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Randall Landers

September 16th 2295

"Captain, Star System 112 is dead."

Aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B, Captain Pavel Andreievich Chekov turned with a scowl on his face toward Science One. "This I know, Mister Vasquez." He said looking at the blackened globe of the outermost planet in the system. "Tell me vwhat I do not." He paced back and forth in front of the mainviewer, glancing occasionally at the three science stations on the bridge’s starboard side.

The chief science officer of the Enterprise shrugged and shook her head in frustration. "There’s a strange quasi-organic radioactive residue on all the planets of this system. There are signs that there was a civilization on the fourth planet."

"Specify: what kinds of signs?" He peered closely at the mainviewer, as if by closer inspection he expected to have a revelation.

"There’s an uninhabited communications relay station on a small moon in orbit above that world. The moon is a lifeless body without any atmosphere. Logic suggests..." She shrugged as she glanced to Lieutenant Commander Saavik.

"Logic suggests, Captain," the chief tactical officer, "that there was a space-faring civilization on that planet." The half-Vulcan half-Romulan raised an eyebrow as if she’d been forced to state the obvious.

"Captain, I’m detecting a buoy on the far-side of this star system," reported Ensign Buchanan from Science Two.

"Confirmed, Captain," said Saavik. "It’s approximately three light-hours from our present position."

"Can you get me a visual?" he turned to face Lieutenant j.g. Escri.

"Negative, sir. Too small at this range. I could give you a graphical simulation based on sensor data," the mechanical voice of the Illyran’s voder intoned.

"Do so, Lieutenant."

"It appears to be a warning buoy, Captain" reported Commander Uhura from Communications.

"How so? Are you receiving a transmission from it, Number One?"

"Yes, sir. It’s broadcasting in several languages. I can make out Tholian and Lyrian among a dozen I don’t recognize."

"Visual or audio only?"

"Audio, sir."

"On speakers, please, using the universal translator."

"Yes, Captain."

"Attention: You are approaching a system deemed quarantined by the Cho-ta’M Directorate. Passage through this system is strictly forbidden under our mandate. Be warned: any trespass into this system will be considered a violation of interstellar law, punishable by destruction of your vessel."

At the security station, Chief Security Officer Ch’terr’s plumage began turning crimson. The Skorr was flabbergasted. "Unbel-l-lievab-l-l-le! Captain, we—"

The avian was halted by the captain’s raised hand. "Ch’terr, this isn’t our territory. ‘Vwhen in Romania, do as the Romanian police direct you to...’" The captain’s voice trailed off, aware of the tittering he had somehow caused. "Lieutenant Escri, plot a course circumventing this star system by an additional two AUs."

"Yes, Captain," came the irritating voder-generated mechanical voice.

"Mister Saavik?" Captain Chekov called across his bridge to the tactical station.


"I want to know whether or not this system was attacked, or whether some sort of interstellar catastrophe is responsible for this level of destruction."

"Yes, sir," she replied, and devoted herself to her assignment.

"Ms. Brooks?" the captain directed his attention to his chief weapons officer.

Commander Katarina Brooks was a seasoned veteran of Starfleet. A few years older than Chekov, she was regarded as one of the best weapons officers in the service. "Yes, Captain?"

"I think I’d like you to move the phasers to standby, and arm a brace of torpedoes as well. And despite the drain on our systems, I think it prudent we keep our screens and shields powered up for the time being." He looked at the screen. "I don’t know vwhat did this, and I hope I’m just being paranoid, but..."

"I understand, sir. Russian Rule of Engagement Number Seven: The enemy invariably attacks on one of two occasions: a) When you’re ready for them and b) when you’re not ready for them."

Chekov nodded in approval. "Da! But I was thinking of Number Twenty-Seven: Be prepared."

And seemingly oblivious to the chuckles around the bridge, the captain made his way to his office.

September 17th 2295

Captain’s Log, Stardate 9571.2

The Enterprise has discovered another dead star system. System 111 had two previously inhabited planets, both covered with the same organic residue as the planets in System 112. And again, a quarantine buoy from the Cho-ta’M Directorate warns that entry any vessel which ventures into the star system is subject to destruction.

As we approach this star cluster, NGC-2548, I am concerned that our mission is about to take a deadly turn. And while I have yet to open my sealed orders—I’m not supposed to until Enterprise arrives at System 110 within the hour—I’m disturbed by the prospect that Starfleet has sent us on an intelligence gathering mission in a hostile sector.

When Chekov exited the turbolift onto the bridge, it was no surprise at all to see the ship’s chief exobiologist studying the readings from the planet concerning what had been called the ‘quasi-organic residue’. Chief Science Officer Roberta Vasquez had a real team, and off-shift duty was more expected than not, and usually it was welcomed.

"Any answers, Meester Kirk?" the captain asked the exobiologist.

Lieutenant Peter Kirk did not look away to acknowledge his captain just yet. "More questions raised than answered, sir. Some of that mess we scanned used to be people. More or less carbon-cycle bipeds, from what little we could gather from long-range sensor scans. Another part of that mess is whatever reduced them into organic goo."

"Are the readings from the two star systems identical?"

"Yes, sir. Both systems were inhabited by the same species. And based on the decay rates, both systems were destroyed by the same phenomenon within a few hours of each other."

"Could we be dealing with another space-going amoeba like the one dealt with by the old Enterprise?"

Lieutenant Kirk shook his head. "No, sir. The cosmoprotozoan was very specific in its means of attack. It used negative energy, much like that found in the Galactic Energy Barrier, to feed on living beings, but it did not reduce them to inorganic slime."

"So, vwe’ve got this inorganic residue covering several planets, some of which appears to be from the vwictims, and some from vwhatever did this to them. Quite vweird."

"But that’s hardly the weird part."


"No, it gets a lot weirder. With this sort of organic destruction, I immediately suspected a viral agent or plasma plague. But that’s not the case. Whenever there’s a pandemic, there’s always something than can be cultured. The Ka’hat plague of that Klingon colony wiped out the planet’s population within a few hours, but that virus can be identified and cultured within minutes. There’s nothing in the scans that we can identify as a plague organism, bacterial, fungal, viral or plasmal."

"Okay, so it’s not a plague. Then it must be a vweapon of mass destruction."

"If this all came from such a superweapon—be it a bomb, reagent or lethal spray—then it didn’t kill everyone in the same area all at once. The decay rates are not constant. I’ve asked Commander Brooks to look at those rates from a ballistics viewpoint. Sir?"

Brooks looked across the bridge and nodded. She signaled a relief officer to take her station and walked across the bridge. "The lieutenant has it right, Captain. If our theorized superweapon had a living counterpart, it would not be a precision strike-force. Almost a chaotic, random pattern as whatever it was settled down on the planet and killed the people haphazardly. These people did not die all at once, yet it still occurred quickly enough to almost not matter." She looked at Chekov. "It reminds me of my grandson."

"How so?"

"Imagine a five year old in the backyard looking for anthills and squashing them under his shoes. Eventually, he’ll get them all. But he really has no plan of attack. He just wants to squash them."

Chekov took in the implication. "A super-vweapon vwith the attention span of a five year old. Vwonderful, just vwonderful," he rolled his eyes to heaven as if beseeching a less challenging assignment. "Mister Kirk, Mrs. Brooks—can you at all nail down the means of attack?"

Brooks shook her head, and Kirk seemed only micrometers less hesitant as he answered. "If pressed, Captain, I would compare it to the tentacles of a jellyfish or maybe the defensive ink dispersal of an octopus. It’s just totally chaotic."

"The supervweapon is a living being."

Peter Kirk nodded. "Yes, sir. In my opinion, it has to be."

Chekov did not let it go there. "And how does one best defend one’s self against the attack of a massive octopus or jellyfish, Mister Kirk?"

Kirk bit his lip, then spoke. "By getting away from it, and out of its reach. Out of its territory, even. Like the concession stand at the beach."

For a brief instance, the images of juicy, salt-air enhanced kosher frank from a Wrigley’s Pleasure Planet beach concession stand flashed through the captain’s thoughts along with the briefest image of a bikini-clad Angela Moretti smiling as she chomped through the kosher frankfurter. Chekov shook off the inappropriate image. It has been too long, he thought. "I suppose I don’t need to tell you that vwe have no such option, Mister Kirk."

The lieutenant nodded. "No, sir. But I would recommend a level of extreme caution as we approach any intelligence within this cluster, be it planet or starship."

"Vwhy, exactly?"

Kirk closed his eyes, then opened them. "Because the commander and I agree that what happened down on that shattered world didn’t need to. The gunk that was used is massively toxic on a biosphere level. Just a little would have ended life on that world within a month."

Brooks nodded. "Definite overkill, Captain. They wanted their work to be seen by those who didn’t do detailed scans. That’s why we were able to detect the destruction from outside the two star systems. Myself, I recommend a state of yellow alert, with shields and weapons in the state of best readiness, if not actually raised."

"Agreed. See to it, Commander." Chekov turned to Kirk. "When your regular shift begins, come and see me. For now, good work, you two. Get some rest, and ask your reliefs to come on duty."

"Aye, sir." They both saved their data, paged their reliefs and headed for opposite turbolifts.

"Captain," called the third shift navigator, Ensign Granger. "We’re approaching System 110."

"Take us out of vwarp. Hold our position here, helmsman."

"Yes, sir," replied Chief Cox, her voice almost quavering with anticipation of what they might find. She was the third shift helm officer, not very experienced, but a quick learner, according to her Academy instructors.

Kirk’s relief, Lieutenant Natalie Buchanan, quietly assumed Science One and turned her sensors and scanners toward the star system.

"Just like the others, Lieutenant?" the captain asked.

"No, sir. Actually, looks a little boring. A simple binary star with a yellowish main sequence dwarf star of spectral and luminosity type F8 V, with about 1.3 times the mass of Sol, 1.06 times its diameter and 4.51 times its luminosity. The star may be 1.27 times as enriched as Sol with elements heavier than hydrogen, based on its abundance of iron – 1.38 times as enriched based on an average of 22 elements. It may be around 4.5 billions years old, close to Sol in age."

"Inhabited planets?"

"There appears to be a class M planet in orbit around Star A at a distance of 2.15 AUs with an orbital period of 2.58 years."

"Deep scan. Let’s see if the cradle is empty."

"I’ll have the results within thirty minutes, sir," Buchanan promised him.

"Thank you." The captain turned toward the communications officer on duty. "Call Commander Uhura, Lieutenant Commander Saavik and Doctor Chapel to my ready room in thirty minutes."

"Yes, sir."

Pavel Andreievich Chekov strolled to the rear of the bridge and veered right into his office. He thumbed his desk safe, and the door slid open with hiss. Inside, a data chit sat atop a sealed black folder. He took the chit, dropped it into a slot on his desk’s BellComm unit, and turned to face his viewer.

"Identify for retina scan," instructed the computer.

Chekov leaned forward. "Chekov, Pavel A., Kyptin, U.S.S. Enterprise."

There was a quick scan, and the computer announced, "Identity confirmed. Thank you."

The commanding admiral of Starfleet, Admiral Lystra Davis, appeared on the viewscreen. "Captain Chekov, usually I detest cloak and dagger operations such as this, but the situation merits it."

"I’ll bet," Chekov mumbled.

The recording continued, unaware of his sarcastic remark. "Twenty-two years ago, Starfleet completed a prototype starship known as the Hyperion. You may recall that this starship was being developed about the same time as the Constitution-class starships were being refit. It was decided that for economical reasons that refitting returning Connies, such as the Enterprise, would be far more practical and efficient. Montgomery Scott’s upgrades to the warp engines dwarfed the expected output of the Hyperion’s new warp impeller drive. Hyperion was posted in Earth orbit and eventually moved into SpaceDock where it sat for about ten years."

"Is old history. Is not vworth repeating," the captain said as he rolled his eyes. He moved to his food dispenser and ordered up a few blintzes.

"Eleven years ago, shortly after the Whalesong Probe incident, Commander-Starfleet Cartwright had the Hyperion’s status changed to active duty, and ordered a study of the warp impeller drive system. During its trials outside the Sol system, the Hyperion disappeared without a trace."

Chekov poured himself some coffee to wash the blintzes down. "Da, da, is not worth repeating."

Davis’ image, recorded months ago, smiled. "By now, you’re probably rolling your eyes at me, wondering how much more of your time I’ll waste today, Captain."

He stopped mid-blintz and raised his eyebrows.

The holotape continued. "The fact of the matter is that Starfleet Intelligence had received reliable intelligence from the Lyrians that there was a growing danger to this entire arm of the galaxy from a star-faring race in NGC-2548. The Hyperion was dispatched on a secret intelligence gathering mission to that cluster. She and her crew of thirty-eight failed to return. She was presumed lost en route to the cluster until we received this image."

Her striking visage was replaced with a view from a long-range Federation probe of a starship, adrift in an asteroid field. "This is the U.S.S. Hyperion, and you will find her in System 110. As you can see, she appears to be intact, according to the probe images received in January of this year."

Davis’ face filled the screen again. "Your mission is a complex one. One: You are to determine whether or not the disappearance of her crew indicates a threat to the Federation. Two: You are to establish positive diplomatic contact with as many star-faring civilizations as possible. Three: You are to retrieve the Hyperion and her crew, if possible. Otherwise, we want the ship scuttled rather than allow her to fall into other hands."

She looked positively glum, in Chekov’s opinion. "There you have it, Captain. I wish you luck, and God’s speed." The screen faded.

Chekov took a swig of his coffee. "Oy vey."

September 18th 2295

"A living superweapon? An organic doomsday machine, as it were?" asked the Enterprise’s executive officer as she sipped hot ginseng tea on the couch in the ready room.

Chekov had called together his senior officers to brief them on his secret orders as well as to get their insights into their present situation. He was not always cordial during these meetings, but more than once he had gained a perspective, or an idea, or even a notion that he hadn’t had before.

"The ultimate weapon of mass destruction, one intended to instill as much fear in anyone who comes upon the scene as those who died from the attack," concluded Doctor Chapel, who was sitting next to her.

"And a violation of the Deneva Conventions and the Khitomer Accords," Saavik concluded.

"We’re a long way from the part of the galaxy where that amounts to anything," Chekov stated dryly. "And lest any of you think that this changes our mission to this star cluster, I’d suggest that it makes it more important."

"How so, Pavel?" asked the chief medical officer.

"Because, Christine, someone in this sector has the ability to vwipe out a planet from a distance. Imagine if whoever’s responsible decides to unleash this vweapon on a Federation world," Chekov answered.

"Or Romulan or Tholian or Lyrian," the chief tactical officer interjected. "It’s more than just the Federation we have to consider."

The captain turned with a start. His tactical officer again had identified a component of their mission he had missed. "Vwhat are you suggesting, Saavik?"

"Simply that the Federation is increasingly under attack from the Tholians. This sector is relatively close to the hiveworlds of the Tholian Assembly. Perhaps their expansion into Federation space is the result of being pressured by whatever race is responsible for this superweapon."

"The Cho-ta’M Directorate, you mean," Uhura suggested.

Saavik shook her head slightly. "There’s no evidence that this Cho-ta’M Directorate (whatever it may actually be) was itself responsible for the destruction of these two star systems. Perhaps they’re just quarantining them for safety reasons."

"That’s a possibility," the executive officer agreed, "and I hadn’t overlooked it. But to state that violating the quarantine would result in the destruction of the vessel suggests a degree of hostility."

"I beg to differ, Commander Uhura. It could simply be a warning that you are unintentionally misinterpreting as a result of a variance in semantics. I could cite you—"

"Please don’t," Chapel said firmly.

Chekov cleared his throat, and his officers ceased their discussion. "We have orders to gather intelligence, to initiate contact with the civilizations in this sector, and to effect a rescue or salvage operation. And that’s precisely what we’re going to do. We’ve gathered just about as much information on these three star systems as we can. There’s no warning buoy in this system, and we’re going on in; maybe that class M world can provide us some insight into the situation. Until then, the ship is to remain on yellow alert. I want either you, Saavik, or you, Uhura, or myself on the bridge at all times. Questions?"

"How are we going to secure the Hyperion?" asked Uhura.

"Once we’ve ascertained the vessel’s status, I’ll be sending you, Number One, vwith our chief engineer, a few relief officers and a dozen security types. I vwant that ship made operational as soon as possible, and if it’s not possible, I vwant it rigged for self-destruction. My orders include extremely detailed technical information for the Hyperion. We may not have known vwhat vwe vwere getting into, but Starfleet has seen it that vwe’ve got more than enough information available to make this mission a success."


"And what of the Hyperion’s crew?" asked Chapel, her concern evident in her voice.

"Logic suggests that they abandoned the vessel here. From the lack of any detectable damage to the ship, I suspect that it was a voluntary action on their part for a reason we are presently unable to determine."

"Doctor, I’m concerned for the well-being of her crew as well, but it’s been ten years since that ship disappeared. It’s unlikely that there are any sur..." His voice trailed off as a brief flash of deeply personal pain crossed her face. "I’m sorry, Christine. I didn’t mean to enkindle old memories from Exo Three."

She drew in a deep breath. "I just think we shouldn’t give up on finding them, Captain."

"And we won’t," Uhura promised her. "I’ll be going over the Hyperion’s log the moment we can download it from her computers."

"Agreed," said Saavik. "With the captain and first officer’s permission, I’d like to have the Hyperion logs transferred to Enterprise so as to make an immediate determination of the fate of its crew."

"Then if we’re all in agreement, let’s get to vwork."

The captain, followed by his senior officers, walked out onto the bridge of the Enterprise. "Mister Buchanan, I want your sensor report, please."

"Sir, you won’t believe what I’ve found! A Federation starship in stationary orbit within an asteroid field! And that class M planet has a warp capable civilization!"

Uhura pursed her lips and whispered to her captain, "Bucky either has to go to decaf coffee or start using a sugar substitute."

"Have we been detected?" Saavik asked as she moved to her tactical station.

"No, sir. It’s sort of sad, really," Buchanan answered.

"How so, Ensign?" asked Uhura.

"These people have warp capability, but they’ve only got a few ships in orbit that appear to be functional. The rest are being used for parts as far as I can tell. And they use space planes to ferry up cargo and personnel to a satellite station in low orbit."

"I’m more interested in the Hyperion," Chekov stated. "Can you tell me anything about her present status?"

"No life signs. Life support is down, but there’s a breathable atmosphere over there. It going to be a little chilly inside, and I’d recommend parkas. I’m detecting no warp signature from her engines."

"Navigator, plot us an intercept course with the Hyperion. Helmsman, bring us in nice and slow. I don’t want anyone on that planet panicking if they pick us up."

"Aye, sir. Estimated time of arrival, sixteen hundred hours tomorrow afternoon," reported Chief Helmsman Grenoka. He was a Efrosian male, with long white hair and a beard to match, pale faintly Oriental features.

"I don’t think they can detect us, Captain. We’re not being scanned by any active means, and passive sensors aren’t going to be able to detect us at this range," suggested Chief Science Officer Vasquez who had been monitoring the planet at Science Two.

Chekov nodded. "Uhura, can you access the Hyperion’s log?"

"I believe so, Captain."

"Then do so. Let’s find out what’s happened to her crew."

"Aye-aye, sir."


Chekov was reading a report from Chief Engineer Sorenson in his quarters. The woman had an abrasive edge to her, one that had cost her a demotion in rank, but he had to admit she knew her engines. Her report on the matter intake vents on the port engine support strut was mildly disturbing. The extreme amount of neutrinos they’d been subjected to a few months ago from Saavik’s ‘angel’ had welded a few of the vent slits closed, reducing their efficiency by as much as 7%. While that didn’t seem much to Chekov initially, when he read her example of a ship struggling to escape a foe but failing to as a result of its engines achieving only 93% of its speed, he reconsidered the matter and authorized her request to use some of the time along side Hyperion and en route to System 110 to make repairs to those vents.

His comlink chirped. "Chekov here."

"Captain, I’ve downloaded the Hyperion’s logs. You’re not going to like what I’ve found," came Uhura’s voice.

"I’ll meet you in my ready room. Get Saavik and Doctor Chapel there, too."

"Yes, sir."

Chekov stood, and stretched. Running a hand through his brown, bushy hair, he considered shrugging on his jacket, but decided against it. He tugged his white command turtleneck, and headed out the door.

"Good evening, Captain," said Ensign Sorel, one of the ship’s maintenance officers. He glanced at his wrist chrono. 2340, ship’s time, it read. Damn, he thought when he realized what his senior staff might say about such as late night meeting.

The turbolift doors parted, and he stepped in. "Bridge," he ordered, and the lift shot upward quickly. As the doors opened onto the bridge, he acknowledged Lieutenant Ch’terr who was in command, though not seated in the center seat. He strode to the back of the bridge and stepped through the foyer which led to his ready room.

He stepped into his office, and grabbing a quick doughnut and coffee from the food service unit behind his desk, sat down and looked at the officers assembled before him. Saavik’s hair was somewhat muffed. Clearly she’d been engaging in some sort of physical activity—what and with whom were questions he need not ask—and she wore her preferred white kimono. Chapel was in her white jumpsuit, and looking daggers at the doughnut in his hand. Uhura looked, well, haggard, he decided. No wonder. He’d been off-duty for five and a half hours, and she’d been at work since they’d accessed the logs of the Hyperion reading through them. That probably meant fifteen hours of non-stop reading.

He favored them all with a smile. "Sorry about the time, everyone. Let’s keep this meeting brief."

"I’m all for that, Captain," said Uhura softly. "As you know, you asked me to review the logs of Hyperion. It was encrypted, no doubt because their mission here was a secret one. They were sent here to investigate a report Starfleet Intelligence had received from the Lyrians about a race in this star cluster with a bio-genetic weapon. Starfleet had noted that both the blastoneurons of Lavinius V and the cosmoprotozoan had come from this general direction, and they were worried that someone out here was directly beginning to threaten the Federation. It was shortly after their arrival here that the Kelvan War broke out. Hyperion’s orders, though, superceded all others, and the crew grudgingly continued on their mission. While studying this star’s inhabitable world using their high-powered sensors, they were set upon by a Kelvan vessel."

Chapel gasped. "Kelvans!"

Uhura nodded and continued, "The crew had tried to order a self-destruct, but they were so quickly..." Her voice trailed off. "My God, Pavel, they ate them. You know how they assimilated knowledge.... The whole crew died in a matter of minutes. The ship didn’t self-destruct, but they’d at least managed to shut down the engines. Ship’s recorders show that the Kelvans stayed on board only for a few minutes more, and departed in a hurry. A trio of Romulan warbirds were on their trail. The Romulans apparently never detected the deactivated Hyperion in the asteroid field, or were too busy in their pursuit that they forgot to come back for it."

"More likely, they were destroyed," Saavik suggested. "We do have a record of a Kelvan attack vessel and a brace of fighter craft that came this way from Free Market in Upsilon Andromedae, pursued by the Starfleet corvette Fer d’Lance on Stardate 8722."

"That was Shaun Kelsey’s old ship, wasn’t it?" asked Chapel.

"Da, it vwas. He had a personal score to settle with the Kelvan aboard that vessel, if I recall correctly," Chekov answered. "So vwe now know vwhat happened to the crew of Hyperion. The least we can do is to bring their ship home."

"Agreed," Uhura replied. Saavik and Chapel nodded in agreement.

He looked at his chrono. "Everyone hit the sack. I’ll take the bridge. I want everyone to get six hours of sleep before we rendezvous with the Hyperion." Saavik was about to object, but he shook his head. "Nyet, comrade. I need my officers more rested than myself. Besides, I’m not the one who vwill be bumping around in the dark on a deserted starship tomorrow."

Uhura chuckled. "Well, you’ve got that right, Captain. Ch’terr would kill me if I let you do something dangerous."

"Goodnight, everyone."

Uhura and Chapel filed out, nodding their heads. The doctor’s fingers did a little wave. The door closed, and Captain Chekov was still facing his tactical officer. "Something I can do for you, Lieutenant Commander Saavik?"

"Sir, why did Starfleet wait nearly ten years to dispatch a rescue ship?"

He met her gaze steadily. "I can’t answer that, Saavik."

"Can’t? Or won’t?" she pressed.

He smiled enigmatically.

She raised an eyebrow. "Spakoyanoche, Pavel Andreievich."

"And a quiet night to you, too, Saavik-kam." He looked at her muffed hair. "Or at least a fun one." He winked as she left.

Downing his coffee and doughnut, he headed out onto the bridge.

September 19th 2295

"Visual contact made, Captain Chekov," reported Saavik from Tactical.

"Mainviewer, Mister Saavik, and then I want intensive scans of that vessel. Get Science Officers Vasquez and Buchanan up here," the Enterprise captain ordered. "Reduce speed, Mister Grenoka, to one-tenth of present velocity. Bring us along side nice and slow."

"Yes, sir," the Efrosian answered.

"Already ordered, Captain," the half-Romulan officer answered, her voice’s tone darkened as if slightly offended.

Commander Upenda Nyota Uhura sat at the communications console on the bridge. There was little activity right now, but below decks she could hear the crew chattering on the comlinks as they prepared for the coming days. In Engineering, Katya Sorenson was drilling all sort of contingency plans into her subordinates’ heads, while selecting three of her more competent technicians to accompany her to the Hyperion. In Security, Ch’terr was going over the Hyperion’s weapons systems with the security squad he’d delegated to accompany her. Even the ship’s Operations section was going through the checklists of materiel and supplies Uhura’s party had requisitioned, making sure they were being stored in cargo pods for quick transport.

Suddenly, there was an incoming subspace squirt. She looked at the directional locator, expecting it to be from the planet they were approaching, but it wasn’t. Neither was it from the Hyperion. No, this signal had originated from Epsilon Eighteen, one of the outlying communications relays in the Federation. She punched up the decompression routine, and suddenly realized that the message was from Ambassador Sarek and was for Ambassador Spock, who was presently trying to learn about the culture of the planet they were approaching from audio-visual broadcasts they were receiving, albeit faintly.

She pressed the comm panel and paged the Vulcan. "Ambassador, a thousand apologies, but you have an incoming transmission from your father."

"My father? Interesting. Please transfer the message to my terminal."


"Captain Chekov? A word with you, please, sir," the Vulcan’s voice broke his reverie on the bridge as he strolled out of the turbolift.

The Enterprise had come within half a kilometer of the Hyperion, and Chekov wanted to make sure there were "no bumps in the road." His science, security and tactical officers were evaluating the derelict starship. Uhura was reviewing the data as well, and her relief was on duty, and Michaels turned with a start. "Mister Spock, I’m sorry, sir, but the captain is overseeing a transfer of personnel and material. I’ll escort you to his ready room—"

"Lieutenant Michaels, please, stand down. I shall speak with the ambassador." Chekov gestured toward the exit at the rear of the bridge. The Vulcan followed the Russian into the captain’s ready room. "Can I offer you a drink, Meester Ambassador? Some iced sheekuya na’na perhaps? Or Berengarian burgundy, if you prefer?" He poured himself a cup of coffee, heavy sugar, heavy cream.

"I have time for neither, Captain. My mission here must be suspended. I am returning to Vulcan in all haste. I regret that I will be unable to assist you diplomatically in your mission."

Chekov almost choked on his coffee. "Sir?" He swallowed. "Meester Spock, part of my sealed orders—"

"Regrettably, I am not at liberty to discuss this matter further, but I have no choice but to leave this ship immediately."

"So this is goodbye? You’re leaving vwithout explaining vwhy? Just like that?"

The Vulcan sighed. "I have urgent matters that must be attended to. Personal matters of the highest import to me. I ask that you respect my privacy."

"Spock, you have my respect, believe me. I just wish you respected me enough to explain why you must leave us? The mission ahead is fraught with danger, and the Federation put you aboard this ship to help sort out those dangers."

"Captain...Pavel, my mother is dying, and it is my father’s wish, and my own, to be with her."

Chekov felt his knees buckle. "Oh, my God," he mumbled. "Oh, Spock, I am so sorry. The Lady Amanda is one of the most beloved people in my life. You have no recollection, but during our forced sojourn on Vulcan, it was she who made all our lives so much more bearable." He offered the ambassador his hand, and surprisingly, Spock took it. "Go in peace, my friend. Family comes first. Take the fastest shuttle we have."

Spock bowed his head slightly, and when he looked up, Chekov could clearly see the unspoken gratitude in the Vulcan’s eyes. He withdrew his hand from the captain’s, and lifted it up in the Vulcan ta’al. "Live long and prosper, Captain Chekov."

Chekov returned the gesture in kind. "Peace and long life, Ambassador Spock."

The Vulcan whirled around and left the ready room at a brisk pace, leaving a stunned Human in his wake.

Chekov went to the rear window and looked out at the asteroids tumbling by in the distance. The comlink on his desk chirped. "Captain Chekov, this is Shuttle Deck One Flight Officer Reeves. Ambassador Spock has filed a flight plan with me that has him taking a Tai class warp sled and an A’Tai class long-range shuttlecraft in tandem all the way back to Vulcan. He says he has already cleared this with you."

"Da, he has, Lieutenant."

"Well, sir, that’s fine and dandy, but you realize you’re trusting a multi-million credit state-of-the-art shuttlecraft and warp sled with a civilian?"

Chekov choked on his coffee again. "Lieutenant, you do realize, don’t you, that Mister Spock has probably logged more time in a shuttlecraft than you have?"

"Well, sir, I’m sure he could handle one of the Galileos. Anyone in the fleet could, to be honest. But these Tai/A’Tai, well, they’re quite a different thing altogether."

"Really?" the captain asked drolly. Without receiving a response, he issued his order. "Mister Spock is to be given everything he needs for his immediate departure, Lieutenant. And if I hear that you have in any way delayed his flight plan, I shall find a new flight officer for Shuttle Deck One. Have I made myself clear, Mister Reeves?"

"Uh, y-yes, s-sir."

"Good. Chekov out." He punched the comlink key angrily. "Bozhe moi." He downed the last of his coffee before heading out onto the bridge.

Seeing Uhura in the center seat, he knew that the analysis he wanted was ready. She stood and relinquished command to him silently. As he took his seat, his eyes met Saavik’s. It was clear she had not been told, and he wondered if it was his place to. She cocked an eyebrow in response to his intense gaze, and he knew he would do it immediately after their report. "Okay, people, let’s hear it."

Uhura took a deep breath. "Like the logs say, the Kelvan boarding party finished off the crew, but left the ship behind in extremely good condition. The shield generators and warp engines are off-line, life support is at a bare minimum, but I believe we can have the ship up and running by the end of the week," she said. "I’ve already ordered Chief Engineer Sorenson to assemble a repair party and report to the shuttle hangar. I’m going to send them over with a pair of Ch’terr’s security guards, and let them get started on bringing life support up to full before we move over any more support personnel."

"When are you leaving?"

"I’m going to beam over in about two hours. My team will be responsible for getting the bridge systems on line, and we need Sorenson to get the mains back on line before we head over. I’m also wanting to take Ensign Gatchmeinz with me. Besides her cybernetics expertise, she’s one of the better botanists on board. I know it’s not a priority, but the ship’s arboretum is going to need a lot of work. It’s in such a state right now that it’s a drain on the life support systems."

The bosun’s whistled sounded. "Captain Chekov here."

"Sir, this is Flight Officer Stevens from Deck Two. Lieutenant Commander Sorenson and her team are ready for departure."

"Piece of cake," came Sorenson’s voice over the comlink.

"Clear them for departure."

"Yes, sir," Stevens replied. "Departure in two minutes."

"Acknowledged. Chekov out." He punched the switch again. "Well, Commander Uhura, go pack your bags."

"Already packed, Captain."

"Very well. Thank you."

The officers returned to their stations except Uhura who remained at Chekov’s side. "Penda," he said softly. "Do me a favor. Don’t to waste any time on polishing the chrome on the Hyperion. Just get it operational, and get it and yourselves back to Earth in one piece."

"I’m more worried about Enterprise, Pavel. Romulans, Kelvans, and the Cho-ta’M—whoever they are. This doesn’t sound like a very hospitable sector of the Beta Quadrant."

"Is okay," he replied glumly. "Have seen vworse."


"Da. You never met my father, did you?" he winked.

She smiled. "No, never had the pleasure."

"Never was a pleasure," he corrected. "Now, schastleevo."

"Schastleevo ostavat’sya," she answered and left the bridge.

Chekov watched the turbolift doors close, and then turned his gaze to Saavik. "Commander, a word with you, please, in my office?"

"Certainly, Captain," she answered. She followed him back into his office.

Chekov sat down on his sofa, and indicated she should sit in the chair opposite him. "Saavik, Ambassador Spock received a transmission from Ambassador Sarek this morning."


He lowered his head slightly.

"Captain?" her voice was beginning to fill with concern. "Is Ambassador Sarek—"

"He’s fine, Saavik," Chekov answered. "It’s the Lady Amanda. She’s fallen ill, and Sarek has recalled Spock to Vulcan. Apparently, she vwill not be vwith us much longer. Her time grows desperately short."

The Vulcan mask snapped onto her face. No emotion visible; complete detachment achieved. "Thank you for the notification, Captain. If you will excuse me, I would like to meditate in my quarters for the rest of the afternoon. If you need me, however, please do not hesitate to call."

"Permission granted." He stood and helped her to her feet from her chair. "Saavik, alaichem sholom."

"And to you peace as well, sir." There was a hint of gratitude in her eyes, but there was also outright sadness. Suddenly, they were gone, again her Vulcan mode fully engaged. She strolled from the office quickly, quietly, efficiently.

He sat down on his sofa and surveyed the asteroid field, the Hyperion just off the aft port side of the Enterprise. He watched as a few lights began flickering on inside the derelict. Her station-keeping thrusters soon fired up, and the warp impeller engines began glowing a dull red from within.

There were three other people he needed to tell about the Lady Amanda’s condition, and he was at a loss as to whom he should speak first.

Fate soon answered that for him. "Kirk to Captain."

"Chekov here."

"Sir, I, uh, I’ve been...forcibly removed from my quarters." Peter Kirk’s voice was filled with puzzlement.

"Your quarters, Mister Kirk?"

There was a pause. "Oh...they’re her quarters, aren’t they?"

"Peter, report to my office. Bring Doctor Chapel and Commander Uhura with you, if you please. I’ve some bad news."

September 20th 2295

Chekov strolled out onto the bridge in somewhat of a better mood than he had expected. Uhura and Chapel had taken the news of Lady Amanda’s illness badly, and while he was deeply saddened by the news, the captain could tell Peter Kirk was relieved that he hadn’t been the cause of Saavik’s emotional outburst.

As it was, the young lieutenant ended up moving back into his old quarters which he shared with the Federation journalist, Willis O’Brien. Saavik had not reconciled with him, let alone even speak to him, and Chekov wasn’t sure she would any time soon. She had reported to duty exactly on time this morning, instead of her usual thirty minutes early. And while the Vulcan mask remained in place, it was obvious that her eyes were somewhat puffy.

She had been assigned as Chekov’s ad interim executive officer until such time as the captain deemed otherwise. Uhura would be the pro tem captain of the Hyperion during its return voyage to Earth, and he needed a replacement. Chief Science Officer Roberta Vasquez had taken over Tactical, and Ensign Natalie "Bucky" Buchanan had assumed Science One. The shuffling was barely done when Uhura’s call had come in from Hyperion.

"Captain, you simply would not believe this ship!" Uhura reported excitedly. "There’s an arboretum and botanical garden the size of the both the Enterprise’s shuttlebays and engine room combined! And the trees are still thriving, as are most of the plant life forms. Most of the insectoids and vermicular lifeforms are thriving, too, but the mammals and avians are long since gone. Ensign Gatchmeinz has her work cut out for her! Happily, the computer systems are in good enough condition that Katya only needs her to consult via comlink."

"Sounds wonderful," Chekov mumbled, wishing secretly that he could be there. "How are the engines going?"

There was a pause. "Not as well as I’d hoped, Captain, but I believe I’ll soon have a handle on what the problem is. The ship uses a really interesting Lemoyne-Briggs transformer for generating antimatter, but I’ll be damned if I can find what the problem with them is," reported Chief Engineer Sorenson.

"I could beam over there and render assistance, Captain," came Saavik’s voice from Tactical. "I had a brief assignment as assistant chief engineer on the Starfleet frigate Sinclair. Its chief engineer was experimenting with replacing the vertical accelerator column with a Lemoyne-Briggs transformer. I might be of some help."

"I hate losing three of my senior officers to a derelict. But seeing how vwe’re supposed to get that ship home, report to the transporter room, Mister Saavik. Take your field jacket vwith you. I suspect you vwill need it."

As she left the bridge, Chekov finished his conversation with Uhura. "All right, Commander, you’ve got some more help coming. Meanwhile, we’re taking the Enterprise on to the planet ahead and make contact."

"Understood, Captain. Be careful."

"Always, tovarisch. Enterprise out." He pressed the comlink button on the center seat to close the frequency. "Mister Escri, plot us a course to take us to the planet. Standard approach pattern, standard orbit when we arrive."

"Yes, sir," came the response from the Illyran’s voder.

"Ensign Grenoka, take us in nice and slow, sublight all the way. If it takes another day, that’s fine with me."

"Yes, sir," the Efrosian answered.

"Captain, we’re receiving a subspace squirt from Federation space. From Commander-Starfleet’s office. Text only, sir," reported Michaels.

"Save it to a padd for me, and hand it here."

The lieutenant handed him the padd, and he read the message:

To: Chekov, Pavel, Captain, U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B
From: Davis, Lystra, Commander-Starfleet, San Francisco, Sol III
Stardate 9571.4

For Your Eyes Only
Personal and Confidential

Please be advised of the passing of your mother, Lenka Chekov. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss, Pavel, and rest assured that Starfleet will be sending a representative to her funeral which is scheduled five days hence.

Your uncle, Piotr Chekov, has requested your presence at the funeral. I have advised him that that simply is impossible, and that you are on a mission of the highest importance to the security of the Federation. He insisted I remind you that, in his opinion, "Family comes first."

Regrettably, Captain, I feel I must remind you of your duty and responsibility to the Federation and to Starfleet and to the oath you have upheld time and time again.

If, however, you wish to take a family leave of absence, please notify me via subspace immediately.

Again, my heartfelt condolences on your mother’s passing.

Lystra Davis

Chekov stood suddenly, his head tilted upward toward the ceiling.

"Captain?" asked Vasquez. "Are you all right, sir?"

Chekov’s head tilted forward now, staring at the planet on the main viewing screen. "No. But I will be." He sat back down. "Mister Ch’terr, I’m going to send a small landing party to that planet. I want you in command of that mission. You’ll be accompanied by Ensign Buchanan. I want you two to do a little snooping before we introduce ourselves. Are you up for it?"

The Skorr flapped his wings a little. "I’m al-l-lways up for a l-l-landing party assignment, sir."

"And you, Bucky?" the captain asked the science officer.

"I’m game, sir. Maybe I can find some evidence of whether or not these people have our biogenetic monster at their beck and call."

"My thoughts exactly, Lieutenant."

September 21st 2295

"Captain, request emergency beam-up! Condition: Black!" Ch’terr’s voice came over the speakers.

"Transporter Room Three!" Chekov, who’d been standing at the tactical station monitoring the landing party, quickly strode toward the port turbolift. "Beam up the landing party now! Mister Vasquez, you have the conn." The turbolift doors closed as he heard the chief science officer order the ship to Yellow Alert.

Chekov was wondering what had happened for his Skorrian security chief to have issued a "Condition: Black" emergency call. This code meant that the landing party was under attack by superior forces and that there was at least one casualty.

"Captain to Sickbay," he called up toward the turbolift ceiling’s open comlink.

"We’re already en route, Captain, per Lieutenant Vasquez’s instructions. Chapel out."

The turbolift opened onto Deck Three, and Chekov quickly walked toward Transporter Room Three, the Enterprise’s main transporter room. As he arrived, he saw Doctors Chapel and Weller entering the room with their equipment.

The scene inside was visually disturbing. Ch’terr lay on the deck, a charred stump for his right leg, and his left wing canted at a clearly unnatural angle.

Chekov knelt beside him. "Lieutenant, report, please," the captain spoke softly. He glanced up as Doctor Weller as the physician applied a pain cuff to the stump of Ch’terr’s leg.

"Bucky and I went down in the shuttl-l-lecraft and l-l-landed at their spaceport. We had l-l-landing cl-l-learance from the port authority. We sat down uneventful-l-l-ly and disembarked. We made our way to the port master’s office as ordered by the port authority, and answered a few dozen of his inane questions. Finally, we asked a few of our own. The port master rescinded our shore privil-l-leges and told us to shove off. We were heading back toward the shuttl-l-lecraft when we were set upon by a mob l-l-led by—"

"Allow me to guess: the port master."

Ch’terr’s head bobbed. "Quite. They attacked us with wrenches, spanners, pry bars, even a l-l-load l-l-lifter. Bucky took the l-l-lifting arms of one across her shoulder."

Chekov looked toward Ensign Buchanan’s still form. Doctor Chapel had immobilized the science officer’s shoulder. The young woman’s face was damp with perspiration, and clearly gripped with agony.

Chapel caught his unspoken question. "Broken shoulder blade and collar bone. Contusions and abrasions. She was very lucky, sir. One glancing blow has given her a severe concussion. Another centimeter and her prognosis would not be good. As it is, she’ll be out for some time, sir."

The captain nodded his thanks and looked back to Doctor Weller. "Mister Ch’terr’s wing is dislocated. There’s some ligament damage, but I can fix that. He’ll be grounded for at least a month. His leg, however, is completely ruined, and we have no means aboard Enterprise of restoring it. It’ll mean a prosthesis, at least until we return to Federation space. I suspect that the doctors of his homeworld might consider him a candidate for a transplant."

"Vwe are a long vway from Alpha Carinae Two, Doctor."

Weller lowered his eyes. "Yes, sir, we are."

"So, Security Chief, they attacked you because—"

"Because we were asking questions they didn’t want asked." The Skorr took a deep breath. "Captain, the situation on this pl-l-lanet is quite tense," he reported."These peopl-l-le are the Ians. They’ve got this pl-l-lanet and a few others in adjacent star systems that stil-l-l-l support l-l-life. But they’re tel-l-l-ling us that the Cho-ta’M Directorate run this part of the galaxy with an iron tal-l-lon. They insist that we are in great danger just from being here, and they seem to fear that our presence wil-l-l-l be detected, and that they wil-l-l-l be punished just for our having visited this worl-l-ld."

"Recommendations, Lieutenant?" asked the captain.

"The Ians are quite adamant in their desire for our departure," the Skorr said, wincing as Doctor Weller adjusted his wing. "I see no reason not to accommodate their desires."

"Get some rest, Lieutenant. I need you back on duty as soon as possible."

"It’ll be a few weeks, Lieutenant," Doctor Weller insisted.

"A few hours, sir," Ch’terr replied.

"A couple of days, gentlemen," Chekov directed. "Understood?"

"Yes, sir," both officers answered together. "Very good." He stood and walked to the transporter console. "Chief Washington, I want you to go to Transporter Cargo Six and beam up the Tchaikovsky."

"Sir, I’m not sure the Cargo Transporter can handle the mass of the shuttlecraft."

"Then beam it up one tonne at a time, Chief. I want that shuttlecraft off the planet now."

"Yes, sir!" the transporter technician rushed out the door.

Chekov leaned over the console and flipped the comlink. "Lieutenant Vasquez?"

"Bridge. Vasquez here."

"We’re leaving orbit. Don’t be flashy about it, but put some distance between us and this planet as soon as possible. There’s a few other class M worlds nearby. I want you to use deep long range scanning and see if you can locate them. Perhaps we’ll have more luck finding folks who will be willing to talk about this Cho-ta’M Directorate there."

"Yes, sir."

He flipped the switch and giving Ch’terr a thumbs up, headed out into the corridor.

September 22nd 2295

Ship’s Log, Stardate 9572.6
U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B
Captain Pavel Chekov, recording

Enterprise is en route to System 109. Our long range scanners have detected a warp capable civilization on the second planet of that system. Our estimated time of arrival is seven hours. Hopefully its inhabitants will be a little less hostile to our investigation.

Meanwhile, I have begun to shuffle my command staff. As Commander Saavik has been transferred to Hyperion to help that starship return to Federation space as soon as possible, Lieutenant Roberta Vasquez is hereby assigned as Chief Tactical Officer and thereby Acting First Officer. She vwill need a solid second to her extra duties, and in many respects, she already has one. But now I must make sure this officer sees it that way as well.

Ensign Buchanan’s injuries preclude her from assuming the position of Chief Science Officer. That means I must come up with a new candidate...


"Good afternoon, Peter."

Lieutenant Peter Kirk looked up from the ultraviolet scanner he was using. "Oh, hello, Captain Chekov. What brings you down to Astro-Physics?"

"Vwhat are you vworking on, Lieutenant?"

"Our analysis of the organic residue contains minute traces of the biogenetic weapon, sir. My test results indicate that its genetic composition would be incredibly susceptible to ultra-violet radiation. Via computer simulation, I intend to subject a model to a phaser beam reattuned to the ultra-violet range. I suspect the result will be a weapon we can use against it."

Chekov stood there for a moment, pondering the implications. "A weapon? Peter, this is excellent work. What made you think of ultra-violet radiation?"

"Personal experience," Kirk answered. "As you know, the blastoneurons were incapable of exposure to intense u-v radiation. When I was looking at the data here, the genetic sequencing looked familiar."

The captain took a slight breath in surprise. "Are you saying the blastoneurons came from this sector?"

"No, sir. I’m saying that they’re very similar. I believe that the blastoneurons are clearly from the Lesser Magellanic Cloud. But their path to Federation skirted very near this star cluster. It’s possible that whoever came up with this weapon had encountered the creatures, and built upon their unique properties of movement and assimilation to create it. Sort of what the happened on Earth during the Eugenics wars when they took anthrax and created a variety of bioweapons. Except in this case, whoever invented this biogenetic monster apparently was far too successful."

Chekov nodded in agreement. "You are a good scientist, Peter."

"Thank you, Captain." Kirk shook his head slightly as if to clear the cobwebs. "I’ve been working on this since we left the Hyperion’s position. Did you want to see me, Captain?"

"Yes, Peter. I’m naming you as the chief science officer of Enterprise until further notice."

"But what about Bucky, sir? Robbie and I have yet to train someone on the next tier. With her out of action, I’ll have to ramrod it just to keep my department up to speed, let alone pull off any required miracles."

"Doctor Chapel believes that Ensign Buchanan will be incapacitated at least for two weeks. The damage to her cerebellum can be healed, but it can’t be rushed. I need you to step forward and take the post, with or without her. You are ready for this, Lieutenant, but more than that, you must accept the fact that you’re ready."

Kirk didn’t hesitate. "Yes, sir. Let me get Ensign Marquez up to speed on a few things, and I’ll be on the bridge in ten minutes."

"I’m sorry to push you into this, Peter. Under less dire circumstances, I’d give you a few days at least to get—"

"Captain," the young man raised his hand, "no need to explain further."

"Good. Report to the bridge when you can, Lieutenant."

"Aye, sir."

As his captain left, Peter Kirk turned back to his work. With any luck, Lieutenant Commander Brooks would have the phasers reattuned in no time.

September 23rd 2295

"All right, Mister Kirk, what can you tell me about about this star?"

Peter Kirk stared into the hooded viewer. "Star 109 of NGC-2548 appears to be a main sequence, yellow-orange dwarf (G8 Vp) that appears to be ten point three billion years old. It has eighty-one percent of Sol’s mass, around seventy-seven percent its diameter, but only fifty-nine percent of its luminosity. The star does not appear to be very enriched in elements heavier than hydrogen—it has only twenty-two percent of Sol’s abundance of iron. The second planet is within the habitable zone."

"Bozhe moi, Mister Kirk. A leetle...too much information. Remember the Ellison principle: ‘Keep It Simple, Stupid.’"

"Yes, sir."

Chekov surveyed his bridge, and noted that Willis O’Brien, the Federation reporter was on deck. "Good afternoon, Willis. We haven’t seen you about lately," the captain said.

"I’ve been preparing for a special broadcast on the declassified elements of your current mission, Captain."

The Russian’s eyebrows raised slightly. "Indeed? I wasn’t aware that any part of our present mission was declassified."

"Actually, part of it is, sir. You’re on a secret mission in a sector of the galaxy I cannot, nor would not disclose. And in the middle of this mission, the Federation’s diplomat has left for Vulcan, a matter of grave family concerns."

"That is true, of course."

"So how does it make you feel, Captain?"

"‘Family comes first,’ as my uncle Piotr always said," Chekov said, a little hollowly.

"And what of your own family, sir?"

Roberta Vasquez’s head turned with a start from the tactical station where she was programming a few macros into the station keypads. "Mister O'Brien, I think it best if you left the—"

Chekov raised a hand to silence her. "Ever rule has its exceptions, Mister O'Brien. Even my uncle’s."

Lieutenant Roger Michaels turned from Communications. "Captain, we’re being hailed from the second planet."

"Visual or audio feed, Ensign?"

"Visual, sir."

"Put ‘em on screen," the captain ordered as he turned to the mainviewer. He stood and walked around the helm-navigation console and stood before the screen. "This is Captain Pavel Andreievich Chekov, commanding officer of the Federation starship Enterprise."

"Greetings, Enterprise! We hail you from the planet Tcho. Welcome to our star system." The mainviewer’s image of the planet as they approached it was replaced with the humanoid image of a balding man with purplish hair and faintly yellow skin. Aside from the coloration, he could have passed as Human. "I am Planet Manager Mredot, administrator of our humble world. How can we assist you? Are you seeking to secure shore-leave rights for your crew? Or perhaps you need goods and services?"

"Actually, we’re on a peaceful exploratory mission to this star cluster. We come seeking information."

"Information? We can supply as much as you want. What would you have to trade?"

"Novels, music, poetry, from more than a thousand worlds."

"Intriguing. And what sort of information are you seeking?"

"We’ve heard about the Cho-ta’M Directorate, and we have seen their might first hand. We wish to inquire—"

"The Cho-ta’M Directorate?" the planet manager’s face flushed green for a second. "Sorry, we’ve never heard of them."

"But we’ve seen the destructive power they’ve imposed on two planets, and we—"

Mredot’s face flushed green again. "I said, we’ve never heard of them, Captain Chekov. Perhaps you’re looking for information of a kind we cannot offer." The Tchoan looked almost feral. "Perhaps you will find it...elsewhere."

Chekov studied the man’s face for a moment. It was always hard to tell the emotions, the contextual clues in an alien face, but humanoids throughout the galaxy had amazing similarities in their gestures. A nod almost always meant yes, and a shake almost always meant no. In this case, the hint that the Enterprise was not welcome was a clear as a starry winter night in Kiev.

"Perhaps we shall," Chekov acceded. "We appreciate your communications. As one of our Federation’s founding races say, ‘Live long and prosper.’ And in my ancestor’s tongue, we say ‘Shalom,’ meaning peace."

Mredot looked relieved. He bowed slightly, another nearly universal gesture among humanoids. "Good fortune, Captain Chekov of the Enterprise."

The image faded.

Willis O’Brien, who mercifully knew when to keep his mouth shut, chuckled. "Well done, Captain. I’m impressed. Perhaps we won’t need the renowned Ambassador Spock after all." He strode to the turbolift and said, "Deck Five," as the doors closed.

Vasquez walked to Chekov’s side in front of the mainviewer. In a soft voice, she asked, "Do you want me to suspend his bridge access privileges, sir?"

"Nyet, Meester Vasquez. He hasn’t wviolated any rules or regulations...yet."

"But sir, he was a complete ass—"

"Well, yes, he is at that. He’s quite the chutzpenik, isn’t he?" Chekov laughed heartily. "But it’s nice to see that he’s getting over Demora’s...passing." The captain’s eyes wandered to meet those of Lieutenant Kirk’s at Science One. "At least he’s not my cabin mate, eh, Lieutenant?"

"About that, sir. Is there any way you can get Security to let me into Saavik’s cabin? Most of my stuff’s there, and if I’ve got to share quarters with Mister O’Brien, I’d at least like to have my belongings—"

"No need, Mister Kirk. I sent a scrambled communication to Hyperion this morning. Lieutenant Commander Saavik has given me permission to allow you to reside in the quarters you’ve been sharing during her absence."


"Da. It vwas most amusing to hear the ‘logical reasoning’ behind her request."

Peter Kirk burst into a grin. "Thank you, sir! And be sure and thank Saavik for me!"

"I’m afraid she vwould only point out that ‘one does not thank logic,’ Lieutenant. But I think she’d appreciate hearing it from your own lips. I’ll give you a thirty-second message for her in our next data transmission. Have it readied for upload into a subspace squirt by morning."

"Yes, sir!" the science officer beamed.

"Meanwhile," Chekov began to walk back to the center seat as Vasquez returned to Tactical. "What’s the next class-M world on our travel itinerary?"

"Planet Five of System 108, sir," reported Vasquez. "Relaying coordinates to navigation."

"Relaying course to helm, sir," added Lieutenant j.g. Escri.

"Course received. Ship readied for warp drive, sir."

"Take us there, Mister Grenoka. Ahead, Warp Factor Three."

September 24th 2295

Captain’s Log, Supplemental

Enterprise is now en route to System 108-V of this star cluster. Sickbay reports that Security Chief Ch’terr has been released, but remains on medical leave until further notice. Doctor Chapel has warned me to ‘expect the unexpected’ with Mister Ch’terr. Given his quirky sense of humor, I have no idea of what to expect. I just trust it won’t be too terribly offensive to us ‘mammal-brains.’

On a bad note, however, Ensign Buchanan’s condition has not improved, and Doctor Chapel reports that she may have to undergo surgery to repair the damage to her cerebellum. Bucky is such a sweet young woman with many friends, some of whom are always at her side. She’s a good kid, and I’m worried about her.

One final note: Lieutenant Kirk has relocated into the quarters he shares with Lieutenant Commander Saavik, much to his delight and to the delight of Willis O’Brien. I just hope Mister O’Brien doesn’t decide to do a ‘special feature’ on my willful disregard of Starfleet’s rules and regulations regarding non-fraternization between officers.


Peter Kirk was eating breakfast in the forward recreation deck. An omelet, biscuits and gravy, just like Grandma Kirk used to make. He didn’t have it often, nowadays preferring cold crisped rice cereal with milk, strawberries and honey. He was busy reviewing his data on the next star system, when suddenly a shadow fell on him. He looked up, and saw Ch’terr standing before him.

Ch’terr had on his amber sweater vest, black shorts with red piping, and a prosthesis painted boot black for his missing appendage. All in all, Kirk decided, the Skorr looked remarkably none the worse for wear, but his hazel eyes couldn’t help but notice the small Human doll adorning the security chief’s right shoulder.

"Care to join me, Ch’terr? Pull up a perch." He didn’t expect the Skorr would join him. After all, Peter was eating eggs, a cultural taboo to the natives of Alpha Carinae II.

"Thank you, Lieutenant." Ch’terr slid a small perch next to the table and set his tray down. Peter glanced at it briefly: Nova Scotia lox, cream cheese and bagel. Lots of lox, of course. The Skorr loved the stuff, and never seemed to be able to get enough of it. But the fact that he was overlooking Kirk’s breakfast seemed to indicate he wanted to talk.

"So, Mister Ch’terr, what is...this?" Kirk waved a fork at the outlandishly dressed doll.

"Just something I came up with for a fashion statement, sir."

Kirk sighed. "Ch’terr, we’re both lieutenants. Call me Pete or Peter, but let’s drop the sirs and lieutenants, shall we?"

"Agreed, Pete."

"A fashion statement, eh?"

The Skorr tapped a small button on his sleeve, and suddenly the doll spoke. "Argh, me mateys!"

Peter Kirk laughed aloud.

"Is that all it does?" came Chekov’s disapproving voice as the captain sat down with coffee and a bearclaw. Neither of them had seen the captain enter the recreation deck.

"No, sir!" Ch’terr tapped it again.

"Avast ye there, ye scallywags!" the pirate figure said this time.

Chekov just shook his head and drank his heavily creamed and sugared coffee.

Peter Kirk was still laughing. "I can’t believe you came up with this!"

"That’s an unexpected remark from you, Peter. After al-l-l, you are a man who has a col-l-l-lection of twentieth century Japanese movie monster action figures."

"Well, I don’t go around wearing Gamera on my shoulder, Ch’terr."

"Perhaps not," the Skorr conceded. "But I just thought the irony too delicious to pass up. If you hadn’t noticed, I have a pegleg, Pete." The Skorr winked at him and gulped down the last of his lox.

It was too much for the captain, for Peter Kirk, for the rec deck manager, for everyone else who was there to bear. Laughter rang out on the Enterprise rec deck.

"Welcome back, Mister Ch’terr," Chekov extended his hand to the Skorr’s right talon.

"Permission to resume my duties, Captain?"

"By all means, Lieutenant. By all means."

September 25th 2295

Ship’s Log, Stardate 9573.4
U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B
Captain Pavel Chekov, recording

Enterprise has now arrived in orbit above System 108-V. Our sensors have detected a warp capable civilization on this world.


"Still no answer to our hails, Captain," reported Lieutenant Michaels from Communications.

Chekov sat in the center seat, staring at the planet on the mainviewer. "And you’re sure they can receive our signals?"

"Sir, I intercepted a continent-wide newscast with our first hail. They know we’re up here."

"Playing ostriches, are they?" asked Vasquez from Tactical. "Planetary defenses, as weak as they are, are apparently fully charged."

"Ostriches?" chirped Ch’terr.

"A Terran bird which buries its head in the sand at any sign of danger."

"I’m unfamil-l-liar with it," the Skorr replied. "On my roost world, it is the primates who bury themselves with sand in order to avoid being devoured by carnivores, such as the Skorr." His beak clicked menacingly.

"Stay focused, everyone. Let’s not forget why we’re here," Chekov chided them softly.

Chastened, the bridge crew was silent. Eventually, nearly an hour later, Chekov stood. "This is getting us nowhere. Mister Vasquez, tell me about this planet."

"Planet Five is a class M world, clearly inhabited by the lifeforms we’ve designated as Ians. The planet is sparsely populated, but has several large cities along the Eastern coastal region of the large continent. The population seems to use a very intricate rail system for transportation."

"No aircraft?" asked Lieutenant Kirk.

"None, sir. They apparently have no orbital facilities either, but they are warp capable, sir. I detect several residual ion trails here in orbit, and judging from the subspace signatures, they use transporters for surface-to-orbit transport."

Chekov smiled. "Mrs. Brooks, prepare to deliver an EM blast above their most populated area."

"Sir? That will disrupt the energy systems on a massive scale!"

"It’s not to be delivered except upon my order, Commander." He stood. "Well, I’m going down there."

"Captain, I must object!" screeched Ch’terr, his plumage scarlet with anger.

"Stand down, Lieutenant," Chekov replied. He raised a finger. "I am not going alone, but we will not be ignored any longer."

"Sir, the Prime Directive—" began Lieutenant Kirk.

"Doesn’t apply to warp capable civilizations." He turned to Lieutenant Vasquez. "Locate the largest government building."

"Already done, sir. However, as your executive officer, I’d—"

Chekov looked as though he was about to turn beet red.

"—like to request permission to accompany you, along with Security Officers Busby, Barnes and Harris."

"Agreed, with one addendum: Mister Kirk. I realize that your staff is seriously depleted, however, I need a science officer down there, one with enough familiarity with this bioengineered weapon of theirs."

"Understood, sir," he stood and made ready his station for his replacement.

"Mister Ch’terr," Chekov addressed the security chief. "While I’m down there, I expect you to take good care of the Enterprise. I shall be very disappointed if you don’t."

The Skorr’s feathers took on an iridescent pearly color, compliments of the symbiotic algae within them—the Skorr gesture of appeasement. "Be on guard, Captain. And watch out for forkl-l-lifts."


The Enterprise landing party materialized in a great chamber where all sorts of Ians gathered were screaming and shouting angrily at each other. Once materialization was complete, all eyes turned to them, and the voices rose to a hysterical pitch. Chekov was perplexed. Suddenly, Lieutenant Kirk let loose with a horrifically loud Tarzan-yell. And the delegates were silenced.

The captain rubbed his right ear. "Thank you, Lieutenant. A most unusual talent, I must say." He addressed the Ians in the chamber. "I am Captain Pavel Andreievich Chekov of the Federation starship Enterprise. Vwe have come to your vworld looking for information."

"Airrrrrr!" one of the Ians screamed, and they ran almost en masse from the room, leaving the landing party and one Ian who was seated at a desk in the center of the chamber.

"You are in great peril," the remaining Ian said. "And now, we all are."

"Danger? Danger from whom?" asked Lieutenant Vasquez.

"Not just whom, but what. The Cho-ta’M Directorate will soon be here, and they will unleash the Arog-Da’M upon your ship and our world."

"Tell us, who are the Directorate?" Chekov inquired.

"Once, we Ians ruled this star cluster. At first, we ruled it with complete compassion, and we looked ourselves as beneficent guides for civilizations amongst these stars. But we grew vain with our self-image, and we grew powerful. As Juuu himself said, power corrupts, and absolutely power corrupts absolutely. Soon, we were ruling the star cluster with an iron fist. And then the Cells came."

"The Blastoneurons," Peter Kirk concluded.

"The lowliest of races, the Cho-ta’M were the ones who came up with the means of stopping their advance into the star cluster, and they were repelled. The Five Kings of the Ians rewarded the Cho-ta’M with a fleet of space vessels. The Cho-ta’M, though, had studied the Cells so thoroughly that they were able to use them to build the weapon, Arog-Da’M. And then they declared themselves our masters. They destroyed peaceful Urrrr, and lovely Ynnnn, and even malevolent Ikkkk. Now they are our masters, and they do not want us fraternizing with aliens such as yourselves. We will be punished, and you will be destroyed."

The captain’s communicator chirped. "Chekov here."

"Sir, sensors are detecting a massive biomass at the extreme range of this system. It’s heading for us."

"Time until contact?"

"Four hours."

"Stand by to beam us up."

"We are dead." The last Ian stood up. "I go now to my family’s kirk. I suggest that you, too, prepare yourselves to meet your makers."

Slowly, the Ian left the chamber as the landing party looked on. All eyes shifted to Captain Chekov. The Russian took a deep breath. "Let’s get back to the Enterprise. If I’m going to meet my maker, I intend to look upon this monstrosity of their with my eyes wide open and with Enterprise’s phasers and photon torpedoes firing." He chuckled. "Perhaps we will send this thing back to its a gift." He spoke into his still-open communicator. "Beam us up now."


"Katarina, how are those modifications coming along?" Kirk asked urgently.

"Just about ready, Peter. I’ve had the dickens of a time getting them to hold to the reattuned frequency," the chief weapons officer answer. "Do you think this will work?"

"I’m betting our lives on it," said Captain Chekov as he approached the weapons station. "What I wouldn’t do for a fleet the size we had at Alpha Tucanae Four."

"We did pretty wel-l-l-l before the reinforcements showed up. I suspect we can handl-l-le whatever the Ians throw at us," Ch’terr chimed in from the security station.

The proximity alarm sounded. "Captain, we’ve got visual contact with the biogenetic construct," reported Lieutenant Escri.

"At this distance?" Chekov wondered. "How big is this thing?"

"Approximately half a million cubic kilometers, sir," reported Vasquez from Tactical. "It’s big enough to swallow Earth whole."

"Mister Kirk, Science One please."

The younger man rushed to the primary science station. "Sir, it’s pretty much as we expected. It’s a multicellular lifeform, but aside from a few nematocyst-like structures, it’s a very simple lifeform. More simpler than the blastoneurons themselves were. Damn."

"Is that a probl-l-lem?" asked Ch’terr as Chekov took the center seat.

The captain nodded. "It will be harder to kill."

"There’s about two dozen small faster-than-light ion-powered starships behind it. They appear to be charging their weapons."

"Threat level?"

"Insignificant. Lasers, masers and maybe some nuclear warhead torpedoes. The ships are in a poor state of repair."

"The Cho-ta’M wiped out the builders. All that’s left are a few colony worlds that are barely able to hold their own. There’s no one left to repair their fleet."

"Orders, Captain?"

"Time until Arog-Da’M enters phaser range?"

"Thirty minutes, sir."

"Let’s go out to meet it." He thumbed a button on his chair arm. "Red Alert, Battlestations. This is the captain speaking. We are about to engage the enemy. Make me proud, people. Chekov out." To Chief Helmsman Grenoka, he said, "Take us around to the back side of their fleet at Warp Factor Two. I intend to give them one chance to surrender, and then we’re going to eliminate the Cho-ta’M fleet."

"Yes, sir," the Efrosian answered, his pale face twitching with excitement.

The Enterprise dropped into warp drive and quickly circumnavigated Arog-Da’M and the Cho-ta’M fleet. Coming up from behind them, the Enterprise slowed to a stop. Captain Chekov nodded to Lieutenant Michaels at Communications.

"This is the U.S.S. Enterprise of the United Federation of Planets. We are on a peaceful—"

Arog-Da’M turned and reached out toward the shields with a tentacle.

The bridge crew was slammed across the deck with unexpected violence. Alarms and klaxons blared in warning. From Tactical, Vasquez shouted, "Shields down twelve percent, Captain! We can’t take many like that!"

"We’re not going to!" Chekov answered, taking the center seat. "Helm, evasive maneuvers. Mister Grenoka, if another tendril hits us, I’ll dock you a month’s salary!"

"Yes, Captain," the Efrosian replied.

"I guess we’re not going to be negotiating with the Cho-ta’M fleet," remarked Willis O’Brien as he came out onto the bridge with his holovid camera.

"Vwillis, not now!" Chekov remarked. "Mrs. Brooks, open up all phaser banks on Arog-Da’M. But target our photon torpedoes on their fleet. I don’t want a single spacecraft left in the field of combat."

"I’ll need Ch’terr’s help!" she asserted.

"You have it, dear l-l-lady!" the Skorr answered, sliding his chair next to hers. "You have at the monster, and I shal-l-l-l pick apart the fleet."

Another tentacle lunged toward them, and the Enterprise shuddered. "A near miss!" reported Vasquez from Tactical.

"Mister Kirk, how is this thing able to move so fast? As massive as it is—"

"It’s making quantum changes in its position. The tentacles aren’t really moving as they’re being reconstituted in new positions."

"So is it beaming itself through subspace?" asked Chekov.

"No, sir! It’s making quantum leaps from place to place."

"It’s making my job pretty damn difficult," remarked Brooks from Weapons. "Firing phasers at will, Captain. It’d help if I had an idea of a target instead of firing randomly."

"Mister Kirk?"

"I’m working on it, sir. The creature does appear to have some sort of conduit of connective tissue running throughout its body. I suspect this may be a primitive neural system. Relaying targeting information to Weapons."

"Maintain firing," Chekov reasserted. He thumbed a button. "Engineering!"

"Aye, sir!" came Assistant Chief Crowley’s voice.

"Maintain power to the phasers, photons, engines and shields."

"You got it, Cap," came the reply. "Just keep us from getting hit!"

"Working on it," the captain replied. "Bridge out."

Another tentacle was bearing down on them, and Grenoka slammed his console hard. The Enterprise’s inertial dampeners couldn’t compensate completely, and for a second, Chekov got the impression that his starship had done a somersault. Lieutenant Michael’s vomited on the deck, then dropped down to clean it up. "Leave it, Ensign. I still want you to try to raise them," Chekov ordered tersely.

"They’re not answering my hails, sir."

"No answer, eh?" Chekov turned to Tactical. "Can you identify which starship out there is the capital ship?"

"Yes, sir. Relaying coordinates to Mister Ch’terr."

"Get me the coordinates for the second command ship."

"Aye, sir." Chekov called toward Weapons. "Send it to Hell, Lieutenant."

Ch’terr’s talons danced on the left-side of the weapons console, and a brace of photon torpedoes leaped from the two tubes underneath the ship’s primary hull. Striking the lead ship, the torpedoes utterly destroyed it.

"Got me the new lead ship?"


"Mister Michaels, ask them if they want to surrender," the captain ordered.

A few seconds later: "No reply."

"Take them out, Ch’terr."

"Mister Vasquez, maintain this course of action until someone over there surrenders."

"Aye, sir."

"Mister Kirk?" Chekov called.


"Are your reattuned phasers having the desired effect?"

"Indeed they are, Captain. The problem is that Arog-Da’M is just so damn big that it’s like a mosquito stinging an elephant."

"Relay any interesting organs, organelles, connective tissue, whatever. This things like a giant coelenterate, right?"

"Yes, sir."

"Then let’s see if we can make it fall to pieces."

Grenoka called out, "Hold on!" and the Enterprise fell backwards, tumbling out of the reach of another tentacle.

Chekov gripped the arms of his chair. This time it wasn’t Michaels who was sick. "Hang in there, Mister Escri," the captain said. The Illyran seemed grateful for the comment.

"Captain, I’m detecting another ship on approach," reported Vasquez.


There was a brilliant flash of phaser fire. "It’s Hyperion!"

"Michaels, send Mister Kirk and Mrs. Brooks’ modifications to the phaser arrays immediately to Hyperion."

"Aye-aye, sir!" the communications officer replied. "We’re being hailed."

"Not making any headway there, Captain Chekov?" asked Uhura’s voice on the comlink.

"At least vwe’re holding our own," he answered. "Vwe could use some help here, you know."

"Mister Saavik is finishing up the modifications to the phasers. Standby for a little razzle dazzle."

The Hyperion’s forward and left rear phaser banks opened fire on Arog-Da’M with full intensity as the ship shot by. A few seconds later, the forward and right rear phaser banks unleashed their energies on the biogenetic construct as the ship flew by again. Arog-Da’M tried to take a swat at it with a tentacle, and missed completely.

"Engineering to Captain. This is taking too long, sir," came Crowley’s voice over the comlink.

"Agreed," joined in Uhura’s voice. "Commander Sorenson reports we’ll both run out of reserves before we’ve killed that beast."

"Think it will follow us into the sun?" asked Chekov.

Lieutenant Kirk shook his head. "No, sir, but it’s worth trying. I just think that it would find it too painful and would pull out of its pursuit, and probably attack a nearby planet to build back its energy reserves."

Chekov looked at the mainviewer. On it, he could make out the rocky 108-II, the class M 108-V, the gas giant 108-XII and even 108's tiny companion, a small variable dwarf star about half an AU beyond 108-XII. It was perfect.

"Mister Escri, set a course for 108-Twelve. Keep it between us and 108-B."

The Illyran nodded, and said, "Program course entered."

"Relay that course to the Hyperion. Mrs. Brooks, blast that thing with everything you’ve got. I want it to follow us. Uhura? "

"We’ll do the same, Captain."

Beams of brilliant UV energy leaped from the phaser banks of both ships and struck Arog-Da’M broadside. The creature shuddered, and began moving toward them as the two Federation starships pulled away, heading for the gas giant at the far reaches of the star system.

"Estimated time of arrival at full impulse?"

"Half an hour, sir," reported Escri.

Chekov smiled "Enterprise to Hyperion. Commander Saavik, I have an idea..."


"How’s that package coming, Hyperion?" the captain asked.

On the mainviewer, the Arog-Da’M was approaching them from astern. Chekov thumbed a switch, and cut the view to forward. The massive gas giant swirled purple and blue dead ahead. And behind, Chekov knew, lay their salvation.

"Five more minutes, Captain Chekov," came Chief Engineer Sorenson’s reply. "Mister Saavik and I will have it ready when you want it delivered."


"Captain," came Willis O’Brien’s voice. The reporter from the Intergalactic News Service had been quietly standing in a corner near the back of the bridge. "What are you up to?"

Chekov favored him with a smile. "I’m trying to put our friend out there on the highway to Hell, Mister O’Brien." He winked. "And you can quote me on that."

"Sir, it’s gaining on us!" Lieutenant Vasquez reported, startled.

"At what rate?"

"It will not overtake us until after it’s entered the gravity well of our objective."

"All the better," the captain replied, a grim yet feral expression on his countenance.

"Sir, 108-B is beginning to rise on right rim of 108-Twelve," reported Lieutenant Escri.

"Adjust course as we discussed," he told the navigator. "Estimated time of arrival?"

"We’ll be intersecting the orbit of 108-Twelve in four minutes. We will be within 108-B’s gravity well thirty seconds later."

"Sir, it’s gaining at a faster rate."

"Time of interception?"

"Four minutes forty-three seconds."

"Perfect. Let me know if it increases again. Weapons officer?"

Mrs. Brooks turned. "Yes, sir?"

"Fire a few more shots of the UV-tuned phaser fire into the belly of that beast. I really want it angry at us."

"Aye, sir."

Pulses of the blue phaser fire lanced across the distance between the Enterprise-B and Arag-Da’M.

Willis O’Brien looked as though he were beginning to understand what was going on. "You’re going to trap it in the gas giant’s gravity well?" he asked.

"That thought occurred to me, yes, but that might only trap it there. I want this thing destroyed. And beyond that planet is the means to do it."

On the left side of 108-Twelve, a point of light appeared. "Okay, here’s where it gets sticky, folks," cautioned the captain. "Mrs. Brooks, open fire. Hyperion, do you read?"

"Yes, sir. Opening fire now."

The beams lanced the creature. "It’s definitel-l-ly pissing it off, sir," chirped Ch’terr. "The phaser beams may not be much more than pin pricks on it, but it’s definitely infuriating it."

"Unlikely, Lieutenant," said Peter Kirk from Science One. "My scans show no self-awareness whatsoever. You are anthropomorphizing the construct."

Chekov turned to a start, as did the rest of the bridge crew. Suddenly, they all started laughing. "I’d say you’re taking to that science console quite well, Mister Kirk. You sound like a certain Vulcan we know."

Peter Kirk’s ears turned fire-red. "Sorry, sir," he mumbled.

"Don’t be. That’s why you’re there, Lieutenant."

"Yes, sir."

"Is the creature gaining on us?" the captain asked Vasquez.

"No, sir. It’s maintaining its rate of speed."

"Let me know if it changes even one meter per hour."

"Yes, sir."

The small bright dot of 108-B was growing as the purple and blue banded orb of 108-Twelve further receded to the right side of the mainviewer. Suddenly, it shifted to the right even faster and disappeared from the screen.

"Now crossing the orbit of 108-Twelve, sir. Approaching the gravity well of 108-B."

"Any sign our friend has detected it?"

"It’s slowed slightly, sir."

"Mrs. Brooks, give me a full brace of photons into its gullet. Target any organelle you like."

"Aye, sir."

The pulse of four torpedoes being fired could be heard. "Impact in ten seconds."

"Thank you. Maintain our present speed."

"Impact!" reported Vasquez. "Sir, it’s increasing speed. It will overtake us in fifteen seconds."

"Bump our velocity a bit, helm. I want to be deep in the gravity well when it’s about to catch us."

"Aye, sir."

"Still gaining."

"I woul-l-ld say it’s now real-l-l-ly pissed off," reported Ch’terr.

"My package ready, Hyperion?"

"Yes, sir!"

"Deliver it," he ordered.

A photon torpedo was launched from the leading wedge of the Hyperion’s secondary hull, plunging straight into the small, variable dwarf star."

"Time until detonation? Time until contact with the creature?"

"Fifteen seconds, sir, to both."

"Mister Grenoka, I want Warp Eight in one second before the explosion. Hyperion, go ahead and take point. We’ll be right behind you."

"Godspeed, Pavel," Uhura answered as Hyperion dropped into subspace and left the Enterprise behind, the monstrous bio-engineered beast closing on them.

"Warp drive in three....two..."

A tendril from Arog-Da’M struck the Enterprise-B bridge as the ship dropped into warp drive. The weapons console exploded, debris striking the bridge crew, and flinging Mrs. Brooks backwards into the helm console. The ship situation diagram at the rear of the bridge overloaded, and deadly energy struck O’Brien and his holovid cams. The collision alert klaxon screeched as the ship. Escri grabbed his neck and fell to the deck.

"Sir!" called Grenoka. The mainviewer was static filled, but a solar flare of immense proportions had erupted from the small star, engulfing the deadly creature with UV and gamma radiation. It literally burst into a billion flaming sparks which began coalescing into tidal ring around the star which greedily sucked in whatever remnants from the creature that were left. "It worked!"

"Medical emergency!" called Ch’terr, who was holding Mrs. Brook’s twitching form in his talons. "Medical-l-l teams to the bridge. We have mul-l-ltipl-l-le casual-l-lties!"

Chekov was holding Escri in his arms. "Hang in there, Lieutenant. Help is on the way."

With the Ilyrian’s voder smashed, Chekov was unable to hear what Escri was saying. His lips were moving, and the captain felt helpless. "Shhh. Save your strength, Lieutenant. Where’s the damn medical team?"

Both turbolifts opened up, and Doctor Weller immediately took charge of Escri. Chekov stood and headed to Science One.


"We were successful, Captain," answered Kirk.

"But at a high price." The captain looked across the bridge. "Status report, Mister Vasquez?"

"Sir, we took a direct hit to Deck One and Two," she answered.

"Mister Michaels?" he asked the communications officer.

"There are casualty reports from Decks Two through Four. There are at least two fatalities on Deck Two, sir."

"Damn." Chekov turned to Willis O’Brien. "Well, Mister O’Brien. I guess you got some good footage."

The eyes of the reporter didn’t blink.

"Mister O’Brien?" asked Chekov, stepping quickly to the reporter’s form. He was still standing, of a sort, leaning, more accurately, against the smoldering frame of the ship’s status monitor. "Willis?"

The reporter was dead, electrocuted by the monitor he’d been leaning against.

"Oh, Willis," Peter Kirk said softly.

"Medic!" Chekov called.

Doctor Weller quickly came to his side, and ran a diagnostic feinberger up and down the reporter’s form. Shaking his head, he reported, "He’s dead, Captain Chekov. So are Lieutenant Escri and Commander Brooks."

"Bozhe moi," the captain replied. He looked across the bridge. Ch’terr was softly crooning a Skorrian dirge over Brooks’ now covered body. Grenoka was mumbling an Efrosian prayer for the deliverance of those who died honorably in battle. Even Vasquez was offering a rosary for them.

"Captain, we’re being hailed by the Hyperion. Chief Sorenson is...requesting permission to return to the Enterprise to help with the repair efforts."

"Granted. Mister Grenoka, what’s our position?"

"We’re holding station, sir, four AUs from the main star. Orders?"

"Take us back to the fifth planet. Put us in standard orbit there." Chekov sighed. "We’ll make repairs there, and then evaluate the situation."

"Yes, sir."

"Mister Michaels, get a damage control team up here immediately. We’ve some work to do."

Almost numb, Chekov sat back down in the center seat. Wordlessly, he sat there as the damage control party arrived to make repairs. It was hours before he would speak again.

September 26th 2295

Captain’s Log, Stardate 9573.6

We’ve had 82 casualties aboard the Enterprise, 40 of which were fatalities, including two of my bridge officers (Lieutenant Commander Brooks and Lieutenant j.g. Escri) and the Intergalactic News Service reporter, Willis O’Brien.

Presently, we are in orbit above Star System 108-V. The people of the planet are demanding that we leave orbit immediately, and that we make reparations to them for for dispatching Arog-Da’M.

The engineering crew is working feverishly at restoring Enterprise’s systems to complete functionality, and then I intend to comply with the Ians’ demands that we depart. As to the "reparations," I can only say that I wish Ambassador Spock were aboard to handle the situation. I am a poor diplomat...


"The Directorate is coming, and they will want compensation!" insisted the elderly Ian on the mainviewer.

Captain Chekov sighed. "They will not get it from us. We came to this sector in peace, and we’ve been subjected to an unprovoked attack. If anyone is due reparations, Senior Counselor Luuu—"

"Pardon the interruption, sir, but sensors are detecting another fleet of vessels now entering this system. They are almost identical in reading to the ships of the Cho-ta’M Directorate we encountered yesterday," reported Lieutenant Vasquez from Tactical.

"Did you hear that, Senior Counselor? Another armada approaches."

"They will destroy you, and then us. You have sealed our fates."

"Can you defend yourselves?"

"We have no weapons here! It’s why the Cho’taM allowed us to survive!"

"And yet you insist they’re going to destroy you. If they blame us, it seems improbable that they would hold you and your people responsible for our actions."

"Have you not seen the damage they’ve done? They’ve destroyed planets because they dared to allow alien vessels in orbit! They will come for us, and it is your fault."

"Sir, this fleet he’s so worried about..." Vasquez gestured to her tactical scans. "They’re nothing, sir. Class four laser arrays. Simple FTL impulse drive. There’s not a single capital ship in the bunch."

"How many are there?"

"Fifteen. If they intend to destroy Enterprise, Hyperion and this planet, with the level of fire power they’ve got, it’ll take them about two hundred years. And that’s assuming we don’t raise shields," she answered.

"Mister Senior Counselor, vwe vwill not allow your vworld to be destroyed. However, neither vwill vwe make reparations for our self-defense against that biological vweapon. I can’t make it any clearer than that. But, I can assure you, vwe vwill be leaving orbit shortly, and I must tell you that I seriously doubt the Cho-ta’M Directorate will be in the position to dictate anything to you for some years to come. Enterprise out."

He sighed even deeper this time and looked around at his bridge. Most of the repairs had been made, and the clean-up crew was now working on resurfacing most of the scorched areas, particularly around the weapons station and the navigation console. He looked around at the remaining bridge crew.

Lieutenant Ch’terr was on his perch, stationed at the security console. The weapons station was presently unmanned, but the Skorr security chief had transferred the bulk of its functions to his station. Lieutenant Peter Kirk was at Science One, with Ensign Walt Andrews at Science Two. Ensign Grenoka, the Efrosian, was manning the helm, and Specialist Shandra Gillespie was at the navigation station. Lieutenant Roger Michaels was at Communications, and Chief Petty Officer Jason Boyd was now at Engineering. Commander Uhura and Lieutenant Commander Saavik were still aboard Hyperion, presumably readying that ship for its trek back to Federation space.

"Mister Michaels, raise Hyperion."

"You’re on, sir."

"Good afternoon, Commander Uhura," he said to the smiling woman on the mainviewer. "Break orbit and set a course for Earth by way of Starbase 211. It’s probably the closest to our position. We were sent here to get Hyperion, and we’re going to complete that aspect of our mission."

"I’d prefer to stick around, sir, just in case things get sticky with that fleet approaching. According to Mister Saavik, they’ll be here within twenty minutes," she replied, gripping the arms of the Hyperion’s center seat slightly tighter than before. She clearly did not want to leave Enterprise behind.

"Which is one of the reasons I want you and your ship on its way to Earth, Commander. Enterprise can hold its own," he assured her.

"Commander Saavik also reports that she’s detected a deBroglie transform carrier wave, Captain."

"Really?" asked Chekov. Those were the types of waves sensors occasionally detected from cloaked ships. And the nearest source of cloaking technology belonged to the... "Source?"

"Unknown, sir," she answered. "But given our location..."

"I’ll keep that in mind, Commander. Transfer your sensor readings to Lieutenant Vasquez. Let’s see what our tactical computers make of it. In the meantime, I want Hyperion underway."

Uhura nodded. "Yes, sir. Orbital departure in one minute. Good luck, Pavel."

"You, too, Nyota. Take care of that ship and your crew."

The image of Commander Uhura was replaced with that of Hyperion in orbit above the brownish red planet beneath them. The ship swung out of orbit, and with a flash, entered subspace on its course for the Federation.

"Mister Grenoka, take us out of orbit. I want to meet that incoming fleet head on."

"Yes, Captain," the Efrosian replied, and the Enterprise left orbit to meet its fate.

"Mister Vasquez, any change in your readings?"

"No, sir. Fifteen vessels on approach. They’re at sub-light now, and taking formation in a classic phalanx formation."

"Sir, cloaked vessel materializing off our port bow!" reported Vasquez.

"What? Re-target the pha—"

"Sir, it’s the Chosin!" screeched Ch’terr.

"Captain Kelsey is sending us his regards!" reported Michaels. "Transferring audio signal."

"Shaun, you ol’ Irish cur," Chekov said warmly. "Glad to see you."

"We just happened to be in the neighborhood, and thought we’d say hello. Did we miss any fun?"

"Loads of it," the Enterprise captain replied. "But it looks like we’re in for some more."

"Chosin stands ready to assist, Captain."

Chekov studied the mainviewer. The ships were still closing, their laser canons beginning to glow. "I think we’ll just—"

Suddenly, there were a dozen ships decloaking behind the phalanx of the Cho-ta’M starships, all of them Romulan birds of prey, all of them with their plasma torpedoes firing.

The Directorate ships had no chance.

"I think we’ll get ready to run," Chekov said.

"Good idea, Captain. Right behind you."

Unfortunately, there were more Romulan birds of prey decloaking around them.

"Captain, we’re receiving a signal from the lead Romulan bird of prey."

"On screen."

"This is Commander Jarok of the Imperial Fleet. By order of the Praetor, we are hereby annexing this globular star cluster formerly held by the now-defunct Cho-ta’M Directorate. On behalf of the Praetor, we would like to thank you, gentlemen, for your assistance in this operation. Our expansion into this sector has been made possible entirely by you. You have our gratitude."

"Lovely," Chekov mumbled. "Just lovely." He cleared his throat. "Commander Jarok, this is Captain Pavel Andreievich Chekov of the Federation starship Enterprise. We do not recognize your authority for this sector." He scowled at the screen. Were we manipulated into this? Or are the Romulans just trying to take advantage of the situation?

"That is a pity, Captain. However, whether you recognize it or not, we are willing to back up our claim with force."

"More ships are de-cloaking all around us, Captain."

"However, you have done us a great favor by eliminating their great unnatural biogenetic construct which has kept our forces at bay for nearly twenty years. And in a gesture of our gratitude, we are going to allow you to depart from our territory...after you return our property."

"Your property, Commander?"

"The battleship Chosin is equipped with a cloaking device. Our cloaking device, which fell into your hands some years ago. The one that Captain Kirk and the treacherous Mister Spock abstracted from us. Once it is returned, we will grant you free passage out of this globular cluster."

"Any other...demands, Commander Jarok?"

"None at present, Captain Chekov, since our intelligence sources report that Ambassador Spock has long since departed your vessel. Pity, truly a pity."

"You realize, of course, that Captain Kelsey and I will have to have some time to talk about your conditions."

"Oh, certainly, Captain. Take all the time you need. I grant you one of your minutes. That should be all the time required."

"Get me the Chosin, scrambled, encoded on a fractal-based key," Chekov ordered. "Mainviewer to tactical mode."

"Captain Kelsey stands ready, sir," reported Michaels.

"Shaun, is it true?"

"Do I have the original cloaking device aboard the Chosin?" He chuckled. "I certainly do. Used our cloaking device earlier this year, in fact, near this general area. I guess the Romulans have some pretty good intelligence sources in Starfleet."

"So it would appear," Chekov agreed. "Are you willing to part with it?"

"I don’t think we have any real choice, Pavel. We’ll give them what they want."

"All right then, it’s agreed." He spoke to Michaels. "Bring Commander Jarok up on the mainviewer."

"Ah, Captain Chekov. It only took you thirty-six seconds to make your decision."

"Captain Kelsey has agreed to return your property to you. On behalf of Starfleet Command and the United Federation of Planets, we thank you for allowing us to borrow it for a time."

Jarok laughed. "On behalf of the Praetor, you’re all most welcome, Captain Chekov. Now, if you will have Captain Kelsey beam the device to a position two hundred of your meters forward of my ship?"

"Split screen," ordered Chekov. "Chosin, do you copy?"

"The package is being delivered now, Enterprise. Sorry we didn’t have time to gift wrap it."

The device materialized at the specified coordinates, and another transporter quickly took it away.

"Now, Captain Chekov, Captain Kelsey. I think it’s time your get underway. It’s a long way to Federation territory. I will have three of our birds of prey escort you out of this globular cluster."

"Thank you, Commander Jarok. I believe we can find our own way home."

Jarok smiled. "I insist."

"Very well, sir. Thank you for your hospitality."

"And thank you for returning our property and for ridding us of the one deterrent we had from taking this sector."

"We vwere more than happy to do so, Commander, seeing that you obviously were unable to handle it yourselves. A good thing that the creature fouled its own nest, so to speak."

"What do you mean?"

Chekov was going to wipe that cocky smile away, at least in part. "Oh, just our mutual good fortune that the research and development facilities that made Arog-Da’M were among its first victims."

Jarok swirled around. "Sub-lieutenant Dana, confirm!"

"Confirmed, Commander. Not a single trace of Arog-Da’M persists anywhere in this sector!" came a voice from offscreen.

The captain of the Enterprise explained. "The toxic residue was designed to leave nothing for enemies to analyze. It’s gone—forever."

Chekov saw Jarok’s smirk begin to unravel. The Romulans would have the territory, they would have the remaining population who were unable to repair their own ships, but they would not have the plans for the organic superweapon.

"And now, we vwill accept your gracious offer of escort. Chekov out."

The screen darkened, and immediately, Vasquez brought back the tactical screen.

"Mister Gillespie, set a course for Starbase 211. Mister Grenoka, ahead, Warp Factor One."

The Chosin and the Enterprise began their trek home, taking them close to Star 108-V.

"Captain, we’re being hailed by the Ians."

"Acknowledge their hails, Ensign. Put them on the mainviewer."

The visage of Senior Counselor Luuuu filled the screen. "Wait! What’s the matter with you people? You’ve destroyed our rightful masters! You’ve destroyed the monster they enslaved us with! Now you’re leaving us to the whim of the Romulans?"

Chekov nodded, a touch of sadness visible in his eyes. "Yes, we are. The Romulans will no doubt treat you better than the Cho-ta’M Directorate."

"You ghuuu! You cleeeping ghuuu!"

"Good luck, Luuuu." He nodded at Michaels, and the mainviewer returned to its tactical mode. "You’re going to need it," Chekov said softly.

The rest of the bridge crew regarded their captain somberly.

"There’s an old Russian saying for this: ‘No good deed ever goes unpunished.’" To Lieutenant Vasquez, he said, "As executive officer pro tem, it’s incumbent upon you to oversee damage control and repairs. I expect Enterprise to be ship-shape in three days." Seeing the stunned look on her face, he winked at her. "Better get started."

September 27th 2295

The assembled junior officers of the U.S.S. Enterprise stood at parade as their captain took the rail next to the photon torpedo launcher.

"The saddest duty of all ship captains is to say goodbye to a fellow shipmate. On this sad day, there are twenty-three shipmates who will be taking that last trip alone," Chekov said softly. To Michaels, he said, "Signal ‘Black Flag’ to the Chosin and our Romulan escorts."

Chekov knew that the Chosin would pull away from Enterprise briefly, and he’d already arranged with Captain Kelsey to inform the Romulans of their non-hostile intent. He nodded to Lieutenant Vasquez, who stepped forward.

"It was the wish of Commander Katarina Brooks that the following poem be read. She was probably the most senior of us, in terms of age, but certainly not in spirit. She had told me of her love of this poem many times, knowing that progress was unavoidable." Vasquez took a deep breath, and then looked at the padd in her hands.

"The Lay of the Last Signalman

"On a thickly wooded sponson where the last projector stands,
The museum pair of handflags hanging idly in my hands,
With my jargon half forgotten, of my stock-in-trade bereft,
I wonder what's ahead of me, the only Bunting left.

"The relics of my ancient craft have vanished one by one,
The Cruiser Arc, the Morse Flag and Manoeuvring Lights have gone,
And here they'd be as useless in the final global war,
As the Helio, the Fog Horn and the Masthead Semaphore.

"The mast is sprouting gadgets like a nightmare Christmas tree,
There are whips and stubs and wave guides where my halyards used to be,
And I couldn’t hoist a tackline through that lunatic array,
For at every height and angle there’s a dipole in the way.

"The alert and hawk-eyed Signalman is rendered obsolete,
By electrically operated optics of the Fleet,
And the leading Barracuda or the charging submarine,
Can be sighted as a blob upon a fluorescent screen.

"To delete the Human error, to erase a noble breed,
We rely upon a relay, and we pin our faith to Creed,
So we press a button, make a switch and spin a wheel,
And its cent per cent efficient, (when we're on an even keel),

"But again I may be needed, for the time will surely come,
When we have to talk in silence and the modern stuff is dumb,
With the signal lanterns flashing and the flags a flying free,
It was good enough for Nelson and it’s good enough for me."

Ch’terr stepped forward, his keen eyes noting that most of the assemblage had their heads bowed, except for the Catullan, Specialist Bingo Tor, who eyes were upward as if beseeching the Almighty. "The only other special request we have is from Ensign Cro Dok of Gamma Centauri Nine."

Taking a deep breath, Ch’terr began warbling a bird song. Those who knew Cro Dok knew that this song was one of his family line, a song of remembrance, of honor, and of respect. The song ended in a joyful refrain.

Chekov stepped forward again. "We, the captain, officers and crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise hereby commit these bodies of our departed comrades unto the stars."

"Honors, hut!" snapped Peter Kirk, and the assembled crew snapped to attention.

The photon torpedo in the first tube was fired. "Commander Katarina Brooks," announced Captain Chekov. "Lieutenant junior grade Son Escri." A photon torpedo was fired from the second tube. "Ensign Cro Dok." Followed by name after name, firing after firing.

The command, "Honors, parade rest," was given, and all hands bowed their heads. The ship’s chaplain, Specialist Jeremy Phillips, stepped forward. "Merciful Creator, be with the families of these brave young men, women, beings. Guide them through the days ahead, and comfort them with Thy divine presence. Amen."

A recording of Taps began, and Ch’terr leaned forward to take the Federation flag from the rail. Folding it twice along its long axis, he folded it neatly and presented it to the captain.

"Honors, hut!" snapped Peter Kirk again.

"Dismissed," the captain ordered.


"Roberta, Peter," the captain began, "I will be in my quarters for the next seven days."

"Shivah?" asked Kirk, looking around the captain’s cabin. The cushions had been removed from the couch, and the chairs had been replaced by low stools. The mirrors had been covered with black curtains, and the captain had donned civilian clothes, foregoing his boots altogether. "For your mother?"

Chekov nodded. "And the others. During that time, Roberta, you are the acting captain of the Enterprise. I’ve asked Captain Kelsey to escort us for those seven days, and he’s agreed. However, if a situation arises that needs my attention, summon me at once."

"Yes, Captain." Her tone softened. "Our deepest condolences on the loss of your mother and friends," she added.

"Thank you," he said.

"Hamakom ye-nakhem etkhem b'tokh shear aveilei tzion virushalayim," Kirk offered.

Chekov smiled softly. "You are always quite the surprise, young Peter." The captain hugged both of them, and sat down on a low stool, lighting a candle on a small table before him as he began to recite a prayer in Hebrew.

The two junior officers left their captain’s cabin silently, wishing that things had gone better for him, for all of them.

"It will be a long trip home," Kirk said softly after the doors had closed.

"It will be longer for the captain," Vasquez corrected him.

The science officer nodded. "Your orders?"

"Take the bridge. I’m heading to Sickbay to visit Bucky. I’ll be up in an hour to relieve you."

He smiled. "Aye-aye, sir."

October 4th 2295

"Captain on the bridge!" called Lieutenant Michaels as Captain Chekov stepped out of the turbolift.

"Welcome back, Captain," greeted Lieutenant Vasquez as she relinquished the center seat to her commanding officer.

"Thank you, Lieutenant. Ship status?"

"We’re approaching the boundary of the global cluster. We are still being escorted by three Romulan birds of prey. U.S.S. Chosin is escorting us, approximately three hundred kilometers off our starboard bow. The ship, as you ordered, is ship-shape, Captain, although it did take an extra day to get her up to your standards. Chief Engineer Stronton of the Chosin was quite helpful in getting our systems up and running."

"Navigator, time to boundary of this star cluster?"

Shandra Gillespie answered him. "Approximately four minutes, sir."

"Captain, we’re being hailed by the lead Romulan bird of prey."


"Our escort ends now, Enterprise. Do not trespass again."

"I don’t believe we’ll be back this way any time soon. We do wish to thank you for your wonderful hospitality."

The Romulan sub-commander’s eyes narrowed. If he detected Chekov’s sarcasm, he wasn’t going to acknowledge it. The screen went black for a moment.

"Tactical," ordered Chekov.

The three Romulan ships peeled off of formation and headed back at high speed the way they came.

"Chosin is hailing us."


Captain Shaun Kelsey’s unshaven face filled the screen. "Well, I guess our escort’s gone now." He laughed. "Commander Williams, deep scan. Any sign of a cloaked ship?"

"Not any more. There were two cloaked ships with the three uncloaked ones, riding escort with us all the way until they peeled off with the other three."

"Thanks for allowing me some time off, Captain Kelsey," Chekov said. "I really appreciate it."

"Any time, pal. Sorry about your mom."

"Thank you." Chekov acknowledged. "I just can’t believe something, Shaun, and it’s been bothering me all week. I never believed you’d’ve given up your cloaking device without a fight."

"Who says I gave them my cloaking device? I just gave back the one we borrowed."

"Sir!" came Vasquez’s alarmed voice.

"Split screen," Chekov ordered. Kelsey was on the left; the Chosin was on the right, but only for an instant. It faded to nothingness.

"Vwhy do I get the impression that you’re half leprechaun, Shaun?"

"You’re only half right, Pavel. I’m all leprechaun. Race you to Earth!"

"On one condition, Shaun. We stop and give Uhura a hand if she needs it."

The two captains studied each other for a moment. "Naaaah," they said in unison.

November 30th 2295

It was dark outside Helena Bondarenko’s residence in Leningrad, and snowing heavily.

"Pavel Andreievich, bring me my shawl."

"Da, Nana," he replied, taking the wizened woman near the fire her favorite woolen babushka.

"This heaviness in your heart, it does not become you, Pavel," she said as he wrapped it around her shoulders.

"Death of one’s mother and friends can rarely be perceived as becoming, Nana."

She studied his eyes. "No, it doesn’t, lushenska. But it certainly is a pain in the ass."

Chekov chuckled sadly. "Yes, yes, it is." He looked at her. "I’ve missed you."

"And I you," she replied. "I cannot believe your mother passed away so soon after your father."

"It was eight months, Nana."

"She could at least have waited until after I’d gone on."

She met his eyes, noting the unshed tears in them. "Have you held shivah for her?"

"I did once the crisis vwas over, and vwe vwere on our vway back to Earth. But it vwas not for her alone. I lost some good friends out there."

"Don’t beat yourself up over what happened, Pavel Andreievich. It will not bring the dead back, nor let them rest any easier."

"There was nothing I could do. But that made it no less bearable."

"Do you want to talk about it?"

"No, Nana. But I would like to sit here beside you tonight before I return to the Enterprise tomorrow morning." He pulled up another rocker to set along side hers. He sat down in the old wooden chair which creaked softly at his weight.

"So long as you keep the fire burning, we can sit here as long as you want, my little shkotz."

He took her hand in his and squeezed. "I love you, Nana."

"And I love you, too, Pavel. It pains me to see you hurt this much."

"It vwill pass," Chekov said. "It alvways does."

He watched the fire dancing on the logs on the andirons. The random, chaotic flickering brought to mind the destructive power of Arog-Da’M. Like the flames, the biogenetic monster unleashed by the Directorate did not think. It only consumed what it touched, and it touched whatever it could...

"You are dwelling on the past," Helena Bondarenko stated. It wasn’t an accusation. It was a simple statement of fact.

"Nyet, just thinking about what might have been done differently." He shook his head. "Sometimes I think I’m the most unlucky—"

Her cane whipped down on his chair, missing him by less than an inch. Her eyes narrowed. "A mentsh on glik is a toyter mensh, as my grandmother used to say to me, Pavel. An unlucky person is a dead person, and you are not unlucky...otherwise, you wouldn’t be sitting here with me right now."

"I’ve always had so much death around me..." His thoughts raced along the faces of his friends and comrades who were no longer among the living. "I’ve seen dozens of people die, shipmates, commanders, fellow officers."

"Then I would say that you are extremely lucky, Pavel. Extremely lucky, indeed, or else you would have been among them."

"Sometimes I wish I had been."

"How dare you?" she snapped angrily, looking at him. "How dare you! It is not your place to decide such things! I thought we had raised you better than that! Who are you that you can decide you wished you were dead? Are you God?"

"Nyet, Nana. I’m sorry." He looked at her.

"You’ve heard from that draikop of an uncle of yours," she said.

Chekov was always amazed at his grandmother’s ability to know things which she had no way of knowing. "Yes, Piotr Ivanovich called while we were en route to Earth. He told me I had been disinherited by the family."

"And no doubt he told you that you that your mother left you nothing."

"He took great glee in that, in fact."

"He’s a bastard."

"He was my favorite uncle vwhen I vwas growing up."

She sighed. "I know it hurts, Pavel."

"A lot of things do, Nana. A lot of things do."

December 1st 2295

"I need to get back to vwork, Nana," Chekov said the next morning. They’d both dozed off about the same time, and had awoken in their chairs at about the same time as well. "I have a lot to do today," he lied.

"Then go back to your work, Pavel Andreievich, and go in peace." Her eyes beheld her grandson with compassion. "I know none of this has been easy for you. But if you want to talk to your favorite little old lady in Leningrad, you know where to find me."

He stood and stretched. Leaning forward, he kissed her lightly on the forehead, and then wrapped her favorite shawl around her. "Shall I fix you breakfast before I leave?"

She shook her head. "I made some biscuits yesterday. You can take a few with you if you like. I like them with honey."

He smiled warmly. "I know you do, Nana. But I vwill leave them to you. I have an appointment this morning vwith my chief medical officer. I suspect that I will not be having biscuits or blintzes any time soon."

She chuckled softly. "I was going to tell you you had put on a few pounds since I last saw you, but I decided not to tell you."

Chekov put on his best pouting face. "Is good thing you didn’t. I’m not sure I could take it from you, too."

She laughed. "Now get out of here. I hate goodbyes."

"Yes, Nana." He gave her another kiss and stepped to the door of her apartment. "I will come see you in a few weeks."

"I look forward to it, Pavel." He stepped out the door into the snow, and closed the door behind him. "Chap a gang!" she called after him in Yiddish.


"Pavel, you have got to lose some weight."

The captain sighed at the statement he’d been expecting for the past three months. "I haf been trying, Doctor." He’d returned to the space-docked Enterprise with far too much on his mind. He’d hoped last night’s visit with his grandmother would’ve helped his mood, but it hadn’t.

Christine Chapel patted his tummy. "Half trying, Captain. I’m making it a medical order this time. No more latkes, doughnuts, crullers, bearclaws. I’m talking low-carbohydrate, high-protein and zero-fat. I’m talking four miles at day at a brisk pace. I’m talking about twenty minutes in the weight room every other day."

"It sounds like a fate worse than death," Chekov said unhappily.

She poked him in his gut. "Not funny, Captain, sir. I’m deadly serious about it. You need to lose thirty pounds in the next three months. Otherwise, I’ll put a medical statement in your file you’ll have to answer to."

"It is almost Chanukah. Surely you don’t expect me to forego my religious freedom—"

"No oily foods, Captain," her eyes burned in anger. "Not a single blintz will pass those lips." She shook her head as she headed for her desk. "I just can’t understand why you let this happen. You’re fifty years old, for God’s sake! You can’t just put on thirty pounds in six months and expect me to ignore it. How did it happen?"

"I haf been too busy to exercise. First vwe had the incident with the Ians, the Directorate and their biogenetic monster. Then I sent Uhura and some of my command staff to bring the Hyperion back to Earth, and so now I am training a new bridge crew. I was holding shivah part of the way back, and I simply haf not had time to exercise."

Her tone softened for a moment."Pavel, I don’t mean to fuss, but it’s my job. I’ve watched what you’ve been eating. I’ve seen your breakfasts, Captain."

"You know vwhat they say, Doctor. Eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a prince, and dinner like a pauper."

"And exactly where does the banana split you had last night fall in?"

"Vwell, I vwas thinking..." He noticed her deepening scowl. "Okay, so maybe I vwas not thinking."

"I think you’re going to find your diet card seriously restrictive for a time, Captain. But look at it this way. In ninety days, if you’ve lost the weight, then I’ll ease the restrictions a bit."

She picked up her padd, and accessed the ship’s computer. "Let’s see...for breakfast..."

"Bagels, cream cheese and lox?"


"Bagels and lox."

She sighed. "One bagel a day. And it’s got to be whole wheat. No cream cheese. No butter. But you can have as much lox as you want. Black coffee."

"Cream and sugar?"

"One sweetener tab, one non-fat creamer tab." She entered the data. "For lunch, broiled fish or seafood up to six ounces, lamb, beef or chicken up to four ounces. Clear soups allowable. Two fresh low-carb starches. And to drink?"

"A vanilla cream soda?"

"One diet vanilla cream soda." She pressed a few more keys. "I’ve programmed a chocolate-flavored nutrient bar as a snack. Don’t worry; they’re kosher."

"They’re also tasteless," he mumbled under his breath, and she didn’t seem to hear him.

"And for supper, salad with a light vinaigrette dressing. One ounce of chicken or shrimp can be added. You can substitute soup, if you like."

"Vwonderful." He rolled his eyes.

"If you’d stayed on the exercise plan I’d drawn up for you last year about this time, you’d’ve been ten pounds lighter than you were then, and forty pounds lighter than you are now."

Again, her tone softened. "Been to see your grandmother yet?"

"Da. I spent the night with her by the fireplace at her apartment."

"How’s she doing?"

"She is still...feisty." He smiled. "She is still Nana."

"And the rest of your family?"

His face fell. "I have no other family." He stepped toward the door. "I’ll be on the treadmills this morning, Doctor, if you have need for me."

As the doors slid closed behind him, she shook her head sadly. "Damn."


"Family comes first," Chekov said allowed as he trudged along on the treadmill in the ship’s gymnasium.

"Sir?" asked Commander Saavik. She was on the treadmill next to his, walking at nearly twice the climb rate he was, and not even breathing harder.

"Family comes first," he repeated hollowly.

"Why, I would take that as an axiom, except when one’s duties to others supercede it," the half-Romulan, half-Vulcan woman agreed.

"So duty to others comes first?"

"No, sir, family comes first. But there are occasion where ones duties and responsibilities must supercede that axiom."

"For example, when the Lady Amanda fell ill, Ambassador Spock took a warp shuttle sled directly to Vulcan. His family came first in that instance," Chekov stated.

"I would not dispute that," she agreed, increasing the rate of speed on her treadmill. "However, he failed in his duties and responsibilities."

"A Vulcan fail in his duties and responsibilities? I would have thought that impossible."

"I would, too," Saavik conceded. "But Spock is half-Human. Certainly allowances must be made for that re...condition."

"You were about to say ‘regrettable condition.’"

She looked at him, with almost a smile on her lips. "Perhaps."

"Are you saying he shirked his duties and responsibilities?"

"Yes, sir. I am."

"Family comes first," he repeated his uncle Piotr’s words with an ache deep within his soul. "And what about me, Saavik? My mother died while we were deep in the Beta Quadrant. Should I have been at her side?"

"You were where you had to be, where you were needed, sir." She stopped walking and stepped off the treadmill, needlessly wrapping a towel around her shoulders. "Where the Federation and Earth itself needed you. Have no doubts about that, Cap—" She abruptly halted her choice of words at his scowl. "Have no doubts about that, Pavel."


To: Chekov, Pavel A., Captain, Commanding, U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B
From: Davis, Lystra, Admiral, Commander--Starfleet
Stardate 9592.1

I Effective immediately, Captain Chekov is hereby promoted to Fleet Captain, and given authority over the following vessels:

U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-B, heavy cruiser
Commander: Captain Pavel A. Chekov

U.S.S. Excelsior, NCC-2000, heavy cruiser
Commander: Captain Hikaru W. Sulu

U.S.S. Hyperion, NCC-10100, exploratory cruiser
Commander: To Be Determined

U.S.S. Chosin, NCC-2950, fast cruiser
Commander: Captain Shaun Kelsey

U.S.S. Hathaway, NCC-2593, fast cruiser
Commander: Captain Paul Freeman

U.S.S. Sargon, NCC-504, destroyer
Commander: Commander S’rall

U.S.S. Cooper, NCC-639, scout ship
Commander: Captain Xon

U.S.S. Al Rashid, NCC-3802, transport/tug
Commander: Captain David Walking-Bear

II Nature and duration of command:

Exploration of Beta Quadrant, broadening of Federation relations with non-aligned planet in same: 7 years

III Your vessels will patrol the Beta Quadrant, beginning at Sector 30, and extending to the outer reaches of the galaxy.

IV Your vessels will conduct this patrol to accomplish

A Federation Security, via exploration of intelligence and social systems of galactic threat, and

B Scientific investigation to add to the Federation’s body of knowledge of lifeforms and social systems, and

C Any required assistance to the Federation colonies in this quadrant, and the enforcement of appropriate statutes affecting Federation commerce vessels and traders as you might contact in the course of your mission.

V Pursuant to our treaties with the Romulan Star Empire and the Sheliak Corporate, you will confine your vessels to class M worlds in non-aligned areas only.

Mobilization of your task group is expected to commence no later than Stardate 9605.7.

Good luck with your broadened command, Captain. I look forward to hearing from you within the next seventy-two hours.

Lystra Davis

Admiral, Commander–Starfleet

December 2nd 2295

Chekov reread the orders he’d been given. "Bozhe moi," he said softly as he sat down at the table. The shit will hit the fan when Sulu reads his orders, he thought, chuckling inwardly. He took a bit of his celery sticks and frowned. Apparently the rec deck manager had already received the diet card changes Doctor Chapel had promised.

"Good news, Captain. Hyperion’s on final approach to Sol. They should be arriving in orbit within half an hour," reported Lieutenant Kirk as he sat down at the table.

"That’s good news. Uhura maintained radio silence all the way back to Federation territory. When we got her call for an escort, we were already halfway to Earth. At least Captain Kelsey was in her vicinity to provide escort."

"What’s going to happen with the Hyperion, sir?"

"She’ll be refit and recommissioned. She was designed to be a state-of-the-art exploratory cruiser. She still will be."

"And next on our schedule?"

"Two things. We’ll be taking Doctor McCoy to Serenidad for a memorial service next week, and we’ll be swinging by Canopus for a limb-transplant for Mister Ch’terr. Then we’re to report back to Earth. I will have to assemble my fleet."

"Fleet, sir?"

Chekov passed him the orders. "Sir! Congratulations, sir! Wow!"

Lieutenant Ch’terr hobbled over and joined them, a bowl in his talon. As he pulled up a perch, Chekov couldn’t help but smell the strong broth. Kirk was stunned to see the security chief slurping it at a good pace.

"So what’s next on our agenda, Fl-l-leet Captain Chekov?"

"Is there anything in Starfleet you don’t know about, Lieutenant Commander Ch’terr?"

The Skorr warbled in laughter. "Not much, Captain. I even heard about my promotion days ago. Thank you."

"Ch’terr?" asked Peter Kirk tentatively, pointing at the bowl. "Is that what I think it is?"

"What do you think it is?"

Peter Kirk shrugged. "Smells to me like...well, I mean no offense, smells like chicken soup."

Chekov nodded. "And you have a noted...aversion to even being near those consuming avian life forms."

Ch’terr shrugged. "My mother always said two things about chicken soup. One, it’s good for you. Two, it’s probably not anyone we know."

As laughter rang out on the rec deck, Pavel Chekov’s eyes returned to his orders. 2296 looked to be an interesting year...

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