Fleet Captain Chekov wasted no time upon entering the bridge. He felt Captain Gretchen Jaeger had done more than enough of that, a thought echoed by all his senior crew. "Mister Michaels, contact Commodore Alden down on Starbase 211, and inform him of two things: One, vwe are breaking orbit as soon as possible, and two, vwe will still be close enough for contact for approximately eight hours. I demand to speak to him vwithin one."
Chief Communications Officer Roger Michaels looked nervously at his commanding officer. "Sir? Should I say demand in my message?"
"Did I not say it, Ensign? Then theres your answer. Mister Kirk, you stand relieved. Thank you." The fleet captain took the center seat and thumbed the comlink. "Kyptin to all hands, standby to leave orbit. All decks and departments report vwhen ready to the first officer. Vwe are leaving this place far behind us."
Lieutenant Kirk gave Chekov a welcome piece of news. "This ship stands at such readiness as we speak, Fleet Captain."
Chekov felt like giving his chief science officer a huge, Russian bear hug, but managed to restrain himself. "Vwell done, Lieutenant."
His ears a touch red, Peter Kirk stepped to Science I and took a seat at the station, as Lieutenant Natalie Buchanan moved to Science II. She winked at him, an action that did not escape notice of the ships executive officer.
With an earjack relaying the ships readiness, Saavik drifted over to stand to Chekovs left. "All decks report ready, Captain. All departments report ready. All hands report ready."
"Outstanding. Navigator, set course for" He reviewed the ships next assignment on the padd in his hand. "Eta 2 Pictoris. Starfleet Communication Relays have detected artificial signals generated in that red giant system."
"Rather unlikely," Lieutenant Kirk remarked.
"Vwhich is vwhy vwere going to take a look."
"Course plotted and laid in, sir," Ensign Granger responded, his British accent a little more prominent than usual.
Chekov regarded the young man with a touch of concern. He knew from personal experience that ones accent often became exaggerated with fatigue. "You okay, son?"
"Just a little tired, sir," the navigator admitted, "but Ill be fine. Things have just been on pins and needles for the past couple of days."
"Yes, they have." He glanced over at the Efronian, Lieutenant j.g. Grenoka. "Helm, take us out of this system, Vwarp Factor Five."
"Yes, Captain." The white-haired man slid the warp levels forward. "Warp One."
The Enterprise quickly withdrew from the ornament-shaped starbase. With a flash of light, the starship entered subspace.
"Warp Two," Grenoka reported. On the mainviewers, stars began to crawl toward the ship. "Warp Three." The stars began moving faster. There was a slight tremble as the ships energizers shifted into a more efficient warp bubble. "Warp Four." The stars were now streaming by the ship. "Warp Five."
"Very good. Maintain course and speed, gentlemen."
After signing a fuel consumption report from a cute Tellarite yeoman, Chekov leaned back in the center seat. After a moments thought, and after confirming the Enterprise was no longer in the immediate vicinity of Starbase 211, Chekov stood. "Mister Buchanan, you have the conn. Mister Saavik, have all department heads report to my ready room. Vwe have much to discuss."
Michaels briefly stopped his captains march towards the ready room with a question. "Sir? What if I get Commodore Alden while youre in there?"
"You tell the commodore that vwere discussing the Arog-DaM space monster. That is all, Ensign."
"Yes, sir," came the comm officers guarded reply.
When the doors to the ready room had closed, Saavik queried Chekov on his words. "The Arog-DaM, sir?"
"Is only thing Kyptin Jaeger did not bring up vwhile vwere down there, and the supposed reason vwe vwere there in first place. All respect to the commodore, perhaps he vwill ride herd on his guests a little better next time. A thought I vwill give to him personally, later. Mister Kirk, I vwill assume there were no problems once you assumed command."
Peter Kirk looked uncertain to Chekovs eye, but his words were coherent and the reason for that look became clear with those words. "The ship saw no trouble, sir. But keeping with the captains orders to pace myself, and not knowing the length of our stay, I made for your ready room after two hours in the center seat. I was not napping long, though, before I was visited by Captain Kevin Riley of Starfleet Intelligence."
All heads turned at that, except for Doctor Christine Chapels. Shed been drinking a glass of water and had choked as the fluid went down the wrong way.
Chekov shook his head. "Vwonderful. Vwhy am I not surprised? Vwell, much of this makes sense, now. Lieutenant, you vwill file a report on everything he said to you. Vwere his vwords the reason you brought the ship up to readiness so fast?"
"No, sir. I grew concerned about Captain Jaegers agenda, and figured that being so ready would be a good idea, in case an emergency departure was called for."
Chekov nodded. "In any other situation, I might call that paranoia, Mister Kirk. Here though, vwas a good and a useful call to make. Anything else?"
"Yes, sir. Captain Riley left this file for your eyes only. Also, he informed me that Security Chief Susan Howard will never bother us again. I cannot say for certain what he meant by this."
Chekov and the other officers present guessed what Kirk surely had. But this was not and could not be any of their concern at this time. "Make that report thorough but produce it quickly. This datachit, I vwill file for the day. I am not in the mood for vwhatever Mister Riley has to say now. Perhaps I never vwill be, but unless he told you it vwas urgent?"
"He did not, sir."
"Then vwe can move on to our debriefing...from the debriefing."
Tactical Officer Roberta Vasquez raised a concern. "Sorry, sir, but before that happens, I have a question or two for Mister Kirk. Pete, why didnt you contact the captain, Saavik or myselfyour superiorsthe instant an officer from Starfleet Intelligence showed his face?"
"Mister Riley and I have an understanding going back nearly thirty years. I chose to hear him out. He was...most contrite, Lieutenant."
"Ill take your word for that," Vasquez decided. "Now, who was this crazy woman"
Peter Kirk dropped his head. "Someone from my past. Her brothera roommate of minewas one of the victims of a murder plot planned against me. I wasnt there, and her brother was killed. She never forgave me for his death. Id heard she was working with Starfleet Intelligence in some capacity. I certainly didnt expect her to show up on Starbase 211."
"I woullldnt expect her to show up again," trilled Chterr softly. "I think she outlllived her usefulllness."
Chekov nodded in agreement. "Clearly, one does not retire from Starfleet Intelligence." He addressed the dozen officers present in his ready room. "You all have my thanks for showing restraint vwhen answering absurd and at times insane questions. Kyptin Jaegers fishing expedition netted her nothing and vwill cost her as close to everything as I can manage. Im asking you to put aside any complaints you may have about vwhat vwent on in Starbase 211. I probably vwould agree with all of them and then some. Im going to also ask you to keep this entire matter confidential. Youre free to discuss it among yourselves, but vwith no one else. Lets start the process of putting this behind us."
"Gladly," said Chapel and the others agreed.
"Questions?" asked Chekov.
There were none.
"Look, were all agreed Captain Jaeger was difficult," Kirk said.
"Needlessly difficult," chimed in Chief Engineer Sorenson.
"Bonkers," added Chterr.
Kirk nodded lightly but grimly. "Obviously, the loss of the Alliance devastated both her and her judgement. She probably poisoned the waters around her basically forever. Now shell pay for it for the rest of her career, and in ways she and we cant even guess at. I suggest we leave the sorry fool to the bed she made for herself and move on. Idiots like that get the scorn they deserve, and sometimes more."
"Much more," added Vasquez.
Their conversation concluded, Chekov smiled sadly. "Dismissed."
Saavik remained while the others filed out. "Your orders, sir?"
Chekov echoed his earlier orders. "Maintain course and speed."
The bosuns whistle sounded, and Michaels called for the captain. "Sir, Commodore Alden on subspace, as you requested."
Chekov bristled with anticipation. Whatever defense Lloyd Alden came up with for his actions, the fleet captain was ready to take them apart. As Saavik left his ready room, Chekov sat down in his chair, and spun around slowly to face the vidscreen behind him.
The handsome but weathered face of the commodore faded into view. Hes aged so much, Chekov noted, since his time aboard the Enterprise as its communications officer.
"Fleet Captain Chekov," Alden began, "let me start by offering my heartfelt apologies. Your time was wasted, a senior officer of yours attacked, and your crews integrity called into question by someone with an obvious grudge. That this starbase was used as a staging ground for a sneak attack of this sort shames and disturbs me deeply."
"As it should, Commodore," Chekov stated bluntly.
"I dont know how Ill make this up to you and your senior officers. I trusted Starfleet Intelligence not to send someone like Captain Jaeger, and I trusted Captain Jaeger not to prosecute her grudge to the detriment of her duty. Ive failed a lot of people besides you and yours, Im afraid, including Security Chief Harsin by allowing some sort of psychopath to take his position without good reason. Ive made good on that, though, and hes conducting a search now for Ms. Howard who has apparently derelicted her duty."
"I vwouldnt look for too long, sir. I have it on good authority that she vwont be bothering anyone ever again."
"I have heard the same thing, but regulations are clear. Shell be charged in absentia, of course, and if she ever does rear her ugly head, someone will be there to snap it off." Alden leaned forward. "But please accept my humble apologies that this situation occured on my watch."
"Apologies accepted, Commodore. To be honest, I had the same hopes for Kyptin Jaeger, and found myself utterly disappointed as vwell. I can only hope that she vwill make the most of vwhatever opportunities present themselves in the future."
"May I also add my congratulations on your recent promotion? It heartens me to see a fellow Enterprise alumnus ascend to such heights. And allow me to wish you a belated happy Chanukah and hopes for a joyful new year. Certainly, it has to get better after this, eh?"
"My best vwishes to you as vwell, Commodore. Vwe can only hope. Chekov out."
Alden did not even insist on protocol, which should have had him dismissing Chekov. He simply ended the transmission without comment, with all civility and grace.
"Now for someone who is apt to be somewhat less apologetic." He pressed the comlink button on his BellComm and spoke to Michaels. "Ensign, please get me Admiral Davis. And no, dont use demand with her."
"Actually, sir, theres a CommPic coming in now from Commander-Starfleet Lystra Davis."
"Put her on-screen," Chekov said, turning back to the wallscreen. "Fleet Captain Chekov here, Admiral."
"Well, youre looking better than I suspected you would after what Ive learned you and your senior officers just went through. I told Admirals Opatashu at Intelligence and Soyen at Operations that this whole thing was dangerous and pointless, Fleet Captain. If I thought you needed to be taught a lesson about your actions in NGC-2548, I would have simply told you."
Chekov knew better than to unload on his topmost superior. But his frustration was still at an all-time high. "A lesson? Is that vwhat this is about? I needed to be taught a lesson? Admiral Davis, if anyone feels my choices in NGC-2548 vwere wrong, let them say so now!"
Lystra Davis raised a hand in the air. "Pavel, I feel you made the right choice, and left the Romulans with a pig in a poke, sector-wise. Unlike certain dismissive scientists Ive spoken with, I agree with Lieutenant Kirks assessment that the re-creation of the Arog-DaM as a localized weapon posed a huge risk to stability in our galaxy. But what does concern me and others is the lack of critical thinking that went into the choice to destroy the monster."
Chekovs brows furled, but he waited for Davis to continue. "Your logs indicate that at no time was any other option seriously considered. At no time did you seek a scientific opinion other than that of a young man who worships you and who lost his world to the creatures the Arog-DaM was likely based on. I think if you had, the results would likely be the same. To be honest, its not the results Admirals Opatashu and Soyen castigate; its how they were arrived at."
She favored him with a smile. "Frankly, this is almost identical to a conversation that Admirals Nogura and Komack had with James T. Kirk over the M113 Salt Vampire. You both encountered creatures you personally regarded as monsters, and you both exterminated them without hesitation. Next time, give it a bit more thought, will you? If you can, you will have proven a couple of very foolish admirals wrong."
Chekov considered her words, and saw her point with absolutely clarity. "Yes, Admiral."
"Believe me, as fond as I am of seeing our captains grow as leaders, I am just as loathe to see time wasted and good officers sandbagged. What you and your officers went through was unacceptable, and Ive informed Toshi Opatashu that the next time I hear of one of his officers conducting this sort of witchhunt on his watch that Ill nail his nuts to the nearest yardarm. Sorry you and your crew went through this."
Chekov smiled. "Thank you, maam."
"Now get back to work, Fleet Captain. Commander-Starfleet out."
To his credit, Chekov began to think about what else he could have done when faced with a biosphere-killing biogenetically engineered superweapon crossed with animal cunning. He saw no other viable options, but he found tracing back his steps to have its own value. He realized she was right; he hadnt sought out opinions differing from his own. Then he chuckled as he was reminded of the fact that Jim Kirk had done the same thing.
As Chekov's shift came to an end, his chief science officer walked in, report about his encounter with Kevin Riley in hand.
The captain scanned it quickly. "He actually told you about enmity caused by attitude and actions? Its a classic case of the pot calling the kettle black, Mister Kirk. A useful lesson, perhaps. But take it vwith a salt-mine or two."
Peter Kirk looked weary. "Pavel, I didnt want Kevin to kill her."
Rather than saying all the reasons why Kirk was not at fault, Chekov sat him down, and turned his chair to the ready rooms viewing port. "I know you didnt, Peter."
"So now what, sir?"
Chekov seated himself to the same view. "Now, Peter? Now, vwe stand down until the next time the past reasserts itself. Because vwhile it may sleep, and vwhile vwe may be done with it, the past is never done vwith us. For this moment, though, just stare at the stars...and relax."
So it was that, after a long year, two of the Enterprise-Bs senior-most officers enjoyed the peace and quiet of viewing the endless stars of the final frontier. The past would stay in the past again until it wouldnt, and so the crew of the Enterprise took in the reality of the present and the promise of the future.
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