Tholians, you never know exactly when youre trespassed...until its too late. Watch out for yourself, too, Gretchen. Enterprise out."
Chief Engineer Sar 7 watched the uninvited officer with open disdain as she made her way through the engineering complex. "I dont understand, Commander. Tell me again why you are conducting this inspection?"
Lieutenant Commander Saaviks tone was completely neutral. "I have orders from the captain. He wants my report on the engines warp worthiness."
"You are the ships chief tactical officer; I am the ships chief engineering officer. It is likely that my report will be more in depth and more accurate."
"Logically," she explained with exaggerated patience, "that is the probable outcome. However, my orders were quite specific. If you like, I can have a flimsy printed out for you for your perusal." She cocked an eyebrow.
"Not needed, Commander," Sar 7 said resignedly. "Conduct your inspection, for whatever good it may do you."
"Your reaction is not logical," Saavik responded while opening the hatch to the dilithium chamber. "The captains decision makes it quite clear that I am to review the repairs and modifications you made. I am, after all, his second officer." She closed the hatch and ran a tricorder pointed up toward the dual intermix chambers. "Furthermore, I am quite impressed, Mister Sar 7."
"The repairs to the dual intermix chamber have corrected problem with maintaining our phase lock," the chief engineer said emphatically.
"Indeed," she agreed. "I would suggest that a detailed analysis of your repair work be forwarded to Starfleet Engineering."
"Really? Why is that, Commander?"
"The Enterprise-B is a prototypical variant of the Excelsior-class. As a prototype, input from the ships engineering staff is crucial to determine how effective design changes have been."
He nodded. "There are some problems with the design changes as implemented."
"Elucidate. Is the dual intermix chamber configuration"
"No, Commander. The configuration has been quite successful on all of the Excelsior-class ships. The Enterprise, however, also incorporates a dual dilithium chamber and dual warp coil generators. This change of design was made to allow the Enterprise to function despite damage to an intermix chamber. Theoretically, we could take a direct hit to one of its chambers and yet continue to be functional."
"The theory is flawed, I take it?"
"Actually, no. However, the task of getting these three distinct systems in synch is relatively difficult with a single intermix chamber, a single warp coil generator and a single dilithium chamber. That task is nine times more difficult with the dual configurations."
"Interesting." She glanced at the engine control room. "Shall we continue our tour?"
He sanguinely acquiesced, buoyed by her appreciation of the situation. "Perhaps I was hasty earlier..."
She faintly, oh so faintly, favored him with a smile. "I hadnt noticed. Shall we proceed?"
"Attention!" snapped Chterr as he and Uhura made their way around the corner from the main corridor into the security section on Deck Seven.
Security guards dashed out of the wardroom and the messroom and stood with their toes on an imaginary line running the length of the left-hand side of the corridor. And in alphabetical order as well, Uhura noted with slight amusement.
Chterrs feathers flushed slightly with crimson pride, and the executive officer found herself nodding in approval. "Excellent response time, Lieutenant. My compliments to you and your staff."
"Thank you, Commander."
At the end of the branch corridor, they turned another corner and entered the access corridor. "This is our detention area, Uhura," explained the chief security officer, giving her the full tour. "There are six detention cel-l-l-ls, capabl-l-le of hol-l-lding six individual-l-ls each. The forcefiel-l-l-lds are rated at Class I. None of the cel-l-l-ls are occupied. In fact, there has only been one individual-l-l detained."
She nodded, and they turned to walk down the access corridor. The doors slid open to the security office. An ensign was seated at the security watch station with her eyes glued to various monitors and an ear receiver monitoring communications channels. Chterr was handed a padd which he quickly reviewed and returned after signing off on the report. They stepped across to the opposite side of the security office. Chterr straddled the backless stool behind his desk, and Uhura seated herself across from him in a very comfortable chair.
"So are your personnel ready for a combat situation, Lieutenant?"
Chterr flexed his talons. "Of course. In addition to their regul-l-lar patrol-l-l duty, the entire staff has made extensive use of the phaser battl-l-le training simul-l-lators." He blinked. "But you knew that. We discussed it earl-l-lier on the bridge..."
Uhura bobbed her head repeatedly. "Yes, yes. I know. Just making small talk."
She made a flabbergasted expression. "I just cant shake this...unease I feel when Im near you, Lieutenant." She shuddered with a deep chill.
"So I have noticed. However, you at least have the courage to face this situation, to face your distrust of me."
"Its not you, Chterr. Its what you are." She shuddered again. "Damn it, I cant explain this!"
"Have you considered discussing the matter with one of the ships doctors?"
"I thought Id take this little inspection tour and see if I could shake it off." Her eyes full of remorse, she met his, searching for understanding. "Im...Im sorry, Chterr."
"Commander Uhura, I appreciate your effort to overcome your phobia, but its not necessary. I real-l-lize that this is a phobia, not some form of racism."
"I was trying to acclimate myself to you..."
The Skorr tilted his crested head. "Isnt there a Terran expression that Famil-l-liarity breeds contempt?"
She laughed, startled by his sense of humor, and it put her at ease for a moment. "You know, Chterr, I like you. I really do. I just wish I wasnt so damn afraid of what you are."
Chterr clicked his beak in laughter. "Well, our tour is complete. The only thing you havent seen is the phaser firing range."
She stood. "Lead on, Lieutenant."
After another fruitless day of the Lissajous search pattern, Chekov had returned to the gymnasium to walk off his frustration. After a brisk three miles on the mill, he sat down on the bench, and looked up to meet the face of his tactical officer. Her Romulan half was showing; concern was clearly illuminated across her face.
"Are you all right, Captain?"
"Saavik, Ive known Hikaru Sulu since I came aboard the Enterprise thirty years ago. He and I shared a cabin from that very day for five years. After the end of the five year mission, he went into Intelligence and I went into Security, and we stayed close friends. Hell, Demoras my godchild. After we returned to the uprated Enterprise, we had adjacent quarters. I guess we began to grow apart when I left the Enterprise a few years later, just after Doctor Daystrom was forced to build a supercomputer for the Klingons."
"So you grew apart because you took an assignment on the Reliant? That is not logical."
Chekov regarded Saavik earnestly."Okay, so why has Sulu rammed this Lissajous down my throat?"
"To remind you of his seniority?" she suggested. There was a sudden gleam in her eyes. "Or to remind himself of it?"
The captains eyes widened in realization. "Is he that petty?"
"Is he not...Human?" she asked in feigned innocence.
He chuckled, wiping the sweat from his brow. "Is that how you perceive us, Saavik?"
"Human? Yes. Petty? Sometimes. Emotional? Always."
Chekov stood and mounted the treadmill. "I think another three miles are in order, Commander." He started striding up the incline.
"Given your current physical condition, I would suggest another"
He swung his gaze around, eyes blazing with fire.
"three would be more than adequate, Captain," she quickly changed tack.
"Damn straight," he growled, striding forward.December 21st 2294 Captains Log, Stardate 9497.3
Leonard McCoy sat at his desk in the surgeon generals office and simply stared at the screen. It was a message from the Enterprise, one that hed been fearing:
S.S. Jenolen lost en route to Norpin V. Search has been called off; no sign of ship or survivors found.
The doctor swung around in his chair, and stood to look out the window. He stared out at the hills surrounding the bay. Hell, Im ready for retirement, too. Only he had nowhere to go, and no one to share that time with. Not anymore, anyway. Oh, Joanna would take me in, but well... Im not ready to go back to Atlanta yet.
He closed his eyes, willing himself not to think about her. If he thought about somethinganythingelse, it didnt hurt so much.
That, he realized, was why he had allowed himself to volunteer...strike that, demand the Surgeon General position. It gave his mind something to do besides dwell on the past. Dwelling there would only destroy him.
Sighing wearily, McCoy reread Chekovs unusually terse message that hed received.
S.S. Jenolen lost en route to Norpin V. Search has been called off; no sign of ship or survivors found.
First, Jim. Then, Teresa and the kids. He choked back a sob. And now, Scotty
McCoy shook himself, then pulled himself away from the window and headed to his desk. Work awaited him. And God knew that he needed the work to keep his mind from dwelling on things best not thought about.
So far, the only good news hed received had been a short message from his step-son from somewhere in the Klingon Empire called Boreth.
McCoy settled heavily in the plush chair.
Miguel had the right idea. Hed never go back to Serenidad either. And hed never go into space again; at least not on an assignment. His place was now here, behind a desk, sending younger men and women and whatever else there was in Starfleet to the stars on the ships.
Never go into space on a starship again
He caught a glint from the corner of his eye. Turning, he saw several holopics on the corner of his desk.
Teresas bright smile, and the playful grins of three-year-old Davie and one-year-old Jimmy seemed to grow out of the holo until it filled his entire vision.
Shakily, he reached out and touched the holo gently. His vision blurred. He inhaled sharply, feeling a pain deep in his chest as hot tears streamed down his face. Then he was holding the holo close to his chest as he sobbed uncontrollably. All the pain that hed been holding back since Teresa had been taken from him surfaced and billowed out.
When he finally couldnt cry any longer, he got up and went to his private bathroom and washed his face, letting the cool water shrink the puffiness around his eyes. Walking back to his office, he stared at the holos. With trembling hands, he picked the holos up and placed them carefully into a bottom drawer.
"Sorry, Sita," he said softly. "I-I cant do it with you there. Not now." As he closed the drawer, he added, "One day, Honey, I promise, youll be back where you belong. Itll take a while, Sita. But, one day, youll be back."
Chekovs fingers drummed silently on the rests of the center seat. Here they were, their first mission an undeniable failure, en route to Alpha Tucanae, a backwater KIII giant star system 199 lightyears from Sol.
Behind him, he heard Saaviks calm voice call to him from the tactical station: "Captain, sensors detect an ion engine trail in our path."
"Analysis, Science Officer?" Chekov turned to face Lieutenant Rathan.
The Vulcanoid raised an eyebrow. "The ion trail appears to be the exhaust wake from a Tholian patrol vessel. A most disturbing development."
"Disturbing is a typically Vulcan understatement," remarked the captain. "Sensors to maximum. Sound yellow alert." He turned to Uhura. "Perhaps our ambassador should be notified as well."
A mild klaxon blared for thirty seconds. "All decks ready at yel-l-l-low al-l-lert," reported Chterr from the security station.
"Weapons systems on stand-by," reported Katarina Brooks. "Deflector shields up and ready. Screens are energized."
Sandeep Kuntawala called out from Science Two. "Sir, Im confirming two distinct engine signatures."
"Lieutenant Rathan, anything on sensors?"
"No, sir. Sensor analysis indicates that two Tholian vessels passed through this section of space some three days ago."
"Confirmed, Captain," agreed Kuntawala. "Both cruisers may well have been involved in the attack on the Bradley. Backtracking on their course suggests that they could have come directly from the scene of destruction."
"Interesting," Chekov cracked his knuckles and leaned back in the center seat. "Lets maintain yellow alert for now, but bring weapons up to full readiness, Ms. Brooks."
"Weapons to full readiness, aye," the lieutenant commander acknowledged.
"Number One? Your recommendations?" the captain asked.
Uhura moved from the communications console, and Michaels took her place. "I always recommend caution, Captain. Will Decker was right about that."
"Agreed," Chekov nodded, "Helmsman, lower our speed to Warp Factor Three. Navigator, maintain our course."
"Warp Three, sir," Demora Sulu echoed.
"Still on course, sir," Escri responded.
"Captain, a word with you, if you please?" asked Saavik. "In private?"
He turned with a start to his chief tactical officer. He stared at her unfathomable face. "Certainly, Commander. My ready room. Number One, the bridge is yours."
Uhura moved to the center seat. "Aye, sir."
"Captain, the science officer should have reported the detection of the ion trail. We had scanned it a full two minutes before I decided to speak up."
Chekov was surprised. "Rathan didnt notice?"
"Impossible, sir. He was intently scanning it. I just happened to have switched one of my monitors to see what he had found that was so interesting."
"In other words, you were being nosy."
Saavik blinked twice. "I was being curious."
"I see." He paused briefly. "An accident?"
"Might I remind you that he failed to issue a report on an earlier observation? I reported the detection of the debris field, not he, even though his sensors had brought it to his attention."
"Maybe hes just being thorough?"
"Sir, the Romulans have a saying: One mistake is the result of an accident. Two mistakes are the result of carelessness. Three mistakes are the result of sabotage." She ignored his broad grin. "And there are other anomalies I have detected. During one of your rather...caustic transmissions, the lieutenant smirked at one of your...witty rejoinders."
Chekovs eyes narrowed. "He smirked?"
"Smirked, sir," she steadfastly confirmed.
"What are you suggesting, Saavik?"
"Im suggesting that we keep a close eye on our science officer," she counseled.
Chekov studied her face. She was clearly sincere in her convictions. "Ill take that under advisement. Anything else, Commander?"
"No, sir," she answered.
As she exited, he sat down on his sofa and leaned his head back, stretching. He then spoke toward the ceiling. "Captain to bridge."
"Bridge. Uhura here."
"Status, Number One?"
"No change, sir. Our own course is paralleling the ion trail."
"Maintain weapon readiness, Commander. Ask Commander Saavik to prepare a few drills."
"And send Mister Chterr in to see me," he added.
There was a brief pause. "Yes, sir."
"Chekov out." He sighed deeply, and twisted his head to and fro. His neck crackled with the effort. Oy. He heard a knock at the door, and called, "Enter."
The security chief strode in, phaser prominently displayed on a weapons belt. "Lieutenant Chterr reporting as ordered, Captain." The Skorr snapped his feet together at attention.
"At ease, Lieutenant."
The officer quickly assumed a parade rest stance, and Chekov sighed again. I was never that young... Then he remembered his scene in the admirals office and inwardly laughed at himself.
"Lieutenant, it has been brought to my attention that there are certain...anomalies regarding the behavior of Science Officer Rathan. You are to consider him a potential security risk."
Chterr blinked in surprise. "Sir, if there is any evidence that"
Chekov cut him off. "No, Lieutenant. No...evidence. Just some suspicions." The captain searched for the right expression. "But well-founded suspicions. Its probably nothing, but..."
"But youd rather be safe than sorry," Chterr concluded for him.
"Ah, yes, thats a wonderful Russian expression for it! Any questions?"
The Skorr turned and walked across the room. He turned his head and asked, "By the way, sir, thats a Skorrian expression, written by Alar himself."
Chekov barely suppressed his laughter. "I...stand corrected, Lieutenant. Dismissed."
As the door closed, the captain erupted into a brief spasm of laughter, which quickly subsided as Ambassador Spock entered his ready room. "I would speak with you, Mister Chekov," the Vulcan intoned.
"Of course, Ambassador, how may I be of service?" Unconsciously, the captain stood.
"I appreciate being notified of your detection of the Tholian presence in this sector," Spock replied.
"As the search for the Jenolen has been canceled, your diplomatic mission now takes precedence."
"However, upon my arrival on the bridge, I was dismayed to discover that this ship is at battle-readiness. Bear in mind that my mission is to establish diplomatic relations with them. I doubt the Tholians will look favorably on the Enterprises current weapons status."
"Of that I have no doubt," conceded Chekov. "And it will remain that way until your mission is successfully completed."
"Your posture jeopardizes my mission," argued Spock.
"On the contrary, Ambassador, my posture assures that we have a chance to complete your mission. Need I remind you of the Bradleys fate? Without those weapons on-line, this ship might fare little better."
Spock studied Chekovs face. "Very well, Mister Chekov. I only hope that your posture doesnt cripple our attempts at negotiation." The Vulcan turned and left without another word.
Chekov sat back down on the sofa and sighed. "Damn." First Sulu, now Spock.
Commander Uhura sat on the exam table as Doctor Christine Chapel ran a scanner up and down across her skull. It had been a long day of drills, but Uhura had scheduled this appointment at the end of the day to discuss her problem with the ships physician.
"Let me get this straight, Penda," the chief medical officer was saying, "youre frightened of him?"
"No, not of him. Of what he is? He comes onto the bridge, and I get chills. I conduct an inspection of the security department, and his very presence raises every square centimeter of gooseflesh I have. What do you think it is?"
"Racism?" suggested Chapel, and Uhuras face clouded with anger.
"I am not a racist, Christine, and you damn well know it!"
"But you are being defensive about it..."
"Only because its so frustrating!"
The doors to Sickbay opened, and in strolled Lieutenant Chterr. "I beg your pardon, Commander, but Captain Chekov asked me to convey this report to you immediatel-l-ly. Our ratings were l-l-less than satisfactory."
Uhura shuddered, and the security chief looked on sympathetically. "Im sorry, Chterr."
Suddenly, Chapel started laughing, and walked back into her pharmaceutical closet. "Youre not going to believe this," she explained as she returned with a hypospray. "Lets try this."
The doctor injected the executive officer with the hypospray, and immediately Uhuras quaking subsided.
"What was that? A muscle relaxant?" queried Uhura.
"A mild neural paralyzer?" asked Chterr.
"An antihistamine," explained Chapel. "Youre allergic to Chterr."
Uhuras eyes grew larger than ever before. "Youre kidding me, Christine."
"Shes allergic to me?" Chterr was puzzled.
The doctor was running her scanner across the Skorr. "More specifically, she allergic to the algae that permeate your feathers."
"Algae?" asked Uhura.
"Algae," the chief medical officer confirmed. "The Skorr are like the Terran flamingos, except that their algae react to the hormones in a Skorrs bloodstream. Normally, a Skorrs feathering is yellow. However, youve probably noticed the coloring varies with his mood."
"Quite so," admitted Chterr. "However, I have never known a Terran to be allergic to our algae."
"I havent either, but I was scanning her when you walked in. The second you got in range, her histamine level almost went off the scale. If she had come into direct contact with you for a lengthy period of time, she might have even gone into anaphylactic shock."
Uhura shook her head. "This is incredible. Simply incredible. Ive been beating myself up over this..."
"...when instead you shouldve been paying a visit to your friendly neighborhood physician," concluded Chapel.
Chterr was visibly relieved. "Now that that mystery has been settl-l-led, I think your urgent attention to this report is advised."
As if on cue, the bosuns whistle sounded ship wide. "Bridge to Executive Officer."
Uhura sighed, and took the report from the security chief. "Uh, oh. Not good."
"Not good? I would think atrocious a more accurate description," the security chief commented. "Im returning to the bridge." The Skorr exited Sickbay.
"Captain to Number One...please respond," came Chekovs voice.
"Uhura here," she answered. "Im still reading, Captain. Looks like we need a few more drills."
"A few more drills?" his tone was incredulous. "Uhura, I said during our first command staff meeting that the crews lack of experience was a good thing. Clearly, I was wrong."
"Ill be right up. Uhura out."
"Here, take these antihist tabs for a few days. Im going to work up a regimen to inoculate you against Chterrs algae." Chapel finished up with some paperwork, and then gave Uhura a vial of small pills. "Im going to have you back in three days. Schedule me in, wont you?"
"Might take longer than that, Christine," Uhura answered. "Ive never seen an efficiency rating lower than this."
"Well, keep your pills handy. If you start reacting again, take one pill. Note the time, too. Dont take more than two pills in four hours."
"Will they impair my performance?"
"No," Chapel smiled, "were a long way beyond that these days, Penda. Now, get up there to the bridge. The only thing I think that might impair your performance is the captains boot up your"
"Rough day, huh?"
Chekov opened his eyes with a start. Uhura was standing at the door to his ready room with a grin on her face. "Well, lets just say that weve had better." He closed his eyes again. "I cannot believe we scored a sixty-four percent efficiency rating. Thats got to be some sort of record."
"I checked. It is. No Starfleet vessel has ever reported a score lower than seventy-two percent."
"There is a first time for everything," the captain said in resignation.
"Indeed, there is," came Spocks rich bass voice.
Chekov didnt even open his eyes. "Good evening, Mister Ambassador. Something I can help you with?"
"No, Mister Chekov. Perhaps I can help you with something. I had noticed certain...difficulties during todays exercises, and I would like to make an observation."
"Go ahead," Chekov slowly sat up. "Were listening."
"Your command crew is experienced and are accustomed to thinking for themselves during an exercise. However, the vast majority of your crew is so inexperienced, they are afraid to think for themselves."
The captain nodded. "I noticed." His tired eyes met the Vulcans. "They also dont know the Russian Rules of Engagement."
Uhura rolled her eyes. "Oh, lord, not the Russian Rules of Engagement." She cupped her forehead with the open palm of her right hand. "Chekov, please, no..."
Spock was perplexed. "What are these...Russian Rules of Engagement?"
"Something Pavel came up with while a greenhorn ensign on the Enterprise."
"I am unfamiliar with them," the Vulcan stated. There was an unspoken request...no, demand for an explanation.
"He wrote them up one night after a day-long battle simulation drill went badly," Uhura elucidated. "Every junior officer got a copy on their screen the next morning."
The Vulcan stood, patiently waiting for additional information.
"Heres an example, Ambassador," Chekov volunteered. "Rule Number Seven: The enemy invariably attacks on one of two occasions: OneWhen youre ready for them and TwoWhen youre not ready for them.."
Spock looked disconcerted. "I...I find this most...unusual, but flawlessly logical. Ones enemy will attack whether youre prepared for battle or not."
Chekov smiled. "That was the point I was trying to make to you this afternoon, Mister Ambassador."
The Vulcan canted an eyebrow. "Then I would say your point has been made. Further examination of the other Russian Rules of Engagement might prove invaluable."
The captain nodded and lay back down on his sofa. "I posted them ship wide to everyones terminal two minutes ago."
"I look forward to reading them," Spock admitted. "Good evening, Mister Chekov."
Chekov opened one eye at the door, and watched it slide close as Spock stepped out and Uhura stepped in. Once the door was sealed, the captain closed his eye and slowly shook his head from side to side. "Have you noticed something peculiar about our ambassador?" he asked.
"The fact that he has yet to call you Captain has got to be eating at you, probably as much as Sulus actions as of late have."
"Not really," the captain admitted. "He was my mentor, and I will always regard him as such. But, I have to admit that I would have thought I had earned some approval or even simple acceptance by now."
Uhura suggested, "Give him a little more time. He took Jim Kirks death harder than you or I could ever know."
Chekov nodded. "One more thing, Uhura. Keep an eye on Rathan. Saavik has noted some...unusual things about our science officer." He didnt even see her raise the eyebrow, but he knew it was probably a centimeter higher than normal. "Im going to take a nap. Have the night watch commander wake me at midnight."
"Aye, sir. Good evening, Pavel."
He heard the door open and close behind her.
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