Former Admiral Moses Cartwright nodded at the informant. "So, even the remotest possibility of any more searches have been permanently called off?"
In the distance of the cavernous underwater facility, Valeris chanted with a Vulcan healer. Cartwright had told all his people to put up with itshe was a war crimes victim, as far as he was concerned, even if Spock would never be arrested for what he had done to her. Still, the chanting was louder that day than usual.
"Yes, sir. Unless old man Kirk pulls one of his casual walkbacks from Hades again, it looks like hes gone for good this time."
Cartwright scowled a bit. "Jim Kirk was a serial womanizer and a dupe who was made a useful idiot by these new Klingons. But you, young man, will refer to any man who caused that kind of fear among our enemies by his rank. Got me?"
"Y-yes, sir. Sorry, sir."
The informant left, and with him went the fearwell, the immediate fearthat Kirk would again turn up alive. It could still happen, but it could be months or years from now. Space was like that. Like the universe itself had apparently donefinallyCartwright now moved past him. Perhaps he himself was too wise to believe in Kirks final downfall, but there were others who would see Lystra Daviss order to suspend even the further planning of rescues as the cue to begin their true celebrating. These were the enemies of the Federation, outside of it, and very much on the inside as well.
Time to make a deal with the state, Mister Valeris.
The former admiral approached his former aide and embedded co-conspirator aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise with the idea of making a change in both their lives. In fact, this is exactly what he would achieve, the devil as always being in the fine details.
The Vulcan healer withdrew, and Cartwright swore for half a second that the healer had smiled at him. Quickly convincing himself that he had been mistaken, Cartwright asked the man no questions.
"Valeris, Kirk is dead, and even his most fervent admirers seem to have written him off. Now is our time to act. Act that is, on our own behalfs. Weve done our part for king and country."
Valeris seemed off, even by her standards. The slight tilt of the head she sometimes exhibited now seemed like something out of a marionette show. "It is unfortunate. He was a great man. Once properly engaged, I am convinced he could have led us to victory over Qo'noS. It is likely that he is the only conqueror most Klingons could ever accept. Duped and na´ve, perhaps. Yet even traits such as those diminish him only slightly. But what has the acceptance of his loss to do with our fates?"
"Hopelessly na´ve. His nephew fought and nearly died killing those monsters on Serenidad. They said that kid was insane, but he got burned by the Klingons and learned from it. It was our heroic captain who was all but kissing that Klingon bitchs ass after what they did to you... But for good or ill, Kirk is dead, along with Hardass Harrimans little boy. The three least of Kirks officers now run the new ship named for his, and if that isnt justice, I dont know what is. But despise him though I did, I wont celebrate his passing. Its unseemly. His true enemies will be celebrating. Enemies like Gervais."
"Which has what to do with us, sir?
Cartwright smiled. "Valeris, he wont be paying attention to us. Weall of uscan make a deal with Davis, and be under her protection quickly enough to bring Gervais down, once and for all."
The Vulcan still didnt seem quite right. "How will this benefit us?"
"It wont. Not all of us. You and I will be inside for a while. No way around that. But we can gain freedom for a quite a few of our people, and much better accommodations for you and I. After that, who knows? If that hair-trigger Saavik can become a major ships tactical officer, then anything is possible. Did you have dealings with her?"
"Two instances, brief and limited. Since her presence could have disrupted my own efforts with Spock, I chose not to let him know of her communiques."
Cartwright shook his head. "We had it all down pat. We had all the pieces in place, but we had to leave Kirk alive. When the whole damned fleet turned tail at Serenidad, and invited those damned Khmyr to take us world by world, he stood his ground. It was almost enough to make me forgive him. And so, by leaving alive a man I hated but needed, the great plan was undone. Of course, by that point, it wasnt even my plan anymore, was it? No. It was now the work of a man who fancies himself a modern day Stalin! Hes left us here to rot ever since. Well, that changes now. I didnt cheer Kirks downfall, but I will let out a Praise God-Glory-Glory-Hallelujah when we take down Yves Gervais."
Valeris rose, and in a very un-Vulcan gesture, placed a hand on each side of Cartwrights head. "Sir, with my parents early passing, I feel no shame in saying that you have been like a second father to me."
Hands that were already five times stronger than those of a Human were now enhanced by a drug once used by the Terran Viking Berserkers. With a quick twist, the loves, hates, dreams and nightmares of Moses Cartwright, late of Starfleet, came to a crashing end.
"But as before, my father is dead."
Using her mentors body as a shield long enough to gain a weapon, Valeris then repeated the act of murder upon every person in that special holding facility, inmate and jailer alike, before taking her own life by setting her phaser to overload. In what was thought to be a clever move, the warden and guards had all been on the conspirators' lists as sympathetic but rejected possible recruits. Now this cleverness seemed very much like a set-up. The ducks had all been placed in a row, then shot, plucked and cooked.
Later, outside the entrance to the facility, a real-seeming set of Vulcan ears were found, discarded. The only person that the DNA found could have belonged to: Captain Kevin Riley of Starfleet Intelligence. But he had a rock-solid alibi: During the incident, he had been at Starbase 204, conducting a surprise inspection on the starship Hobgoblin, a Starfleet Interceptor under command of Starfleet Intelligence. Its captain had even filed a complaint over Riley's bullying.
A loose end in a vast but now shrinking conspiracy had been all but tied up.
The greeting they received stunned all. Chekov, Saavik, Vasquez, Kirk, Chterr, Sorenson and Chapel stared at the guards who had them surrounded, and at phaser point.
"First, I demand to see Captain Jaeger, and secondly, I order you to put those things away," Chekov ordered in a tone not much better than a low growl.
The station security chief seemed particularly belligerent. "I have my orders, sir. If any of you" She looked and pointed her weapon at Kirk. "Any of you get out of line, I have my orders there, too. Got me, Fleet Captain?"
Kirk said two words to the much younger woman. "Seek help."
The chief moved forward, but was stopped. "Stand down, Mister Howard. Mister Kirks talent for sarcasm is well known, after all. You knew to expect it."
Chekov glared at Kirk, and then more harshly, at Jaeger. "Captain, you have mere seconds to explain this travesty before I make a CommPic call to Admiral Davis and have an antimatter reactor shoved so far up your ass"
"That is Fleet Captain to you, Captain Jaeger. At all times."
Jaeger looked more boiled over than the station security chief, but pulled back. "Fleet Captain, this crew stands under a cloud of suspicion."
"High treason, Fleet Captain Chekov. High treason. Starfleet Intelligence has reason to believe that the Romulan impostor posing as Science Officer Rathan had an ally and confederate among your crew. Until these suspicions are cleared up, you, your crew, and your ship are going exactly nowhere!"
Chekov breathed in, and then pointed at his science officer. "Mister Kirk did not join us until vwell after that incident vwas done vwith. I vwish him to take command of the Enterprise vwhile the rest of us are questioned. Docked or not, you cannot deprive my ship of all its senior officers."
Jaeger shook her head. "I can and will if I deem it necessary. But I will be fair, Fleet Captain. Mister Kirk will be questioned firstalone. Then he may beam back to Enterprise."
Chekov shook his head. "Not alone. Not for any of them. I vwill be there as their vwitness and advisor, or I vwill order my crew to keep silent until vwe hear from Admiral Davis and this sector's judge advocate general's office. Understood? And once again, Captain Jaeger, Mister Kirk has nothing to offer you in this."
Jaeger stood firm. "We begin in ten minutes. Speak freely, but conversations are recorded in cases like these for possible review later, should it come to that."
Kirk strode with Chekov into the interrogation area. "Peter, if I may ask you a question?"
The Enterprise-B science officer nodded. "Ask, sir."
"Seek help? What bad holovid did you take that from?"
Peter Kirk shrugged. "I can't remember. But it was pretty awful."
Chekov nodded. "Of this I have no doubt." He looked around the interrogation area with the palm scanner chair prominently featured in the center of the room. "Mister Kirk, I hope you wrote to Santa. For vwe may be at Starbase 211 far longer than I thought."
Kirk nodded. "I had asked the big guy to deliver unto us a completely uneventful holiday season."
Chekov sighed. "That may be beyond even the great Russian Saint Nicholas, Peter."
Outside, the others waited. Station Security Chief Howard looked at Enterprise Security Chief Chterr. "Dont you teach your people respect?"
Perhaps she had too much swagger and raw anger, or too openly waved her phaser around, looking to Chterr like what Buchanan and Kirk had called a Barney Fife. Whatever the case, it was clear that Howard did not have Chterrs respect.
"Respect is onllly for those who deserve it."
She walked off, still seemingly in a huff, and the guards reduced their closeness. Chterr rolled his eyes at his fellow crewmembers. "They think one of us is a spy? Jokes on themnone of us is even slllightllly competent enough to be a spy!"
This was, apparently, not an opinion shared by Captain Jaeger as she began her interview of Lieutenant Kirk who was seated in the chair with his hand on the verifier disk. "Mister Kirk, Ill be blunt. While Fleet Intelligence has determined that you could not possibly have interacted with the impostor posing as Lieutenant Rathan, your own sorry history gives you motive and us grounds for concern."
Kirk saw in Chekovs nod that it was all right to respond. "Begging your pardon, Captain Jaeger. But if you're referring to my association with the Klingons on Dianas, I'm afraid you'll have to do better than that. I had no idea Tom Cooper was involved with them at first. That I joined their scheme in order to humiliate the uncle who loved me is to my recurring shame. But I take issue with an event from ten years ago being used to generate some sort of ill-conceived plot with an enemy of the Federation."
Checking the readout from the verifier, Jaeger held up one hand. "The question has arisen, Mister Kirk, as to whether or not you are, in fact, the real Peter Kirk."
Kirk's mouth dropped open in astonishment. "She thinks Im Romulan." He started laughing.
Chekov chuckled. "I think it's the eyes, Peter. You just look plain untrustworthy. Have you had your ears bobbed?"
Jaeger glared at the duo. "If you are through making a mockery of this interview, gentlemen, I have a valid point to raise! Are you a Romulan?"
Peter Kirk sat dumbly for a moment, then he spoke in a stunned tone. "Captain Jaeger, I would think that a simple blood test would clear that matter up completely."
"Funny you should mention that."
"Ow!" Kirk felt a prick on the palm of his hand.
Jaeger looked at the readout. "Human. One hundred pure Human, in fact. Somewhat rare in Starfleet today."
Chekov snapped, "One vwould think that a simple blood scan"
"Is unrevealing. The Rathan imposter had implants which fooled the medical scanners completely," Jaeger explained. "Only by actually taking a blood sample were we able to confirm he was Romulan." She turned to press a button on a real panel. "But that doesn't clear him from being a spy or sympathizer."
Chekov stood up and addressed his science officer. "Lieutenant Peter Kirk, are you a spy?"
"Do you sympathize with any of the interstellar governments or planetary systems declared by Starfleet to be hostile to the Federation?"
"Computer, verify," ordered Captain Jaeger.
"Although the subject's body readings indicate extreme indignation if not outrage, the subject is being truthful in his responses."
Jaeger raised her voice. "Mister Kirk, do you have any desire to command of the Enterprise?"
Without flinching, Kirk answered truthfully, "Yes, ma'am, I do. But I will fully support Fleet Captain Chekov in his command until such time as he takes another position in Starfleet. Hopefully when he does, I will merit the center seat."
Chekov smiled at the young man before him. "I think that should answer any questions you may have, Captain Jaeger. Now if you'll excuse us, Mister Kirk needs to return to the Enterprise and take command vwhile vwe go through the rest of these interviews."
Captain Gretchen Jaeger sat in her chair, glancing at the readings relayed by the various sensors. "Very well, Fleet Captain Chekov. Please come in with Commander Vasquez next."
"Give me five minutes."
"Three it is."
After the door to the interrogation room slid close behind them, a shadowy figure emerged from a corner of the darkened room.
"Why are you here?"
Kevin Thomas Riley of Starfleet Intelligence sat down. "This is a witchhunt, Captain. One that I don't approve of."
"Your superiors at Starfleet Intelligence ordered this inquiry."
"Yes, they did. But you'd best behave yourself, Captain, if you know what's good for you."
"Or what? I'll end up like Rathan? Or Valeris? Or Moses Cartwright?"
"I'm not the late Yves Gervais, Gretchen. I'm just trying to clean up a lot of nonsense that he started, and this witchhunt reeks of his paranoia. I'm here to make sure that these good people don't get muddy from all the shit you're going to be slinging just because you've got a chip on your shoulder about the Alliance."
"If Pavel Chekov had had the balls"
"Your lover, Captain Daniel Michael Williams, would still be dead. When the Alliance was given a spy mission like that and things go bad, there's never an easy way out. Stop blaming him. Williams should never have accepted that mission."
He went quietly back into the shadows. The door behind her slid open, and she glanced at Station Security Chief Howard as she entered the interrogation room. When Jaeger looked back, Riley was gone.
Howard had seen him, though. "I dont trust Captain Riley, sir."
"Hes not to be trusted, Lieutenant. And don't turn your back on him. Ever. Now, get a scanner in here and find out how he came and went into this room through a wall."
On this day of the winter solstice on some parts of Earth, what anyone wanted was up for debate, not to mention up for grabs. In more ways than one, the crew of the U.S.S. Enterprise-B was in for it.
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