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Rob Morris

December 17th 2295

U.S.S. Excelsior

Helen Noel had not been among the recent wave of departures from the command of Hikaru Sulu. There would be times, and one of them was now, that she wondered about the wisdom of staying.

"So what’s new?" she asked.

On the couch, Sulu shrugged. "Well, I’m getting to know my new first officer."

Michael Floyd shook his head.

"You ask me, sir, you made the right choice over Chitan. Must have been hard. But fair warning: You let this eat you alive, and I will not hesitate to make my move on that center seat. I’ll gladly wait for you to self-destruct, but not over this."

"And I spoke to Uhura, clarifying an earlier conversation we had about this thing with Chekov."

Uhura had her hand at her forehead.

"...and so you casually disparage everything Pavel has accomplished, calling him a ‘ captain by happenstance’? Then you have the temerity to tell me this dispute started because you ‘oversold’ your greater experience?"

"Oh, and I spoke to a former patient of yours. He agreed with me, that Pavel can be a real handful."

Peter Kirk looked bone-weary. "Sir, with all respect, I can’t speak to you right now. I’ve really screwed up, almost as badly as you...er, um, yeah. As to forwarding your best wishes—I promised him I would stay out of this entirely. Right now, that seems like the only good idea I’ve had this month."

"And Ariel is always one to offer up her two cents."

"....for him to throw off a friendship of decades based on a few bad moments says a lot more about him than anyone else. I say, speak to Davis again, without him in the room. I...why do you always roll your eyes, whenever I say that?"

"So, things are going about as well as can be expected."

Noel tapped her hands on a nearby table. "Why are you here, Captain? To tell me that everything is just fine?"

Sulu knew better than to fence with his ship’s psychiatrist. "I had this dream last night..."

It was the not-so-near future. A new Captain Kirk, about to assume command of the Enterprise, was being lauded by his childhood heroes. The moustache he now wore was like his father’s, but his face and stance were unmistakably those of his father’s brother. But one hero kept back from the others. He had been welcomed only as a technicality, a list-makers need for completeness. In the midst of all this, the new Commander—Starfleet walked over to a man who had once been his very closest friend.

"Hikaru Sulu, I am prepared at long last to try and forgive your harsh words of so many years ago. But before I can, I must know: Are you any different from the man who insulted and offended me? Are you a better man, the sort of person the younger man in front of us could again count among his heroes?"

Noel nodded.

"So what did you tell ‘Admiral’ Chekov?"

"Nothing. There’s nothing to tell him. I am that same man."

Noel tried another tack. "Okay. Do you honestly see Chekov ever forgiving you?"

Sulu shook his head. "I learned from Uhura that my timing was worse than I thought. Pavel had just undergone the worst clash ever with his family, when he and I had our...talk. Even if I had been just a bit more restrained, it might not have mattered. Besides, he’s not relevant to this. He and I may just be permanently done. It’s my remaining relationships I want to salvage, before it’s too late."

He looked directly at Noel. "Helen, how did I go from being a hero to a villain? When did I go from being the life of the party, to being the one person no one wants around? What happened to Hikaru Sulu, the up-and-comer? Whatever became...of me?"

"I rather doubt that you’re a villain, even in Chekov’s eyes. Captain, you had an approach to life, and it had rough edges that you failed to pick up on. I’ll put it this way. When do you think you should have noticed?"

Sulu lay back down. "I remember when Captain Kirk kicked Security Chief Giotto off the ship. He was so stunned. I thought at the time, ‘You big, lumbering oaf.’ The Janice Lester thing was just the final straw. He’d been pushing officers’ buttons for months before that. And I also thought, God help me if my time comes, and I’m that blind. But there it was. My own daughter opened up to Captain Kirk’s nephew, a man she’d only just met, and then chose to be aboard the command of a godfather she knew less well than myself. Why the hell didn’t I take a hard look, then and there?"

Noel wisely chose to bypass this talk. "Are you ready to take a hard look, now? And with me?"

"Helen, you took an extremely troubled young man, and you made him into an up-and-coming officer. Am I that far gone? That you can’t do it again?"

"One: You promised not to bring up our young Mister Kirk anymore, except in passing. Two: Yes, you are too far different from him for the same things to help. Remember, Peter Kirk was more than just my patient."

Sulu sat upright, and looked at her. "Helen, no!"

Noel wondered for a moment, then clenched and unclenched a fist at the realization of his words meaning. "Get your mind out of the gutter, Captain! I meant that he was my prisoner. Unable to leave my sessions. Unable to invoke privilege, and end the session in a huff, though God knows he tried. You want that kind of help? Then you are mine, during these sessions. During the first several months to two years, I call all the shots, or the deal is off. Got me?"

Sulu nodded, his wanting this that badly being the first good sign to his psychiatrist. "Can we start tomorrow?"

She nodded, and when the session was done, Noel composed a letter to a peer.

To: Doctor Sydney Beals,
U.S.S. Enterprise, NCC-1701-A

Dear Sydney,

Wanna Trade?

At the same time she hit transmit, she also received a message from that self-same fellow psychiatrist.

To: Doctor Helen Noel,
U.S.S. Excelsior, NCC-2000

Dear Helen,

Wanna Trade?

After she was through laughing her head off, Noel spoke seven words before calling it a day, reflecting on the challenge she had just undertaken with her captain.

"I must be out of my mind."

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