May 14th 2297
Nyota Uhura sat in her cabin, mostly staring at the walls, waiting. Against his preferences, the Hyperions chief of security, Wills Greggson, had briefly put her in the brig, but only long enough for Indri to adjust her cabin door so that it denied her egress. Indri had been no happier about doing the task than Greggson had been about arresting her, but both men realized they had little choice. Her actions in resolving the crisis in the Haitz system had been criminal. In Starfleet, the only greater crime was treason. As she stared at the walls of her cabin, she knew that, whatever the consequences were, she had done the right thing. Knowing that didnt make her present status any easier.
Her annunciator chimed. "Come!"
MBenga made his way into the room. "Nyota, I " The man found himself at a loss for words.
She stood, making an attempt to smile. "Im glad to see you, Keme. Thank you for coming. Can I get you something? Coffee, perhaps?"
"Coffee would be nice, for us both." As Uhura went to forage for coffee, MBenga struggled for words.
She handed him a cup, sitting back down with hers clenched in her hand, a little more tightly than necessary. "Youre here to tell me that you and the whole crew are still behind me, right?"
The chief medical officer sighed. "At least that, and more. Most of the crew is considering resigning from Starfleet if youre cashiered, Nyota. If this goes the way I expect, Im going to retire and buy that bungalow on the beach and see if I can tempt you to join me in it. You know how"
She put a finger on his lips, silencing him. "I know how you feel, Keme. Maybe you can say it when I wont be tempted to think its more pity on your part than the real thing, and you wont be tempted to wonder if its more seeking security than the real thing on my end." The now-incarcerated captain leaned forward and kissed him gently on one cheek.
Several moments of silence passed, neither sure what to say. Finally, MBenga broke it. "Weve arrived at Starbase 211. Youll be facing the tribunal in about an hour."
"Im ready, Keme. I expect that theyll decide that there is sufficient evidence to warrant a full-bore court-martial. Theres no denying that thats the case, after all."
"Look, Giac has been talking with the Eletto Foundation; if you want, he thinks they will spring for a team of fancy lawyers for you. Getting your lawyers here will give you a little more time, too. Drevan and TSoral have talked to Sendal, the fancy lawyer we had with us at Dandrin; theyre willing to try to get him to defend you. Considering the respect he seems to have had for you, he might just do it as a volunteer."
She turned, this time smiling sincerely. "You tell Giac I said thanks, will you? And Drevan and TSoral and all. But I wont need a lawyer. I plan to plead guilty, and last time I looked that didnt take a fancy legal degree."
He nodded. "Thats what I expected you to say; I was just hoping that there might be a technicality or something, you know?"
"I know." Uhura sighed deeply, leaning against MBenga. He put his arm around her, protectively. She snuggled closer, feeling almost safe and certainly warm and comfortable in his embrace. "But I knew it would come to this when I walked out of the Ready Room and started barking orders, Keme. Im not eager to do it, but Im willing to pay the price."
There was nothing left to say. MBenga just nodded, gently holding her a little tighter, then releasing her. "Its time to go, Captain. Youll be beaming down in about five minutes."
"One last kiss, for the soon to be condemned?" She turned to face him, lifting her chin slightly.
"One, then, but not the last, I hope."
Sitting in the small anteroom, waiting to be summoned to her court-martial was one of the loneliest experiences Uhura could recall. The whole crew, it seemed, had been lining the corridors of the Hyperion on the way from her quarters to the transporter deck, seeing her off, all of them expressing the wish that they could go with her as moral support, or character witness, or to take some or all of the blame in her stead. Seeing the outpouring of support had buoyed her spirits, and brought tears to her eyes, but she knew that what she had to do would be easier without them. Commodore Alden had been at the transporter deck on the starbase; he had been friendly enough, too, but it was obvious that Lloyd hadnt known what to say to a friend that was about to be tried, convicted and sentenced. As her wait stretched, she began to wish she had brought at least one or two friends with herTSoral, perhaps, or MBenga.
Just when she felt that she had to call the Hyperion and ask one to come down, the door before her opened, a young ensign stepping forward. "Nyota Penda Uhura?"
She stood. "I am she."
"The tribunal is gathered. Where is your legal counsel? I would have expected at least one lawyer, maybe several, with a charge as serious as this is."
"I think I can handle it without one, Ensign." She moved toward the door. "Lets get this done and over with, so I can get on with whatever life I have left."
Uhura allowed herself to be ushered into a much larger room, one filled with chairs behind the bar, and beyond it, a table with three admirals seated. To her surprise, she realized that the room was otherwise empty; even the ensign disappeared out the door. In the center of the three beings was an Andorian; on either side were Vulcans. Resolute, she stood, silently, waiting for them to make the first move.
"Be seated, Captain Uhura." It was the Andorian who finally spoke. "I am Admiral Tlondis. To my right is Admiral Soyen, to my left, Admiral Storl." Each of the two nodded as the Andorian introduced them. "I presume that you understand the nature of this meeting."
"I do, Admiral. You will be evaluating the evidence to decide whether or not there is enough of it to support the decision to send me for full court-martial, and potential dishonorable discharge from Starfleet."
"Admiral Storl, if you will read the charges?"
Expressionlessly, the Vulcan picked up a small sheet before him. "You are accused of willfully and egregiously violating the Prime Directive in your actions toward the population of the pre-spaceflight civilization on Haitz." She looked at Uhura. "How do you plead?"
"Guilty, Admiral. My deed was also premeditated, and taken with full awareness of its consequences." The captain stood straight, looking the Vulcan in the eye, without a trace of remorse.
Tlondis looked over at Soyen. "She almost sounds proud of her violation of one of the most basic tenets of the United Federation of Planets. What do you think?"
"It would be logical to allow the woman to speak for herself, Tlondis." He turned to face her. "Is Admiral Tlondis assessment correct?"
"Close enough for your purposes, Admiral. I wish I could have found a solution that didnt involve sacrificing my career with Starfleet, but there just wasnt one. I took the only solution I had, in the face of highly critical time pressures. Weighing the few years I have left in Starfleet against the lives of over a billion sentient organisms, the decision wasnt all that hard to make."
"I see." Soyen looked down at a document in front of him. "The report I have before me from the scientists in the duck blind estimates that your action saved approximately one point eight seven billion individuals, Captain. It also caused major changes in the social structure of the two dominant military powers of the planet, which in turn has radically altered all other aspects of their society." He turned a few sheets over, then studied another. "Before me, I have statements of several of your bridge crew, claiming that they were involved in the decision process. I would like your comment on that fact."
"The plan and the decision was mine. I used, and virtually abused, my authority to force all members of the bridge crew present to do exactly as I told them, in some cases against their expressed better judgment. All blame is mine; if there is any credit to be had in all of this, let them share it."
Soyen nodded, looking at Storl. He looked at Uhura for a moment before speaking. "I see no sign of remorse, or of regret over having apparently violated the Prime Directive that logic suggests a Human would show, under these circumstances. Do I misunderstand your Human body language?"
The ramrod-straight posture Uhura maintained softened slightly, and the stony face registered a hint of her inner agony. "No, Admiral. My only regret is this: I have seen the grief and pain my crew is suffering, realizing that I have chosen the way I did, and that I have destroyed my career by so doing." A single tear forced its way out onto her cheek. "Id have spared them that, if I could. Despite the pain seeing their agony has caused me, Im not sorry I did it. For the first time in over a century, Haitz has peace; the daily death of millions of their people from the ravages of the war has been stopped. The price that I and my crew pay is trivial in comparison."
"Really." Tlondis stood, leaning forward, placing his blue fingers on the table in front of himself, leaning forward, his blue face working with some passionate emotion. "And if, against all reason, you should find yourself captain of a starship again, and you were faced with a similar situation, would you still do as you have done here?"
She took in a deep breath, letting it out slowly, through pursed lips before answering. "If there was no other way, and there were millions, if not billions, of lives at stake, yes." She straightened proudly as she spoke, then softened again. "At least, I hope Id have the courage to do it. Im not sure I would, and its not like Ill ever have the chance, anyhow."
"Thank you. Do you have anything else to say?"
Tlondis nodded. "Then please make yourself as comfortable as possible in the antechamber, while the three of us weigh the evidence. The ensign will have provided you with refreshment. I do not believe it will take long to reach a conclusion."
Uhura stepped through the door leaving the tribunal behind her, closing it behind her. The antechamber was as empty as it had been before. True to Tlondis prediction, a carafe of water and a few wrapped pastries had been laid out on a platter on the table to Uhuras left. Ignoring both, she dropped into a chair, one hand holding her head. Tempted though she was, she refused to break into tears; there would, she knew, be time enough for that later. Knowing it was foolish, she stared at the clock, watching the digits of the seconds and minutes change. Hardly ten minutes had passedthough it felt like hoursbefore Tlondis opened the door. "Please return to stand before the tribunal."
Uhura moved, standing before the two Vulcans and the Andorian. To her surprise, they were all standing before the table they had been behind.
"Nyota Penda Uhura, we have concluded that the evidence indicates you are judged guilty of all charges." Tlondis face was as emotionless as the Vulcans to either side of him. "Deciding your guilt, given that you admitted it freely if not proudly, was not difficult. Deciding the next appropriate course of action was our only difficulty, given the results of your behavior. Are you ready to receive our decision?"
With difficulty, Uhura swallowed, finding her mouth dry. "I am."
"Please extend your arms in front of you."
Rather surprised at the request, she straightened her arms, her hands upward, just above the level of her waist, the sleeves of her uniform sliding up her forearms slightly. Soyen and Storl stepped forward. In unison, each raised one hand, bringing it down firmly on the exposed skin of Uhuras forearms, then stepped back next to Tlondis. As had been true several times during the proceedings, silence reigned. For the first time, Uhura broke it.
"Is that it? I dont understand."
Tlondis smiled slightly. "Vulcans are, even when they are Admirals, very literal beings. You have received a firm slap on the wrists, Captain Uhura. That is, as you put it, it."
"Were you of the opinion that you would face severe penalty for being willing to sacrifice yourself for the lives of over a billion sentient organisms?" Storls head tilted to one side, his emotionless face flirting with expressing incomprehension. "When the choice is between interfering with the development of a civilization and seeing the entire population of a civilization inevitably destroyed, the Prime Directive is of dubious, if any, significance. According to Fleet Captain Chekov, you and your ship were specifically chosen because your past performance indicated that you would exhaust every possible alternative you could find to protect the people of Haitz, short of violating the Prime Directive, and if the only possible solution involved such a violation, you would have the courage to do what was needed. It is illogical to claim that Starfleet has the ability to foresee every possible circumstance. There are circumstances when even the Prime Directive must bend. Hence, we find no reason to send you to court-martial; only a logical justification for the Human ceremonial slap on the wrists."
Soyen nodded. "If all the starship captains in Starfleet showed as much as half the resourcefulness, wisdom and courage you demonstrated in handling this crisis and in facing this tribunal, the United Federation of Planets would be far better off. Your actions fulfilled, indeed exceeded, all our expectations."
"Now get out of here and get back to work, Captain." Tlondis smile widened. "You have a ship to command." All three beings snapped to attention.
Stunned, Uhura snapped off a crisp salute in response, turned and walked through the door to the antechamber. To her surprise, she saw Commodore Alden, standing next to MBenga. Alden took one look at the captains face. He moved to the door to the hall. "Doctor, I think that Ill leave you two alone, now." He hurried out, the door closing behind him.
With the trial over, and her beau before her, the pent up stress finally won. Uhura hurled herself on MBengas chest, clinging to him and sobbing. The physician gently wrapped his arms around her, caressing her hair with one hand. "Its okay, Nyota. Its going to be fine. Ill retire, and we can spend the"
"No, no, no, you silly, wonderful, confused man!" Uhura looked up, her face drenched with tears. "All I got was a slap on the wrists. See?" She extended one arm, revealing the growing bruise where she had been slapped. "Im still a captain, and Im still on the Hyperion, and its all fine and you dont have to retire or anything and Im just so, so relieved that its all over I " Overwhelmed by emotion again, she buried her face back in the wet spot she had created on MBengas uniform.
Smiling, MBenga looked at her. "Well, then, you better get that all cried out so you can fix that pretty face of yours, Captain. You have a crew that is going to be mighty happy."
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